US Set to Expand Counter-Terrorism Base in Africa.
Nairobi,Kenya May 16,2003 —
- The U.S. is expanding its counter-terrorism military task force in the Horn of Africa, the strategically located region linking the Arabian Peninsula with African countries where terrorists can lie low and plan future operations.
In what a spokesman said was the "next logical step" for the operation of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), about 400 American soldiers will soon be transferred from the force's floating headquarters in the Gulf of Aden to a shore base in Djibouti.
Approximately 1,400 U.S. troops and military personnel from allies in the Horn of Africa are already based in Djibouti, a tiny country on the Gulf of Aden neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
In a statement, the spokesman said the U.S. counter-terrorism warship, the USS Mt. Whitney, will leave the Horn of Africa region in mid-May, returning to its home port in Norfolk, Va.
The headquarters personnel and equipment will be moved ashore into facilities at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
The changes did not signal any change in focus for coalition counter-terrorism
operations in the region, it said.
"The CJTF mission is - and will continue to be - to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorism in conjunction with coalition partners across the Horn of Africa region."
The statement said the task force's expansion would enhance its capacity to connect to more coalition partners and agencies and move information faster than in the past.
The force was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oversee counter-terrorism operations in a region encompassing Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen.
The Gulf of Aden was seen as a key route for terrorists slipping away from stepped-up U.S. anti-terrorism operations in Southern Asia and the Middle East.
In its recent report on global terrorism, the State Department praised Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia for their support in the counter-terror mission in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula.
It warned that prevailing conditions still made many countries in Africa desirable locations for terrorists.
These included a shortage of financial and technical resources; areas of instability and prolonged violence; corruption; weak judicial and financial regulatory systems; and the existence of porous borders and unregulated coastlines.
Gen. James Jones, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's new senior military commander, told reporters in Washington recently that the U.S. and its NATO allies would soon begin focusing greater attention on instability in Africa.
Somali Bantu Refugees Study American Life
Nairobi,Kenya, May 16, 2003 -
Somali Bantu Refugees Study American Life
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya -
Ali Abdi Omar had a question: at the airport, would he have to go through the same X-ray machine as his luggage?
A few fellow students giggled, but most eagerly awaited the teacher's answer they genuinely didn't know.
In a cramped classroom at the Nairobi offices of the International Organization of Migration, a group of Somali Bantu refugees spent Thursday learning how to get through an airport and on to the plane that in a few days will take them from a desperate life in Africa to a fresh start in the United States.
They are also studying the skills they need for American life: how to use a toilet and an alarm clock. How to navigate a grocery store. And how to survive the phenomenon called winter.
The 74 Bantu scheduled to leave Nairobi on Tuesday and Wednesday are the first of more than 12,000 the United States pledged to resettle in 1999.
The resettlement process was delayed by new U.S. security measures implemented following the Sept. 11 attacks but is now back on track, said Pindie Stephen an IOM official.
For the Bantu, the promise of a new life means an escape from a future of destitution and discrimination.
The Bantu's ancestors were brought to Somalia in the 19th century as slaves. Slavery no longer exists but routine discrimination is common.
The largely rural Bantu were forced by the Italian colonial government to abandon their farms and work as forced labor.
The forced labor didn't end with independence other Somalis simply replaced the Europeans as taskmasters.
When former dictator Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 the despised Bantu were attacked, raped and murdered.
As the country descended into chaos and heavily armed militias drawn along clan lines turned Somalia into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms, thousands of the Bantu fled, most making their way on foot to the border with neighboring Kenya.
Nearly all have spent most of the last decade in sprawling refugee camps, dependent on meager food rations and living in wooden huts.
Some non-Bantu Somali refugees there are more than 100,000 in Kenya's camps have been repatriated; but it is too dangerous for the Bantu to return.
So far the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has approved 1,400 for the move America. The remaining Bantu are expected to be approved in the next year or two.
Preparations for the move began in the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya with literacy classes and lessons about how to find a job, shop for food and use modern appliances like stoves, toilets and alarm clocks.
IOM officials say the Bantu have responded well to the classes. Still, it is a lot of information to digest.
At the center in Nairobi where the 74 Bantu are staying until they leave, stories circulate of the group that got stumped by a doorknob and stuck in a room, and of the woman startled by the flick of a light switch.
Nearly all are relatively ignorant of life in the United States and none had ever heard of Disney World.
Asked if they knew about discrimination in America against black people and Muslims the Bantu are both all appeared confused.
The Bantu are all going to different U.S. cities. A caseworker will be assigned to each family and help them make the transition.
Job prospects are a serious concern. Omar said he had worked on American cars before and hoped to be a mechanic when he gets to Springfield, Ma., the town where he will live.
The emigrants received their final briefing Thursday from IOM trainers, who explained the airport, the plane and what to do when they arrive in the United States.
There was a lecture on how to eat airplane food; some oohing and ahhhing at the image of an airplane projected on the wall and a demonstration on how to use a seat belt and life jacket.
