Sunday, June 24, 2012

State Department Travel Warning

Friday night at midnight, Cale and I were scheduled to travel to Mombasa by bus, but two Iranian terrorists went and ruined those plans.

At 7pm, the State Department issued a travel warning, which was sent via email to people who had registered travel in Kenya through the State Department’s STEP program. This is the relevant portion of the email:
EMERGENCY MESSAGE FOR U.S. CITIZENS
U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya June 22, 2012

This is to alert all U.S. citizens in Kenya, or planning to travel to Kenya in the near future, that the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has received information of an imminent threat of a terrorist attack in Mombasa, Kenya. All U.S. government travel to Mombasa is suspended until July 1, 2012. All U.S. government personnel are required to leave Mombasa. U.S. private citizens are not subject to the same restrictions, but should consider this information in their travel planning.
We learned about the message a little after 10pm as we were waiting near the sketchy restaurant/bar where the bus picks up in Kisumu. The decision was quickly made that we would not travel that night with the hope that we might the next day. Cale and I hopped a tuk-tuk to the guesthouse we stayed in the last time we overnighted in Kisumu. Once we had access to the internet, we learned the Kenyan police arrested two Iranian terror suspects in Nairobi the day before. One suspect was flown to Mombasa on Friday and led the police to a cache of powder used to make explosive materials wrapped in plastic and apparently buried by the side of the road near a golf course. In addition, the authorities had stopped a suspicious container at the port. Tests are confirming if it was used to transport explosive materials.

The next day there were no new developments, and we knew we would not be traveling to Mombasa anytime soon. Instead we took a matatu back to Mumias.

Postponing our trip to the coast is not the end of dealing with the travel warning and is really the least of our worries. We have a student who is currently interning at the coast. He is not in Mombasa and is safe where he is staying, but the program must still determine the safest option for his continued work in Kenya. In addition, Kenyan news reported Saturday night that the police also found nine explosive devices in Nairobi.

Here in Western Kenya, where the majority of us our staying, we feel incredibly safe. However, it is important for us to monitor the security situation in the country and take appropriate actions to ensure the continued safety of our students.

I will keep you all informed.

— Sara

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