Kenyan authorities have arrested five people suspected of preparing a terror attack in Nairobi, according to a police report seen by AFP on Sunday.
The group comprises three men — a US citizen, a Somali and their Kenyan driver — and two Somali women who were believed to be on a reconnaissance mission for an attack in the north of the capital, the report dated Saturday said.
Police received information on Friday saying that “suspected terrorists” were carrying out a surveillance operation at a pub on Kiambu Road, a spot popular for its many bars and nightclubs.
Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the Somali Al-Shabaab group, close to Al-Qaeda, stepped up attacks in the east of the country this month, threatening to target more Kenyan and US interests.
On January 5, the Somali Al-Shabaab group attacked Camp Simba, killing three Americans and destroying several aircraft and warning Kenya to withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance”.
Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting against Al-Shabaab, and has seen several brutal retaliation attacks both on its troops in Somalia and civilians in Kenya.
Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, destroying several aircraft and military vehicles, according to Kenyan police and army officials.
Attackers breached heavy security at Camp Simba at dawn but were repelled and four jihadists were killed, said army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna.
Al-Shabaab has launched regular cross-border raids since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union force protecting the internationally-backed government — which the jihadists have been trying to overthrow for more than a decade.
The Lamu region, which includes popular tourist beach destination Lamu Island, lies close to the Somali frontier and has suffered frequent attacks, often carried out with roadside bombs.
Njuguna said “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip” at 5:30am but it was repulsed.
“Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe,” he said, adding that a fire had broken out but had since been dealt with.
Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said officers were “on high alert” after the attack.
An internal police report seen by AFP said two Cessna aircraft, two American helicopters and “multiple American vehicles” were destroyed at the airstrip.
Local government official Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.
Neither Kenya nor the US have admitted casualties as yet, despite Shabaab claiming to have killed 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers.
US military officials confirmed the attack and said US and Kenyan forces had repelled the Al-Shabaab fighters.
“Working alongside our Kenyan partners, the airfield is cleared and still in the process of being fully secured,” said the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in a statement.
The nearby civilian airport at Manda Bay, which brings tourists visiting Lamu Island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — was closed for several hours after the incident, according to the civil aviation authority.
Al-Shabaab said in a statement it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base”.
AFRICOM accused Al-Shabaab of lying in order to create false headlines.
Shabaab countered with a second statement, saying it had been a ten hour firefight and mocking the US “inability to fend off an attack by just a handful of steadfast Muslim men”.
The group referred to an uptick in US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the US of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”
AFRICOM said in April it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.
US military network
The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.
The group has been fighting to overthrow an internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2006, staging regular attacks on government buildings, hotels, security checkpoints and military bases in the country
Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.
The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.
In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.
On Thursday, at least three people were killed when suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.
According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities”.
The World Health Organization has accused Tanzania of failing to provide information on suspected cases of Ebola in the country, potentially hindering efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
East African nations have been on high alert over an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has left 2,103 people dead. Four people were diagnosed with the virus in Uganda and later died.
The WHO said it had learned on September 10 of a suspected case of the disease in Tanzania’s port city of Dar es Salaam, and information emerged that this patient’s contacts had been quarantined, and that the person had tested positive for Ebola.
Two other suspected cases were also unofficially reported.
“Despite several requests, WHO did not receive further details of any of these cases from Tanzanian authorities,” the organisation said in a statement issued Saturday.
On September 14 Tanzanian authorities officially reported there was no Ebola in the country, but declined “secondary confirmation testing” at a WHO centre, the global body said.
Then on Thursday, the WHO was made aware that a contact of the initial patient was sick and in hospital.
“To date, the clinical details and the results of the investigation, including laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of these patients, have not been shared with WHO.”
‘Very high risk’
The lack of information received by WHO meant it cannot determine the cause of the illness, it said.
“The limited available official information from Tanzanian authorities represents a challenge for assessing the risk posed by this event.”
The WHO determined that because the initial patient travelled widely in the country and due to uncertainty around the cases, the lack of information and the fact that, if confirmed, it would be the first-ever outbreak of Ebola in the country, “the risk was assessed as very high at national level”.
“At this stage, WHO is not aware of signs of a widespread transmission of any illness related to these cases, however investigations, including with the support of WHO Collaborating Centres, should continue to reach a diagnosis and further inform the risk assessment,” said the statement.
They also warned of a high risk for the region.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst in history after more than 11,000 people died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.
But the containment efforts have been hindered from the start by conflict in eastern DRC, as well as attacks on medical teams tackling the haemorrhagic fever amid resistance within some communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.
An American man has drowned while proposing to his girlfriend underwater at an idyllic island off the coast of Tanzania, a luxury resort said in a statement Sunday.
His girlfriend Kenesha Antoine posted on her Facebook page footage of Steven Weber proposing to her through the window of their underwater hotel room at the luxury Manta Resort in Zanzibar.
