U.S. told of threat to main Ugandan airport

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A day after the announcement of heightened security measures on U.S.-bound flights, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda said Thursday that it had been warned of a “specific threat” of attack to the country’s main airport and said travelers “may want to review their plans.”

The warning was one of several recent alarms in restive East Africa, where governments have sought to counter threats, particularly those by the Shabab militant movement based in Somalia.

It was unclear whether the Ugandan concerns were linked to the plans, made known by Washington officials Wednesday, for tightened passenger screening on many flights to the United States from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The measures followed intelligence reports of an increased threat from al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen.

The embassy did not specify what the threat entailed, but said it had received information from the Uganda Police Force that, according to intelligence sources, “there is a specific threat to Entebbe International Airport,” which serves the capital, Kampala, 25 miles away. The warning, in a statement on the embassy’s website, said the attack could take place between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Thursday.

“U.S. Embassy Kampala wishes to remind U.S. citizens of the continued threat of potential terrorist attacks in the country,” the statement said. “The targets for these attacks could include hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, diplomatic missions, transportation hubs, religious institutions, government offices or public transportation.”

The embassy’s warning followed a separate alert Wednesday by Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority, Reuters reported.

Uganda has troops in Somalia fighting al-Shabab as part of an African Union force and has been on alert in case that involvement draws reprisals. In 2010, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for attacks on bars in Uganda where people had gathered to watch World Cup soccer games. Scores were killed. Elsewhere in the region, Kenya has blamed the group for attacks that include last year’s bloody assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which killed at least 67 people.

According to Agence France-Presse, Ugandan army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said Thursday that troops had been deployed at the airport and in the capital. “People must be vigilant in the face of this threat, report any suspicious individuals seen in their areas,” he was quoted as saying, calling on citizens to “stay calm and alert.”

News photographs from Kampala showed a line of security personnel in camouflage fatigues carrying assault rifles as they patrolled the city.

In Washington, officials said Wednesday that heightened security arrangements for planes flying to the United States would be introduced at about 15 foreign airports. The Department of Homeland Security told airlines and overseas governments about the measures but has not disclosed details publicly.Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that the measures would be “both seen and unseen,” and would evolve as situations warrant.

The move was interpreted as the latest sign that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an extremist group based in Yemen, was plotting against a U.S.-bound airliner. Since 2009, three of its plots using bombs carried by operatives or hidden in cargo have been foiled.

United States - North America - Middle East - East Africa - Africa - Al-Shabaab - Yemen - Al-Qaida - Uganda - Kampala


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