(AFP) – The Kenyan government on Friday urged football fans to watch World Cup matches at home rather than in public places, less than a week after attacks left nearly 60 dead.
“Where possible, Kenyans are strongly advised to watch the World Cup matches from the comfort of their homes instead of crowded and unprotected open places,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
On Sunday night, gunmen raided the coastal town of Mpeketoni — situated near the tourist island of Lamu — and massacred close to 50 people. The attack came as some people in the town were watching a World Cup match in local cafes and hotels.
A further nine people were killed in an attack the following night in a nearby village.
“Although the government has beefed up security in all parts of the country, bar and restaurant owners are at the same time notified to maintain high alert in their areas of operation,” the interior ministry said on Friday.
“This will ensure that bar and restaurant patrons are safe from criminals who may try to take advantage of the World Cup to perpetrate acts of criminality and violence.”
The attacks were claimed by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab, although Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has blamed the carnage on “local political networks” and an “opportunist network of other criminal gangs”.
– ‘Western interests’ targeted –
Kenya’s warning comes amid a wider alert in East Africa over the threat of Shebab attacks during World Cup screenings.
Last week Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose country is a key contributor to African Union forces fighting Shebab in Somalia, urged fans “to be alert as they enjoy football, bearing in mind that the country is threatened”.
A statement said Ugandan security forces had been urged to perform additional security checks on people to avoid a repeat of attacks four years ago during the World Cup final, when Shebab militants killed at least 76 people by bombing two restaurants in the Ugandan capital.
Britain last week also issued warnings to citizens in several East African nations — including Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, who all have troops in Somalia.
“Previous terrorist attacks in the region have targeted places where football matches are being viewed,” Britain’s Foreign Office said, adding that crowded areas including “transport hubs, hotels, restaurants and bars” are also possible targets.
The Foreign Office singled out Djibouti as a major risk, saying Shebab insurgents were planning further attacks in the Horn of Africa nation against targets that include “Western interests”.
Last month at least one person was killed and several were wounded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Djibouti, the first attack claimed by Shebab in the country since it joined the AU force in 2011.
The interior ministry’s warning also came a week after Kenya’s police chief promised “sufficient security measures” to ensure fans were safe.