“You never emerged from those depths so you never got to hear my answer, ‘Yes! Yes! A million times, yes, I will marry you!!’,” she wrote Friday in a post confirming his death.
Her video shows Weber swimming up to the window, and pressing a handwritten note against it which read: “I can’t hold my breath long enough to tell you everything I love about you, but everything I love about you I love more every day. Will you please be my wife, marry me.”
He then pulled out a ring as Antoine squealed with joy while filming.
It is unclear what went wrong during the proposal at Pemba Island, a popular honeymoon destination.
“We never got to embrace and celebrate the beginning of the rest of our lives together, as the best day of our lives turned into the worst, in the cruelest twist of fate imaginable,” Antoine wrote.
“Knowing him, always quick with an off-color joke, he’s probably entertaining someone with a story about how he royally screwed up that proposal and died while being extra.”
Manta CEO Matthew Saus confirmed to AFP in an email Sunday that “a male guest tragically drowned while freediving alone outside the underwater room” on Thursday.
“The accident is currently under investigation by the local Zanzibar police authority.”
The couple were staying in the resort’s famed “Underwater Room”, a $1,700 (1,500 euro) a-night floating structure offshore in crystal clear waters, where the bed is surrounded by glass windows looking into the ocean.
A Tanzanian man has been arrested after authorities found a stash of ivory buried under his house, estimated to come from around 117 elephants, authorities said Thursday.
The suspect, who had been sought by authorities since 2016, had in his possession 338 pieces of elephant tusk, and 75 whole tusks, the minister of natural resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla, said in a statement.
He was arrested along with seven alleged accomplices, and the tusks are believed to have come from Tanzania and Mozambique.
“Until his arrest on Tuesday, he was unable to move this stock, because we have become extremely vigilant,” said Kigwangalla.
A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.
Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.
The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.
“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm, and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.
As more questions emerge over the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane after Sunday’s crash, China and Ethiopian Airlines have grounded the fleet.
Ethiopian Airlines said Monday it had grounded its fleet after a crash that killed 149 passengers and eight crew.
“Following the tragic accident of ET 302… Ethiopian Airlines has decided to ground all B-737-8 MAX fleet effective yesterday, March 10, until further notice,” the state-owned carrier said in a statement released on Twitter.
“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we have to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution,” said the airline, Africa’s largest.
All 157 people on board died when Nairobi-bound Flight ET 302 came down just six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.
It ploughed into a field near Tulu Fara village outside the town of Bishoftu, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of the Ethiopian capital.
Grounded In China
Also on Monday, China ordered domestic airlines to suspend commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Noting the “similarities” between Sunday’s crash and that of Indonesia, China’s Civil Aviation Administration said domestic airlines had until 6:00 pm local time (1000 GMT) to ground all 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
The Indonesia Lion Air flight had crashed after takeoff from Jakarta in October, killing all 189 people on board.
Operation of the model will only resume after “confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety”, the administration said in a statement.
The aviation authority will contact the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, it said.
China is an important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models.
The company has delivered 76 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Chinese airlines, which have ordered another 104, according to data from the aircraft maker’s website updated through January.
Boeing and joint venture partner Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China operate a plant in the eastern city of Zhoushan that completes the interiors of 737 MAX planes for Chinese airlines.
The factory delivered its first MAX 8 plane to Air China in December. The planes are assembled in Renton, Washington state, and taken to Zhoushan to finish the interior work, according to Boeing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his condolences to the leaders of Ethiopia and Kenya, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a regular briefing.
Four of the Chinese victims are employees of Chinese companies, two work for the United Nations and two were people from Liaoning and Zhejiang provinces on personal trips, Lu said.
“China hopes Ethiopia will find the cause as soon as possible, keep China posted, and properly handle the follow-up work,” Lu added.
The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers “he had difficulties” and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.
The pilot “was given clearance” to return to Addis, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed Sunday morning en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew on board, state media reported as African leaders offered condolences.
“We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in accident today,” the airline said in a statement, later confirming a report by Ethiopia’s FANA Broadcasting Corp that there were no survivors.
“It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight,” it said.
The airline has not provided information on passengers’ nationalities but there are reports people from 33 countries were on board. The crash came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.
State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said the plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa by road.
The weather in the capital, according to an AFP reporter, was clear when the brand-new Boeing plane, delivered to Ethiopia last year, plane took off.
The Boeing came down near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu.
An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely.
Rescue crews were retrieving human remains from the wreckage.
Police and troops were on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia’s civil aviation agency.
In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends, and colleagues of passengers were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“I am still hoping that all is fine, because I have been waiting for my sister since morning and we have not been told anything,” Peter Kimani told AFP in the arrivals lounge over an hour after the plane was scheduled to land at 10:25 am local time.
His sister is a nurse who he said had gone to Congo. “She travels a lot on missions.”
“We are still expecting our loved one from Addis… we have just received news that there is a plane that has crashed. We can only hope that she is not on that flight.”
