14 Die in Attack on Israelis in Kenya; Qaeda Blamed (REUTERS) By Noel Mwakughu MOMBASA, Kenya 11/28/02 11:00 AM ET)
Reuters News Service
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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Suicide bombers blew up a hotel full of
Israelis in Kenya Thursday, killing 14 people, minutes after missiles
narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off nearby, in an
apparently synchronized attack.
Israeli and Kenyan officials swiftly blamed the al Qaeda network,
while the previously unheard-of "Army of Palestine" sent a claim of
responsibility to Reuters. Police said they were questioning two
people seized near the scene of the hotel bomb.
Witnesses spoke of Israeli tourists and other survivors, streaked
with blood and dust, staggering to the beach from the shattered
Mombasa Paradise resort hotel and screaming for water after the
attackers rammed a car bomb into the hotel lobby.
There were discrepancies in the casualty figures. "There should be
initial indications that 14 people have died," Kenya´s Interior
Minister Julius Sunkuli told Reuters.
Police earlier said three suicide attackers had killed themselves,
six Kenyans and two Israelis. Israeli officials said three Israelis
were killed, two of them children. Eighty people were wounded,
Kenya´s ambassador to Israel said.
Wreckage of the bombers´ car was left 15 meters (yards) from the
smoldering rubble of the entrance to the hotel, reported to be
Israeli-owned and where most guests were Israeli.
A human jaw lay on the ground near the mangled metal.
"Around 7:30, we heard a massive explosion. The entire building
shook," witness Kelly Hartog wrote on the Web site of Israel´s
Jerusalem Post newspaper.
"I saw people covered with blood, including children. Everyone seemed
to be screaming. From the dining room we were herded out to the
beach. There were no medics. People were screaming for water.
"I tried to occupy myself tending to the children. ´I want to go
home,´ they said. ´Where are my parents?"´
MISSILE SKIMS OVER PLANE WING
Minutes before the hotel blast, missiles were fired at an Israeli
Arkia airliner carrying 261 passengers as it took off from Mombasa´s
"About two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the airport, two missiles were
fired at the aircraft from a white Pajero (jeep) by some people who
are suspected to be of Arab origin. Both missiles missed the
aircraft," police spokesman Kimgori Mwangi said.
Ezra Gozlan, a passenger sitting at the back of the plane, said he
saw a missile fly over the wing moments after take-off.
"All the wheels were in the air and then we heard the explosion. It
(the missile) went about one meter above the wing," he said. The
plane landed safely in Israel, escorted by Israeli air force jets.
"We spotted two white smoke trails passing us on the left side, from
the rear to the front, and disappearing after a few seconds," pilot
Rafi Marik said.
A Kenyan security source said it was believed the attackers used
shoulder-borne missile launchers.
The hotel attackers were also described as of Arab appearance and
also driving a four-wheeled-drive Pajero they had turned into a
"Just after a group of tourists were brought to the hotel, I saw a
white Pajero forcing its way into the gate," said a barman at a hotel
across the road from the Mombasa Paradise, adding the attack happened
at about 8.30 a.m. (0530 GMT).
"It had three people of Arab origin and after it got to the reception
area I heard an explosion."
Investigators said they did not rule out a link between the crash of
a light plane which took off from Mombasa Thursday, injuring at least
seven, and the two attacks on Israelis.
AL QAEDA ACCUSED
Israeli and Kenyan officials were quick to accuse the al Qaeda
network, blamed by Washington for the Sept. 11 attacks last year on
the United States that killed about 3,000 people and for the bloody
1998 truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left
224 people dead.
If that judgment is correct, these would be the first direct attacks
on Israelis by the fugitive Osama bin Laden´s group.
"Indications are it is another wake-up call from hell by al Qaeda,"
said a senior Israeli diplomat. Nabil Abdel-Fattah, assistant
director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and
Strategic Studies, said the timing seemed to be aimed at coinciding
with the Likud party leadership vote in Israel Thursday.
"It is to show the (Ariel) Sharon option, the Likud option, is not a
solution to the Palestine problem," he said.
A statement faxed to Reuters in Beirut said however they were carried
out by the "Army of Palestine" to mark the anniversary of the 1947
U.N. resolution partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews. There
was no confirmation of the claim.
Bin Laden and his followers, forced into hiding by the U.S. campaign
against their bases in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks,
were also suspected of involvement on the October 12 Bali bomb which
U.S. officials said in June Sudanese authorities had arrested a
suspected al Qaeda militant who claimed to have fired a shoulder-
launched missile at a U.S. aircraft in Saudi Arabia.
The discovery of an empty but scorched launcher at the Saudi air base
prompted the FBI to issue an intelligence alert that terrorists might
try to shoot down an American commercial aircraft with shoulder-fired
Kenya´s coastal region has a large Muslim population with traditional
links to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
"We had similar attacks in 1998, the world including our friends have
not helped us enough," Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi said
Thursday. "We will do what we can to fight back."
In northern Israel, suspected Palestinian gunmen killed at least four
Israelis and wounded several more Thursday. (© Reuters 2002 11/28/02)
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