NAIROBI -- US Embassies yesterday warned of possible terror attacks against two hotels in Kenya and a housing compound for Westerners in Saudi Arabia. Kenyan police said they were investigating reports that terrorists had packed a truck with explosives for an imminent attack.
The embassy warnings focused on two nations that have seen a number of attacks by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. Further heightening fears, two banks in the Kenyan capital were evacuated due to bomb threats that turned out to be unfounded.
The US State Department issued an advisory yesterday warning of suspected plans for a terror attack aimed at American and Western interests in downtown Nairobi, particularly two hotels. "The timing of the threat is within the next several days," the statement said.
US Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen said US authorities received an anonymous tip on Monday detailing the threats. The information was passed on to Kenyan authorities.
United Nations security officials also advised employees against visiting the downtown area yesterday or today.
Jonathan Koskei, the senior police official for Nairobi, said the US Embassy alerted Kenyan authorities three days ago about intelligence reports that indicated terrorists had packed a truck with explosives and were planning to attack a hotel.
"We've been investigating these threats, but we cannot confirm the existence of this truck," he said. The Kenyan police deployed their main paramilitary unit to both hotels and a bank building.
In yesterday's bomb scares, the Barclay's Bank building was evacuated for four hours, along with a second Barclay's branch office in downtown Nairobi.
Al Qaeda has twice struck Kenya. The old US embassy was destroyed in 1998 by a car bomb, an attack that killed 219 people, including 12 Americans. Kenyan police reportedly uncovered a plot to destroy the new embassy in June.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, terrorists had the Seder Village compound under "active surveillance," US embassy spokeswoman Carol Kalinsaid by phone from the Saudi capital. She said other housing complexes could also be targeted.
Kalin said the embassy had barred its American employees and dependents from visiting housing compounds in Riyadh between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. "except for official business."
Militants attacked three compounds for foreigners in Riyadh in May, detonating vehicle bombs that killed 35 people including the nine assailants. Another suicide attack killed 17 people in the capital on Nov. 8.