Kenya’s government criticized a U.S. warning to travelers about the risk of visiting the East African country after Islamist militants attacked an upscale shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi.
The U.S. State Department on Sept. 28 reissued a July 5 advisory that urged U.S. citizens to evaluate their personal security situation amid “heightened threats from terrorism.” U.S. Embassy personnel have been prohibited from going to regions near the Somali border in the northeast and coastal areas, and travelers should take these restrictions into account when planning a trip, it said.
The advisory is “unnecessary and unfriendly,” Interior Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said in a statement e-mailed by the presidency. “Issuing travel advisories is counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last week urged foreign countries not to issue travel warnings after as many as 15 al-Qaeda-linked gunmen stormed the Westgate Mall and killed at least 67 people. Al-Shabaab, a militia that’s been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia since at least 2006, claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 attack. The group warned of more bloodshed unless Kenya withdraws its forces from southern Somalia, where they have captured territory previously controlled by the fighters.
Kenyan forensic workers, assisted by teams from countries including the U.S., Israel and Germany, are continuing to probe the scene of the four-day attack. The identities of people suspected of being involved in the raid will be named once the investigation is complete, Ole Lenku said.
The number of people in custody rose to nine yesterday after an additional suspect was arrested, he said. Three others were released after questioning, Ole Lenku said.
Police also recovered a vehicle containing an “assortment of illegal weapons” and recorded statements from 156 witnesses, he said. The government has yet to receive any reports of missing persons, he said. The Kenya Red Cross said today that 39 are unaccounted for, according to reports from members of the public.
The death toll includes 57 Kenyans and citizens from countries including France, Canada, South Africa, China, Ghana and India.
Kenya’s shilling gained for a second day, rising 0.6 percent against the dollar to 86.10 by 4:44 p.m. in Nairobi, heading for its highest closing level since July 2, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency has strengthened 1.5 percent since the day before the attack.