Kenya received warnings of imminent al-Shabaab terror attack

Western officials frustrated by lack of response ahead of assault that killed 14 in Nairobi

Jason Burke Africa correspondent | |

Civilians flee the hotel complex attacked by al-Shabaab in Nairobi. Photograph: Khalil Senosi/AP

Intelligence services in Kenya were warned that al-Shabaab was planning terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in the east African country around Christmas and the new year, western and regional security officials have said.

Officials and other sources told the Guardian the warnings had been passed on several times in recent months, adding that they had been frustrated not to see a greater response from Kenyan authorities.

Kenyan president says Nairobi attack is over after all militants killed

Security forces cleared the hotel, restaurant and office complex in Nairobi on Wednesday morning after it was attacked the previous day by four gunmen from al-Shabaab, an Islamic extremist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia. The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said 14 civilians were confirmed dead.

Al-Shabaab, which has said its mujahideen were responsible for the assault, has launched a series of terrorist operations in Kenya in recent years. In 2013, the al-Qaida affiliate took over a luxury mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people.

The news of the warnings will embarrass authorities in Kenya, which is seen as a key local counter-terrorist player by the US, UK and other western powers.

One Kenyan intelligence official said information passed on by security partners about planned attacks lacked detail but that the country had been on high alert since November.

Another security source told Associated Press the extremists had confused security officials by changing target locations.

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