Two attacks target Israelis in Kenya - Fatal bombing at Mombasa hotel; missiles barely miss aircraft (MSNBC NEWS SERVICE) MOMBASA, Kenya 11/28/02)
MOMBASA, Kenya, Nov. 28 — In simultaneous attacks, a car bomb
exploded Thursday at a hotel frequented by Israelis, killing 12
people in addition to three suicide bombers, while at least two
missiles were fired at — but missed — an Israeli charter jet that had
just departed this popular destination for tourists and trade. A
little-known group called the “Government of Universal Palestine in
Exile, Army of Palestine” claimed responsibility.
THE GROUP said it carried out attacks on Israelis in Kenya to mark
the anniversary of the 1947 United Nations resolution partitioning
Palestine between Arabs and Jews. In a statement faxed to Reuters,
the previously unheard-of group said it had sent two groups of
attackers to Kenya to “make the world hear once again the voice of
Palestinian refugees, and to cast light on Zionist terrorism in the
West Bank and Gaza.”
It said the attacks were intended to mark the 55th anniversary
of “the ill-fated (U.N.) resolution to partition Palestine tomorrow,
November 29, 2002” and followed “the accusation of terrorism against
courageous resistance movements in occupied Palestine and Lebanon.”
It was not immediately possible to verify the claim.
The bombing occurred at about 8 a.m. at the Paradise Hotel in
Kikambala, 15 miles north of Mombasa, said Col. Bonventur Wendo,
director of Kenya’s National Disaster Center.
Kenya’s internal security minister, Julius Sunkuli, said 15 were
killed and 80 wounded in the suicide attack according to initial
Police say a green all-terrain vehicle packed with explosives rammed
through the gate of the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala. Witnesses say
one man jumped out and blew himself up inside the hotel, while the
others detonated the vehicle out front.
A police spokesman said the dead included nine Kenyans, two Israeli
children and an Israeli man.
Yoav Biran, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s director general, said the
death toll from the hotel attack could rise.
“We aren’t sure this is the end, and there are quite a number of
Israelis injured,” Biran said.
Arab TV and Israeli media identified two of the apparent terrorists
as Abdallah Ahmed Adallah, an Egyptian, and Fayed al Hassan, who held
a Kenyan passport.
Kenyan authorities have held two people in connection with the
suicide bomb attack, Kenya’s internal security minister said.
Sunkuli told Reuters: “We are holding two people and we are still
questioning them. ... We suspect them. They were in the vicinity of
this area, and we don’t know what they were doing here. Police are
Sunkuli did not disclose the nationality of the two.
MISSILES MISS FLIGHT
The Boeing 757, which belongs to Israel’s Arkia airline, had just
taken off from Mombasa airport when the pilot saw a flash of light to
his left, said Arkia official Shlomo Hanael. There were no injuries
aboard the plane, which carried about 260 passengers and 10 crew
The pilot initially prepared for an emergency landing in Nairobi,
Kenya, to check whether the plane was damaged, but after
consultations with Israeli officials, it was decided to fly directly
to Israel, Israel TV’s Channel Two said. Hanael said there was no
damage to the plane.
Rafi Marik, a captain with private Israeli airline company Arkia,
said after landing in Tel Aviv that the airliner had reached an
altitude of 500 feet when the missiles closed in.
“We spotted two white smoke trails passing us on the left side, from
the rear to the front, and disappearing after a few seconds,” Marik
told reporters at Ben-Gurion Airport. Asked how close the missiles
came, he said: “Not very far.”
He would not comment on what sort of missiles were fired, but Israeli
media reports identified them as Soviet-era SAM-7 heat-seeking
Police said the missiles were fired from a white all-terrain vehicle
about two kilometers (one mile) from the airport. Three or four Arab-
looking men were seen leaving the area in the van, police said.
Investigators found two missile casings near the airport but had made
It was not immediately clear whether the Arkia flight had access to
countermeasures, which are sometimes used by military aircraft to
confound missile systems.
