The shooting at Garissa University College in Kenya on Thursday isn't the first deadly attack for the East African country. For years, Kenya has suffered from conflict, causing many to ask is Kenya safe? The Garissa University attack is just one example of terrorism and violence in the country, much of it can be attributed Al Shabab, militants from neighboring Somalia who have claimed responsibility for the university shooting. Their actions have caused the United States and other countries to issue travel warnings to Kenya and, specifically, the region where Garissa is located. Update: Officials have confirmed that 147 people have been killed and dozens more wounded.
In recent years, Kenya has attempted to revive its tourism industry, which has historically been known for its safari adventures, picturesque mountain peaks, and beaches along the Indian Ocean. The country criticized the United States' travel warnings, as well as those from other countries, claiming they mask the progress the government has made in mitigating terrorist threats. On Wednesday, just one day before the Garissa attack, President Uhuru Kenyatta stressed that Kenya was safe and urged overseas nationals to encourage foreigners to visit. Speaking at the Kenya Diaspora Easter Investment Conference in Nairobi, he referenced the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris that left 11 dead earlier this year, saying:
The travel advisories being issued by our friends are not genuine. I have not heard of any travel advisory issued to those visiting Paris, which recently experienced a terror attack.
The United States' latest Kenya travel warning came in June. It warned U.S citizens the risks of traveling to the African country, where kidnappings, suicide operations, and attacks on airports and naval ports have been frequent. The embassy details a number of deadly terrorist attacks, including the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack that left 67 dead. Many of the listed attacks were led by al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the Garissa attack.
While the U.S. embassy in Nairobi remains open, some staff were relocated. U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling to northeastern Kenya. Garissa, where the university attack took place, is specifically named as a dangerous area where U.S. government travel is prohibited. U.S. citizens are warned to consider these restrictions while traveling throughout the country.
The travel warning reads:
The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings — to include car bombings — kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region.
Despite the strides the Kenyan government has tried to make in creating peace within its borders, the Garissa University attack is evidence that the area is still plagued with violence and terrorism threats.
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