Kenya park beefs up security following attacks

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Police here said they have beefed up security around the Maasai Mara Game Reserve following attacks on two groups of tourists traveling to the game park in vans on Dec. 10.

Police reported that twice on the same stretch of road near the reserve three hooded men attacked vans carrying mostly British tourists and stole their valuables and passports.

The first attack was on a convoy of four vans carrying British tourists at Fiaya Pei, 75 miles southwest of Nairobi, police said. The second came on two vans carrying British, Yugoslavian and Portuguese tourists near Ewaso Ngiro, a hamlet 40 miles down the same road, police said.

Police said that at least one of the men brandished a machine gun and another a sword during the incidents, which were the seventh and eighth attacks on tourists in the Maasai Mara park this year. Police said that none of the approximately 40 tourists was injured.

Police said they arrested one of the bandits and recovered much of the stolen property one day after the incidents.

Richard Leakey, the renowned conservationist who heads the Kenya Wildlife Service, vowed that Kenyan authorities would capture the three men. "We have a massive operation going on," Leakey told reporters in Nairobi.

In response to the attacks, Eric Gordon, who heads Park East Tours in New York, said his firm for the immediate term would fly clients into airstrips inside the Maasai Mara reserve, instead of transporting them by road from Nairobi.

Gordon said that he was confident Kenyan officials would be tough on crime against tourists. "The fact that [Richard Leakey] is there has given a lot of faith to tour operators and tourists going to Kenya that crime won't be brushed off," Gordon said.

Still, the number of U.S. travelers visiting Kenya has dropped from a high of 90,000 in 1990 to 54,500 last year, officials said.

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