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Many airlines flying into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport have hired private security firms to guard passengers, cargo and aircraft rather than rely on the Kenya Airports Authority or local police for protection.
Although U.S. and Kenyan authorities said there is no immediate threat of terrorism to the airport or to airlines operating there, previous incidents have raised concerns.
Kenya has been hit with three major terrorist incidents over the last 11 years. Al-qaeda operatives bombed the U.S. Embassy in 1998, killing more than 200 people. In 2002 a car bomb exploded at a seaside hotel frequented by Israeli tourists, killing 15 people. At almost the same time, terrorists tried to shoot down a charter jet carrying Israeli tourists with a shoulder-fired missile.
The question of security at the Nairobi airport was raised again last month when Delta Air Lines abruptly canceled an inaugural flight from Atlanta to Nairobi after the Transportation Security Administration refused to sanction the route.
Aviation experts say private airport security guards are common in war zones around the world, but rare in relatively stable nations like Kenya. Still, national carrier Kenya Airways is among those using a private security firm at the Nairobi airport.