U.S. Will Cut Embassy Staff After Latest Nairobi Bombings

Kenyan police hunted for suspects and the U.S. moved to reduce its embassy staff after twin explosions at an open-air market in the capital, Nairobi, left at least 12 people dead and 99 injured.

The blasts at the Gikomba market, about 2 kilometers (1.4 miles) east of the city center, on May 16 were the second series of bombings in the city in two weeks. One explosion went off in a minibus while the other detonated within the market, according to the Twitter account of the National Disaster Operations Centre. Eight people died in the hospital and four died at the scene, Kenyatta National Hospital spokesman Jacob Simiyu said.

Kenya has faced a growing number of attacks since sending troops to fight Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia in October 2011. In September, an assault on Nairobi’s Westgate mall killed at least 67 people. Al-Shabaab, a Somali militia affiliated with al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the raid, saying it was in revenge for Kenya’s troop deployment.

The government “will do what it can” to combat attacks against the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta said at a televised press conference in Nairobi on May 16. “I continue to urge my fellow citizens to join us in this particular battle and to ensure that we root it out from our midst.”

The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel warning for Kenya, saying its embassy is “reviewing its staffing with an eye toward reduction in staff in the near future.” The government said in the statement that it continues to receive information about possible threats to Western interests in much of the country, including Nairobi, Mombasa and Diani.

Biggest Economy

Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and the biggest economy in East Africa. Companies including Google Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. have set up regional bases in the country. The government is preparing a debut sale of $1.5 billion of Eurobonds by the end of next month.

“The United States stands with our Kenyan friends and partners who continue to face adversity with courage and resolve,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in e-mailed comments. “We support them in their efforts to confront terrorism in all of its forms.”

African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reiterated the pan-African organization’s support for Kenyan authorities in an e-mailed statement that described the blast as a “heinous and cowardly act against innocent civilians.”

Negative Sentiment

Kenya’s shilling extended its losses after the explosions, easing 0.2 percent to 87.55 per dollar by the close for a 0.5 percent decline last week. The FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index erased its earlier gain and fell 0.3 percent, bringing its five-day loss to 1.5 percent.

“In the short term the sentiment for the shilling is negative” because of the spate of attacks, Bernard Matimu, chief dealer at NIC Bank Ltd., said by phone from Nairobi. The longer term impact “will depend how we deal with it and whether we remain solid as a country.”

At least three people died and 82 more were injured on May 4 when bombs detonated on two buses traveling outside Nairobi’s city center. A day earlier, twin explosions in the port city of Mombasa killed four people and injured at least 28.

TUI AG, the owner of Europe’s largest tour operator, said it’s repatriating about 400 customers in Kenya to the U.K. and canceled all flights to Mombasa until Oct. 31.

The evacuations come after the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office on May 14 advised against “all but essential travel” to Mombasa and surrounding areas because of threats to security in the area. The U.S., France, Australia, Canada and Sweden have issued similar advisories.

Tourist arrivals to the country fell to 1.4 million last year from 1.7 million in 2012. The tourism industry is the nation’s second-biggest source of foreign-exchange, generating $1.1 billion in 2013.

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