Important COVID-19 travel guidance
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.
This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Kenya.
There is a heightened threat of terrorism, including terrorist kidnappings, across Kenya. Attacks, including terrorist kidnappings, could target Westerners, including British nationals. Attacks could occur at any time, including around religious or public holidays. Attacks could be indiscriminate in places frequented by foreigners including hotels, bars, restaurants, sports bars and nightclubs, sporting events, supermarkets, shopping centres, commercial buildings, coastal areas including beaches, government buildings, airports, buses, trains and other transport hubs. Places of worship including churches and mosques have also been targeted. Be particularly vigilant in these areas.
On 8 January Al Shabaab released a public statement ‘Kenya Must Take Heed’; this states Al Shabaab intent to attack tourists, including those on safari trips. It also references government institutions and military installations as potential attack targets.
On 5 January 2020 Al Shabaab conducted an attack on a military airstrip in Lamu County, killing 3 US personnel. Travellers to Lamu Island and Manda Island should be particularly vigilant given the close proximity of these islands to the Lamu County mainland. Due to the threat of terrorism, if you travel to Lamu Island or Manda Island you should do so by air to Lamu Airport (a civilian airport on Manda Island), and not by road. The only commercial option for air travel to or from Lamu Island and Manda Island is through Lamu Airport.
The main terrorism threat is from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia opposed to the Somali government. Al Shabaab has issued public threats against Kenya due to Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. The Kenyan authorities have increased security to counter potential reprisal attacks by Al Shabaab. There is some evidence of growing support for Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) in Kenya.
There have been a number of other terrorist attacks in Kenya in recent years:
- On 15 to 16 January 2019, there was an attack at the hotel and commercial complex at 14 Riverside in Nairobi, resulting in injuries and loss of life. One British national was killed
- Several attacks took place in Garissa County in 2015, including an attack on Garissa University College on 2 April 2015 in which at least 148 people were killed
- In June and July 2014 attacks in Lamu and Tana River Counties on the Kenyan coast are reported to have killed at least 85 people. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks
- Over 60 people including six British nationals were killed in the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.
There are frequent attacks in the north-eastern border regions, particularly in Garissa, Lamu and Mandera counties and other areas close to the Somali border, most of which were attributed to Al Shabaab. These have killed members of the Kenyan security forces as well as civilians. The Kenyan security forces have increased their presence in the affected areas. Armed militia groups operate within the Boni Forest and along the border between Garissa County and Somalia. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to within 60 km of the Kenya-Somali border.
Further attacks are very likely. Methods of attack have included suicide vests, grenades, knife attacks, shootings and bombings, including car bombings, and improvised explosive devices.
Kenyan official buildings such as government offices and law enforcement personnel and facilities have been particular targets. Somali government interests in Kenya may also be targeted. Take extra security precautions if you plan on travelling to any of these places.
The authorities in Kenya have successfully disrupted a number of planned attacks and made a number of arrests in recent years. They have also provided extra protection including in areas near to the Somalia border and on the Kenyan coast.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There is a high threat of kidnapping across Kenya. You should be alert to the heightened threat of terrorist kidnapping targeting Westerners, including British nationals. Westerners have been the target of kidnaps in northern counties, counties bordering Somalia and coastal counties, and further kidnaps are very likely.
British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release. On 12 April 2019 two Cuban doctors were kidnapped in Mandera north-east Kenya. Kenyan police suspect Al-Shabaab were behind the attack. On 20 November 2018, an unknown armed gang attacked a trading centre in Chakama in Kilifi County, and abducted an Italian NGO worker. A number of kidnaps have occurred in Dadaab refugee camps in north east Kenya. British aid workers in Kenya should satisfy themselves that those arranging their stay have sufficient security arrangements in place.
The long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.