Americans warned of Kenya mall-style terror attack ‘imminent’ in Uganda

Members of the Uganda Army parade during Independence Anniversary celebrations in Rukungiri, Uganda, on Oct. 9. Uganda gained independence from Britain on Oct. 9, 1962. /

JOHANNESBURG -- The U.S. Embassy in Uganda on Friday warned Americans living in the country of an imminent attack similar to the deadly rampage in Kenya's Westgate shopping mall just weeks ago.

Americans in the capital Kampala were told to avoid crowded public spaces after the Ugandan government heightened its terror alert to maximum for the first time since al Shabaab bombings in 2010 which killed 79 people.

"Our intelligence and that of the Americans show an imminent terror attack is likely," Patrick Onyango told Reuters.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala said that they were continuing to assess "reports that a Westgate-style attack may soon occur in Kampala."

The statement added: "Embassy officials are sharing all information with the Ugandan authorities. At this time, there is no further information on timing and/or location of this attack."

"The Embassy will continue to alert U.S. citizens to any credible, specific information about this and any other potential threats. We again take this opportunity to remind the community to exercise vigilance and to avoid public venues that attract large crowds."

The heightened alert was based on indications from the Ugandan government and U.S. intelligence sources. In response the Ugandan government has recalled security staff who were away on leave and deployed thousands of extra police across Kampala.

It comes just weeks after at least 69 people were killed in the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi, also perpetrated by al Shabaab, the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group.

The 2010 bombings targeted crowds gathered to watch the World Cup which were being hosted in South Africa. Al Shabaab said this incident, and this year's Westgate attack in Kenya, were in response to the countries' participation in African Union forces which had neutralized the rebels in Somalia.

The militant group has issued several threats of another strike on Uganda, considered a Western ally, unless it withdraws from Somalia where its troops are fighting against Islamists as part of a 17,000-strong AU peacekeeping force.

NBC News' Alexander Smith reported from London. Reuters contributed to this report.