NAIROBI (AA) – Kenya has deployed extra police officers in the resort city of Mombasa ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays amid fears of possible attacks by Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militant group.
“We have increased the number of officers. This time we have included the General Service Unit,” Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa told The Anadolu Agency, referring to one of the country’s most feared security agencies.
“I can assure locals and visitors that we have secured Mombasa,” he said.
On Monday, police bosses from all of Kenya’s 47 counties met in Nairobi to brainstorm ways of ensuring that holidaymakers enjoy a safe Christmas and New Year.
Intelligence reports have indicated that a number of Al-Shabaab operatives have crossed into Kenya from neighboring Somalia with a view to carrying out attacks on the coast during the holidays.
Mombasa’s sandy beaches attract thousands of domestic tourists during the Christmas and New Year vacation.
“All of the beaches will be patrolled by tourist police,” Marwa told AA.
“Regular police officers will be deployed in all areas of the island and mainland that we fear could be targeted by criminals, such as shopping malls, the Old Town and the Likoni ferry,” he said.
“We are on high alert. I ask the public to volunteer any information that will help secure Mombasa and the coast,” the commissioner added.
Kenya has experienced a series of terrorist attacks since it dispatched troops to troubled Somalia in 2011.
Local tourists have given a major boost to hoteliers on the coast, who have recently faced a record low number of foreign tourists due to recent attacks blamed on Al-Shabaab.
“Ironically, news of the attacks in Mombasa has not had a major impact on local visitors’ bookings this holiday season, in contrast to foreign tourists,” Mombasa hotelier Mohamed Hersi told AA.
“I can attribute this to the aggressive marketing and holiday offers we have given local tourists,” he said.
“We have had to significantly reduce the cost of accommodation in order to attract more locals,” he added.
Kelly Muasya, a 38-year-old lawyer in capital Nairobi, is among the thousands of Kenyan holidaymakers heading for Mombasa.
“It’s almost a tradition for my family to go to the coast every Christmas,” he told AA. “We will be travelling for four days.”
“I couldn’t resist the special offers,” said Muasya. “We chose a hotel on the north coast of the mainland, mainly because I felt it was safer there than on the island.”
But not all Kenyans feel secure enough to travel to the coast this year.
“I have chosen to travel to Naivasha city because it is close to Nairobi,” Jaswant Singh, a resident of the capital, told AA.
“Although it has no beaches, there’s a lot a family can enjoy there,” he said, citing the local wildlife, lakes and camping.
“It feels much safer in Naivasha compared to Malindi or Mombasa, with all these news about attacks,” added Singh.
Tourism is Kenya’s second main source of foreign currency revenue.
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