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TSA Halts Delta Flights to Kenya

06/03/2009 -The decision by the  Department of Homeland Security to halt four weekly flights from Atlanta to Nairobi, Kenya, over security concerns has rankled the Kenyan government, which has summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain the decision,reports Reuters.

Delta terminated plans to launch four flights a week between Nairobi and Atlanta via Dakar after the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to clear the new route, citing "noted security vulnerabilities in and around Nairobi".

"It is unjustified ... it amounts to a travel advisory against the country. Yes, I have (summoned the ambassador)," Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula told Reuters.

Kenya borders Somalia, a lawless country whose 18-year-old civil strife is seen by the international community as offering a haven for al Qaeda-linked militants. Their strongholds are in the south of the country, near Kenya's porous eastern border.

TSA, part of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for the security of America's transportation systems, said it and other federal agencies had been assessing threats to civil aviation in east Africa.

According to ABC News, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the call to terminate the new route late Monday night after receiving a threat assessment from the TSA, an agency of DHS.

The Kenyan government anger stems from its belief that the new route would bolster tourism revenues due to the election of President Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya.

In 1998, al Qaeda delivered one of its most successful blows against the U.S. government, detonating a truck bomb thatkilled 212 and wounded over 5,000at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.

ABC News also reports that there is fear terrorists could use man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) to shoot down aircraft in the region. In 2002, al Qaeda tried to bring down an El-Al passenger jet flying out of Mombassa, Kenya, using MANPADS .

Photo byAndrei Dimofte/Flickr