Kenya Denies Ignored Alerts Ahead of Attacks (REUTERS) By Manoah Esipisu MOMBASA, Kenya 12/03/02 11:32 AM ET)
Reuters News Service
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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya denied on Tuesday allegations by
intelligence sources that it failed to act on security warnings
before the Mombasa bombings and had ignored information that al Qaeda
suspects had infiltrated from Somalia.
A senior Kenyan military intelligence official told Reuters foreign
intelligence services including those of Britain and Australia had
warned the east African country to be on guard for infiltration of al
Qaeda supporters from its lawless northern neighbor for possible
attacks in the Indian Ocean coast region.
"They all (Kenyan security services) got that information. They were
told to look out for specific individuals and to monitor the border
with Somalia more closely," he said.
"The information we were given was that the threat was related to al
Qaeda, that al Qaeda people were involved."
"Little or no action was taken to prevent the attacks," the military
Kenyan and Israeli officials blame Osama bin Laden´s al Qaeda for the
suicide bombing of a hotel near the coastal city of Mombasa last week
in which 16 people -- nine Kenyans, three Israelis, three bombers and
one unidentified person -- were killed and for a failed missile
attack on an Israeli airliner.
However, a statement from the Kenyan presidency said the government
had acted on any information it had obtained.
"The government would like to state that any security information
received was promptly acted upon and this resulted in the arrest of
several suspects, some of whom were taken to court and deported for
illegally being in Kenya."
Asked to comment on the military intelligence official´s allegations,
Kenyan Vice President Musalia Mudavadi told Reuters he treated such
reports with caution.
"Terrorism is something that is not easy to handle. We´ve had cases
where people may say there is a strike and it doesn´t turn up,"
"It is unfortunate the (bombing) incident happened, and we want to
carry out a thorough investigation," he said.
Mudavadi said a report in Kenya´s Daily Nation newspaper suggesting
that security agencies were warned as much as eight months before the
attack quoted only unnamed officials, implying that the information
could not be independently verified.
"There are different people making comments, and no government agency
has come out officially putting its version of events. I would want
to be cautious about this," he said.
Police Commissioner Philemon Abong´o, without saying whether he was
warned of the Mombasa bombings, was quoted by the Daily Nation on
Tuesday: "Most of the intelligence we get does not identify specific
areas targeted by the terrorists."
"The information only refers to Western interests, which is a vague
reference because Western governments and individuals have so many
interests. We can´t have police officers guarding all those interests
on a 24-hour basis," he said.
Security Minister Julius Sunkuli has said the security agencies under
his authority -- the police and National Security Intelligence
Service (NSIS) -- and had received no prior information to do with
the Mombasa attacks.
A senior NSIS official declined to comment on the charges.
The senior military intelligence official said that civilian security
agencies were warned earlier in 2002 of the planned entry into Kenya
of suspected members of al Qaeda, blamed for the 1998 U.S. embassy
bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Kenyan authorities were given information that could have prevented
the entry of suspected criminals and were also told to increase
security on their border with failed state Somalia.
He said some of the information came from Australian and British
intelligence services, which had shared information with Kenya about
a possible risk in the coast region, and a possible time-frame for
He would not say whether Israel had shared similar warnings on a
possible terror assault on Kenya.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday that no
intelligence was available which could have prevented the missile and
bomb attacks in Mombasa.
Diplomats in Nairobi noted Straw made no mention of whether his
government had more general information which if made public would
have prompted holidaymakers in Kenya to reassess security.
Such a public warning did come from Australia, which issued a travel
advisory about the risk of "terrorist" attacks in Kenya, particularly
Mombasa, on November 12, two weeks before the attacks.
"Threats against Westerners and Western interests in Mombasa are
high," the travel warning said.
A spokesman for the British High Commission said British authorities
did not comment on intelligence matters.
(© Reuters 2002 12/03/02)
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