The talk of airplane safety features prompted one female student to ask "is the plane going to drop into the ocean?"
Lily Sanya, the teacher, assured her it wouldn't.
The students seemed most concerned about the weather "I hear the cold in America can stop a man's heart from beating," Omar said.
Once again, Sanya assured them they had nothing to worry about. "You are arriving in the hot part of the year ... it will give you time to get used to the seasons," she said.
Stranded Britons wait for flights home from Kenya
Nairobi,Kenya, May 16, 2003 -Kenya Airways is planning to lay on extra planes to take home Britons stranded in Kenya by the ban on UK airline flights to and from the east African country.
Around 1,200 UK holidaymakers are in Kenya but are unable to return on British Airways flights which have been grounded by the UK Government because of an "imminent" terrorist threat.
"We are now working with the British High Commission in Nairobi to assist any Britons who want to get home," said Kenya Airways spokeswoman Sally Peters.
"We are looking at the possibility of putting on extra planes and if we need to do so, we will."
Kenya Airways operates daily services between London and Nairobi. Its flight from Heathrow to
As UK tour operators contacted holidaymakers in Kenya, the last BA flight to leave before the flight ban arrived at Heathrow at 4.51am today.
Most of the passengers who stepped off the plane this morning were relieved, though some felt more philosophical about living with the increased threat of terrorism.
Olive Wood, aged 73, from Caterham in Surrey, had returned from a visit to see her daughter.
She said: "We weren't told anything but I would rather not have known that there were any terrorist threats. There's no point in getting stressed about it. The outside security was not very good, but BA security was excellent.
"I'm really quite surprised because we are just coming home and only now we are hearing about some crisis."
Sue Harrison, 58, from London, who works for the British Council and was in Kenya on business, said:
"It's a way of life these days. You have to be philosophical or you wouldn't travel anywhere and you would just be giving in to the situation."
The move to suspend all flights came after Kenyan security forces were placed on high alert.
A senior Kenyan minister said yesterday there was intelligence that al?Qa'ida terrorists were planning another attack somewhere in east Africa.
The Department for Transport told airlines that "the threat level to UK civil aviation interests in Kenya has increased to imminent" and all UK airline operations to and from Kenya must be suspended from 10pm UK time yesterday.
The Foreign Office advised last night against non?essential travel, including holiday travel, to Kenya, and advised Britons already there to keep a low profile and maintain a high level of vigilance in public places.
The Foreign Office said today: "British tourists in Kenya wishing to return home should seek the advice of their tour operator or the British High Commission in Nairobi.
"People intending to travel to Kenya in the near future should seek advice from their tour operator or airline."
The Foreign Office has also set up an advice helpline on 020 7008 0000.
Around 100,000 Britons holiday each year in Kenya, which was the scene of a devastating car bomb attack on an Israeli?owned hotel in Mombasa last November.
At the same time, two missiles were fired at an Israeli charter jet.
Kenyan national security minister Chris Murungaru said yesterday that security measures had been stepped up around foreign diplomatic missions, particularly the British High Commission and US Embassy.
But he described the British move to suspend flights as an overreaction and said: "We have not received information of a specific threat.
"We have information that there is a general threat of terrorist action within the region, but we have known about this threat for some time."
Any talk of an imminent threat was "pure conjecture", he said.
The wanted man is also believed to have been involved in the November 2002 hotel bombing, in which more than 10 Kenyans died.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, alias Harun, is originally from the Comoros Islands, but has joint Kenyan?Comoran citizenship. He is aged between 27 and 29 and was last seen in the Somali capital Mogadishu, the minister said.
Another suspect linked to the 1998 bombing was sent to the US for trial in March. In 2001, a New York court found four people guilty of the attacks.
UK holiday airline Monarch. which operates a once?a?week service between Gatwick and the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, has cancelled services. The next flight had been due to leave Gatwick in the early hours of Monday.
Home Secretary David Blunkett said that warnings, such as the one given about Kenya, were only issued after careful consideration of the intelligence material.
"We get individual advice from the security services across the world about cells and about individuals who are leading those cells," he told Sky News.
Mr Blunkett went on: "We have to balance that with the fact that there is a literal avalanche of material coming through, including from our own GCHQ.
"We have to try to sift that and we have to try to work out whether we are being misled by the kind of information that is being fed by those who are constantly in touch with the security services.
"That is very difficult. It is about analysis. We have in our country now the establishment of a new joint analysis and assessment centre which draws together not just the advice we get from our own MI6 and our own Security Service, but also that coming in from across the world.
"These are difficult calls to make and people need to be patient with us."
Meanwhile, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said it was looking to get UK holidaymakers home from Kenya in a number of different ways.
These included flying back with non?UK airlines or travelling by bus to neighbouring countries and flying back from there.
An Abta spokeswoman said: "Anyone due to travel Kenya up to 23 May and who is travelling with an Abta?member company will be offered an alternative holiday, a holiday in Kenya at a later date or a refund. But they will not be entitled to compensation.
"People in Kenya can stay to the end of their holiday if they wish."