Hundreds of British nationals have had dream holidays in Kenya cut short as they were evacuated under armed guard in the face of a growing terror threat.
Package holiday firms Thomson and First Choice today started flying home around 500 Brits on safari and sunshine breaks after a spate of kidnaps and bomb attacks.
The Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel to parts of the country including tourist hotspot Mombasa and the eastern border with Somalia.
Holidaymakers were ordered to pack and travel to Moi international airport in Mombasa in a convoy of coaches under armed guard.
Both travel companies have cancelled flights to Mombasa, the coastal resort that is Kenyaâ€™s second city, until at least October.
It comes over fears of attacks from Somali militants Al Shabaab, whose leaders include White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite, one of the worldâ€™s most wanted terrorists.
The Foreign Office advice said: â€œThere is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping.
â€œThe main threat comes from extremists linked to Al Shabaab, a militant group that has carried out attacks in Kenya in response to Kenyaâ€™s military intervention in Somalia.
â€œThere has been a spate of small-scale grenade, bomb and armed attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa, and North Eastern Province.
â€œYou should take care in public places where people gather, and exercise a heightened level of vigilance.â€
But Brits were left furious after their holidays were abruptly cut short.
Andy Coughlan and his wife Irene, both 53, were on safari to celebrate Mrs Coughlanâ€™s breast cancer going into remission.
The couple, from Swansea, had only arrived in Kenya on Tuesday.
Mr Coughlan, a musician, told the Telegraphj: â€œWeâ€™re absolutely devastated. Ren had been seriously ill for a long time and this was the first time after all the chemo that she was ready to travel.
â€œThis is not even in the area that is supposed to be a problem.â€
Mrs Coughlan, who worked for Tesco, added: â€œIâ€™ve been looking forward to this holiday for such a long time.
â€œNow itâ€™s gone. Iâ€™ve always loved the idea of seeing the animals in the wild.
â€œWe were supposed to be going on safari today but instead weâ€™re being told to pack and go back to England.â€
The couple had been staying at a hotel on Diani beach an hour south of Mombasa – outside the Foreign officeâ€™s new alert zone.
Mr Coughlan added: â€œWeâ€™re not getting a clear explanation of why our holidays are being cut short.
â€œWeâ€™re just being told to get back to UK then we can start talking about booking another holiday somewhere else from there.â€
A key road connecting resorts south of Mombasa to its airport goes through the city centre, which the FO says is not safe.
Tourists were being evacuated along this route, but with armed guards.
Two explosions in the capital Nairobi and at a luxury hotel in Mombasa on the weekend of May 3-4 left seven people dead.
Kenya blames the blasts on the al-Qaeda linked Somali group al Shabaab.
The group killed more than 70 people in a gun and grenade raid on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last September in an attack said to have been masterminded by the British-born White Widow.
A spokesman for TUI, which owns both Thomson and First Choice, said: â€œThomson and First Choice have been continuously monitoring the situation as it developed and have been working very closely with the FCO and follow its advice at all times.
â€œAs a result of the change in FCO advice, the decision has been taken to cancel all our outbound flights to Mombasa, Kenya up to and including 31 October.
â€œAs a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya back to the UK tonight and tomorrow morning.
â€œOur experienced overseas resort team are updating all our customers currently on holiday in Mombasa of the change in FCO advice.â€
In the last few days the Kenyan government has pledged to step up security for tourists following a number of terrorist-related incidents.
And the Kenyans have slammed the British travel advice – in addition to similar alerts form authorities in France, the US and Australia – blaming it for creating â€˜panicâ€™.
Tourism is vital to Kenya, with 600,000 people working in the industry which provides 12.5% of the countryâ€™s GDP.
France, the US and Australia have also issued travel warnings for Kenya.
A government statement said: â€œThe challenges arising from acts of terrorism require concerted efforts to fight it and not behaving in a manner that accelerates it by causing fear and panic.â€
â€œIssuance of such travel advisories only plays to the whims of bad elements in society whose aim is to spread fear and panic among otherwise peace-loving people.â€
It is thought that the Foreign Office advice is unlikely to be changed for several weeks.