Travellers using Kenya’s airports will take longer to gain entry following the introduction of stiffer security procedures aimed at preventing terror attacks.
The new measures require that all vehicles must be stopped and searched at the entry points while the occupants should alight for frisking.
The security upgrade was announced by Kenya Airports Authority managing director Lucy Mbugua in an advertisement in yesterday’s Nation.
The new rules require passengers to arrive at the airport an hour early.
MATTERS OF CONCERN
And since most airlines ask passengers to be at the airport two hours before departure, it means one must be at the security barriers three hours before time.
The security standards were raised barely two weeks after an explosion at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, on January 16.
Investigations showed the blast was caused by detonators that were abandoned in a dustbin by terrorists while a 2kg bomb, which they had intended to plant there, was found in their getaway car in Shauri Moyo.
Head of airports security Eric Kiraithe said the new checks were put in place in response to “intelligence reports and matters of concern raised.”
While information gathered by undercover officers showed the airports were among installations targeted by terrorists, an expose by NTV revealed serious security lapses.
Mr Kiraithe said: “All the security checks are intelligence led. But NTV also highlighted a matter of public concern and when it’s raised, especially on serious issues, then we must respond.”
The NTV expose, Terrorists Playground, revealed that many vehicles passed through security barriers without being searched and luggage would be left unattended for long periods without raising the curiosity of security officers.
Mr Kiraithe said the security arrangements had been planned long before but would now be fast tracked.
The airport would be modelled to have 16 security checks at entry points.
“We had planned for the increased security checks so that 16 vehicles would be stopped for inspection at any given time, just before the roundabout. We appreciate the NTV programme. And because we have officers on the ground, they have also seen the public concern,” Mr Kiraithe added.
Regarding increasing the number of lanes to accommodate more check points, he also said: “Once they are in place, passengers will spend less time but for now, all must cope. At the best scenario, we hope to have achieved it within 90 days and in the worst, about 135 days.”
The security upgrade caused extended queues at main entrance.
Mr Kiraithe further said: “We do not want a situation where you arrive at the airport on a day when the situation demands less inspection and think it will always be like that. Adhere to the one hour rule because we do not want anybody to miss his or her flight.”
When the Nation visited JKIA, all entrants underwent the security procedures except security chiefs who were rushing to the airport to see off President Kenyatta who was due to depart for African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Officers doing the checks were also asking entrants to declare the contents of their luggage, and cautioned them there would be further screening at the departure terminal to authenticate.
While some officers kept watch with AK-47 rifles, others had hand-held metal detectors to frisk the entrants.
General Service Unit officers were also on standby.
Passengers who spoke to the Nation said the upgrade caught them unawares but appreciated it, saying the process was fast enough.
A passenger who identified himself only as Salim said: “It’s good because there is no need to hurry and your safety is compromised.”
Besides the explosion, police are also investigating the source of smoke grenades that were found in a toilet on January 9.
Immigration department introduced Biometric Machines technology for passengers leaving the county at JKIA last month.
The department added in a statement to travel agencies: “The short term solution for this, until the immigration increases more counters, is to advise our clients to come early for Check-in. This is, therefore, to kindly request you to strictly follow minimum check-in time at the airport which is 3hrs before departure with immediate effect.”
In another statement Kenya Airways also advised its customers to arrive at the airport earlier than normal times to allow for the stricter security check.
BE EARLY FOR FRISKING
“Kenya Airways wishes to advise all guests departing from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to plan to be at the airport at least an hour before normal check-in time. This is to allow for sufficient time to go through the enhanced security checks and be on time for scheduled flights,” it said.
Security authorities have been on high alert in other parts of the country as a result of threats posed by the Somali terrorist group Al-shabaab.
The Embassy of the Republic of Turkey wrote to the government asking for enhanced at its premises on Gigiri road.
In a confidential note seen by Nation, the officials warned of heightened terrorist threat directed against Turkish interests in the Horn of Africa and Kenya.
It read in part: “Al-Shabaab is preparing an armed terrorist attack towards Turkish mission in Kenya. The Embassy therefore requests the relevant Kenyan authorities to immediately strengthen and enhance the security of the embassy’s compound.”
Intelligence briefs also showed potential threats at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Parliament buildings, military headquarters and the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC).
On Wednesday last week, a team of 20 officers from the General Service Unit’s (GSU) elite squad, the Recce were deployed at the Village Market for hours before they left. They surveyed the whole mall including the exits and entry points.
On Tuesday, few metres from the Embassy of Turkey, security agents thwarted an impending attack at the Village Market in Gigiri.