Hoping for the best
Among those waiting, Khalid Ali Abdulrahman received happy news about his son, who works in Dubai.
“I arrived here shortly after 10:00 am and as I waited, a security person approached me and asked me which flight are you waiting for. I answered him quickly because I wanted him to direct me to the arrivals, so I told him Ethiopia, and then he said: ‘Sorry, that one has crashed’.”
“I was shocked, but shortly after, my son contacted me and told me he is still in Addis and did not board that flight, he is waiting for the second one which has been delayed,” Khalid told AFP.
“I am waiting for my colleague, I just hope for the best,” added Hannah, a Chinese national.
African Union commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said he had learnt of the crash “with utter shock and immense sadness.
“Our prayers are with the families of the passengers + crew as authorities search for survivors. I also express our full solidarity with the Govt & people of Ethiopia,” he said on Twitter.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office tweeted it “would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones.”
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was “saddened” by the news, adding: “My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board.”
Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the IGAD East African bloc, said the region and the world were in mourning.
“I cannot seem to find words comforting enough to the families and friends of those who might have lost their lives in this tragedy,” he said in a statement.
For its part, the plane’s maker, US giant company Boeing, said it was “aware” of the accident “and is closely monitoring the situation.”
Ethiopian Airlines said it would send staff to the accident scene to “do everything possible to assist the emergency services.”
It would also set up a passenger information centre and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on the flight, while Kenya’s transport minister said officials would meet and council loved ones waiting at JKIA.
The Boeing 737-800MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was a Boeing 737-800 that exploded after taking off from Lebanon in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew.
According to reports, Boeing delivered the plane to Ethiopian Airlines last November.
Hundreds of travellers were stranded at Nairobi airport Wednesday, and some were treated for tear gas exposure, as striking workers and police faced off at East Africa’s busiest air traffic hub.
After flights began to be grounded from midnight, passengers were advised not to come to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) — East Africa’s busiest according to the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) — until further notice.
However, hundreds were already there, some waiting for many hours.
In the terminals, confusion reigned with little information circulating and police firing tear gas as they moved in to arrest a union official they accused of inciting workers.
Several strikers and would-be travellers were treated on-site for exposure to the blinding, choking spray, and some for small injuries sustained in the chaos that ensued as they tried to escape the fumes.
Stranded passenger Christine voiced the bewilderment of many: “Why are police using unnecessary force with teargas at an airport?”
Travellers were then asked by police to leave the building, and gathered in parking and waiting areas outside the airport.
As the strike passed the 12-hour mark, the situation at the airport calmed somewhat as the first plane — to Mumbai — took off around lunchtime.
But hundreds of travellers were still anxiously awaiting news about their flights amid a heavy security deployment.
The workers, who had not given notice of their labour action beforehand, are angry about the planned partial takeover of the airport, operated by state-run KAA, by national carrier Kenya Airways.
— ‘Sabotage’ — Transport Minister James Macharia told journalists that workers need not worry about the possible change of ownership.
“What they were fearing is that the proposed merger between KQ (the acronym for Kenya Airways) and KAA will result in job losses but we gave assurances that that will not happen,” he said.
“So this (strike) is completely uncalled for because the deal has not happened.”
The minister added that KAA, with the help of security services and staff from Kenya Airways, were replacing striking staff.
“This strike is illegal. It is sabotage and amounts to a criminal activity that must be punished. That is why the union officials have been arrested for inciting workers to go on strike,” said Macharia.
“They should be aware that this is a security installation, you cannot interfere with a security installation.”
Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KUWA) chief Moss Ndiema was arrested at the airport.
According to the KAA, more than 7.6 million passengers and 313,000 tons of cargo passed through JKIA in more than 111,000 aircraft movements in 2017.
The airport contributes just over five percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product.
Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz said 24 departing flights, and two arrivals, had been affected by the strike, but “we expect the situation to normalise during the day.”
“We are set to resume operations, although the process is a bit slow,” he said.
Operations at Kenya’s two other main airports, at Mombasa in the southeast and Kisumu in the west, have also been affected.
Fifteen people have died in an Islamist attack on an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenyan police sources said Wednesday, as fresh explosions and gunfire rang out in the siege which stretched into its second day.
Security forces worked throughout the night to secure the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant and office buildings, after an attack claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists on Tuesday afternoon.
At least one suicide bomber blew himself up at the hotel while gunmen sprayed fire before engaging security forces and holing themselves up at the premises as civilians fled or barricaded themselves in their offices awaiting rescue.
“We have 15 people dead as of now and that includes foreigners,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Among the dead was an American citizen, a State Department official said.
A second police source confirmed the toll but warned “there are areas not yet accessed but that’s what we know so far.”
After 12 hours trapped inside the complex, a group of dozens of people was freed at 3:30am (1230GMT), according to an AFP journalist at the scene, followed by fresh gunfire and a detonation.