Arkia was founded in 1950 as Israel’s second airline; throughout its
operating history, it has never had a fatal incident.
A spokesman for El Al, Israel’s largest airline, said that all
flights in Israel and around the world would depart and arrive as
scheduled on Thursday. While generally considered to be some of the
most stringent in the world, Israeli airline security was shaken
since the Sept. 11 attacks by several incidents on El Al in which
passengers have carried weapons on board.
Despite the unconfirmed claim of responsibility, officials in several
nations named al-Qaida as the primary suspect in the attacks.
A senior U.S. official said there was no firm evidence of al-Qaida’s
role, but the attack had several marks of an al-Qaida operation: the
combined use of technology and suicide tactics, apparently detailed
planning of multiple attacks against a single target, and the use of
a locale familiar to al-Qaida.
“They keep coming back to the same target.” the official said.
Kenya has a solid diplomatic relationship with Israel and cooperated
fully with the United States in the investigation of the al-Qaida
embassy bombing attacks. Kenya turned suspects over to U.S.
authorities, shuttered Islamic charities and allowed FBI agents free
rein in the investigation. In return, the United States supplied the
Kenyans with advanced law enforcement training and technology.
John Sawe, the Kenyan ambassador to Israel, told NBC News that
his “personal gut feeling was that Al-Qaida is responsible,” but
stressed that his government had not made any official assessment. He
had earlier been quoted as saying there was “no doubt” the terror
network was behind the strikes.
“This (today) looks like another orchestrated attack. Indications are
it is another wake-up call from hell by al-Qaida,” said a senior
Israeli diplomatic source.
Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the missile
attack “a very dangerous escalation of terror.”
“It means that terror organizations and the regimes behind them are
able to arm themselves with weapons which can cause mass casualties
anywhere and everywhere,” Netanyahu said.
“Today, they’re firing the missiles at Israeli planes, tomorrow
they’ll fire missiles at American planes, British planes, every
country’s aircraft. Therefore, there can be no compromise with
Reports earlier this week said U.S. officials had met on Nov. 5 with
25 airline officials on the possibility that al-Qaida operatives had
brought shoulder-launched missiles into the United States for attacks
on U.S. airliners. But that concern was not based on specific
indications the missiles were in the United States, senior
intelligence officials told NBC News.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: “The United States
deplores this violence. We stand ready to offer the Kenyans and the
Israelis assistance in this investigation.”
The United States blamed al-Qaida for two 1998 truck bomb attacks on
U.S. embassies in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the Tanzanian
capital of Dar es Salaam in which 224 people were killed and
It launched retaliatory missile attacks on al-Qaida bases soon after
those bombings. Al-Qaida was blamed again for the September 11
attacks on New York and Washington that killed 3,000 and ignited the
U.S. “war on terror” and its military campaign against al-Qaida in
Afghanistan. But Johndroe warned ”“it is premature to rule al-Qeida
in or out in relation to these attacks.”
Kenya’s coastal area has a large Muslim population with traditional
links to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
INTERNET CHAT WARNING
A Muslim cleric who supports Osama bin Laden said on Thursday that
Islamic militant groups sympathetic to al-Qaida warned of an attack
on Kenya one week ago on Internet chat rooms and in emails.
“Militant groups who sympathize with al-Qaida warned one week ago
that there would be an attack on Kenya and they mentioned Israelis,”
said Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the radical London-based
al Muhajiroun group.
“They said in chat rooms that there would be something good in East
Africa, that a heavy price would be paid,” he told Reuters.
Bakri said the militants who spoke of an attack on Kenya on the
Internet did not identify themselves but said they were mujahideen
(Islamic fighters) who support al-Qaida.
“They were taking part in discussions and they sent emails,” he said.
Bakri said he was not a member of al-Qaida but supported the group,
bin Laden and his Taliban allies in Afghanistan. MSNBC.com’s Jennifer
Carlile and Jon Bonné; NBC News’ Robert Windrem, Wendy Fastman and
Gila Grossman; The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this
report.(MSNBC © 2002 11/28/02)
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