WASHINGTON - The United States closed its embassy in Kenya on Friday after the Pentagon issued a terrorism alert to all U.S. interests there and raised the threat level to "high," officials said.
The warning, issued Thursday by the Defense Intelligence Agency, is based on specific information about a threat against a specific target, a defense official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.
Details of the warning, including the target and the nature of the threat, are classified secret, the official said.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi "is completely closed today to review our security posture" and could remain closed Monday and Tuesday.
He said he could not comment on whether a specific threat was received but "we do monitor this very closely. As you know, East Africa has been an area of terrorist threats and indeed terrorist attacks in the past."
The alert came after U.S. intelligence received some fresh reports suggesting al-Qaida operatives in Kenya were going ahead with plans to conduct an attack, said a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
There are four terrorism warning levels; "high" is the highest of the four.
Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa have been a focus of U.S. counterterrorism efforts for many months. A special U.S. military task force has been operating in the Horn of Africa since late last year.
On May 27, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi said it was reviewing its security against a heightened terrorist threat.
"The move is a precaution ... based on the heightened security situation in Nairobi and Kenya over the past weeks," the embassy said in a statement sent to U.S. citizens in the country.
Both the United States and Britain, along with other European countries, have warned a number of times of possible terrorist attacks in eastern Africa, specifically in Kenya.
Britain on May 15 suspended British Airways flights between Nairobi and London because of a specific threat to British airlines in Kenya.
U.S. officials and Western diplomats have said that intercepted communications among al-Qaida operatives in eastern Africa and other unspecified intelligence indicate terrorists may be plotting an attack on embassies or the residences of foreign officials in Nairobi.
There have been several terrorist attacks in Kenya in the past five years.