|Kenyan authorities said they found two launchers and two unused surface-to-air missiles near the end of the runway where an Israeli charter jet narrowly escaped being shot down as it took off Thursday from Mombasa. Meanwhile, al Qaeda and a Somali-based Islamist group top the list of suspects in the terrorist attacks in Kenya, a senior Bush administration source told CNN.||
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi looks at missile launchers used in Thursday's attack.
|MOMBASA, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenyan authorities said Friday they found two launchers and two unused surface-to-air missiles less than one-quarter mile from the end of the runway where an Israeli charter aircraft narrowly escaped being shot down as it took off Thursday.|
The authorities would not divulge what type of missiles they found. Israeli intelligence sources have said the missiles used in the attack were "almost certainly SA-7s, or Strela missiles."
The report of the discovery came as Israeli and Kenyan investigators sifted through the still smoldering rubble of the Paradise Hotel, looking for evidence of who was behind the bombing Thursday that killed 16 people, including the three suicide terrorists.
Thursday, Kenyan investigators found a box with a wire attached to it. They said it could be part of a crude manual detonator that set off the plastic explosives packed in terrorists' car at the hotel entrance.
The bombing at the Israeli-owned hotel that killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis took place within minutes of the unsuccessful missile attack on the plane.
A Somali-based Islamist group and the al Qaeda network are at the top of a list of suspects in the two terrorist attacks against Israelis in Kenya, a senior Bush administration source tells CNN.
The Somali group calls itself Al-Ittihad al-Islami, and is also known by the acronym AIAI. This source and other U.S. officials have made clear they believe AIAI, which operates in Somalia, is associated with al Qaeda.
The source did acknowledge that evidence gathered so far in the investigation is "pointing towards al Qaeda" due to the location and the circumstances of the attacks. Al Qaeda is known to operate in Kenya. In addition, this source noted the terrorists carried out two almost simultaneous attacks -- another hallmark of al Qaeda.
Israel's Mossad spy agency, which has a long record of hunting terror suspects, is leading the investigation into the twin attacks on Israeli tourists in Kenya. (Full story)
Mombasa is a mostly Muslim city
with links to the Arab world. Prominent
Islamist Abubakar Awadh, an official of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims,
told Reuters on Friday: "If
this was done to Israelis alone, it would be a worthy cause."
He said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
In a fax sent to Reuters, the previously unheard-of "Army of Palestine" claimed responsibility. There was no confirmation.
In the attack on the jet, workers at a scrap metal yard near the end of the runway said Friday they saw a white, four-wheel-drive vehicle parked near where police later found the missiles and launchers.
The shoulder-fired missiles were fired at an Arika Boeing 757, carrying 261 passengers and 10 crew members, as it was retracting its landing gear.
The workers said they were at the scrap yard Thursday morning when the missiles were fired. They said they heard what sounded like shots and saw plumes of smoke, but saw no one near the vehicle.
Three minutes later, the white car was gone, the workers said. One of them, Dismas Were, told CNN he had not been interviewed by police.
The use of anti-aircraft missiles could represent a shift in tactics by terrorists, analysts said.
"These weapons have been around for long time and are available on the open market," said Robert Karniol of Jane's Defence Weekly. "An association as well-funded and sophisticated as al Qaeda would easily be capable of acquiring these."
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi visited the missile site Friday, where he told reporters, "We are very bitter because our economy relies on people who come here freely. But still Kenya is secure for tourists or for anybody. Our government is going to act very swiftly to mobilize the common people to know who is a friend and who is not a friend."
The Kenyan economy has suffered since al Qaeda terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing 214 people, 12 of them Americans. (History of terror)
Later, Moi visited the scene of the hotel bombing several miles away, calling it a "terrible crime."
Kenyan police reported no substantial progress Friday in finding who was behind the attacks. They said 12 people, all foreign nationals, were being questioned.
"We have one American lady, one Spanish man ... there are six Pakistanis and four Somalis," a Kenyan police spokesman said.
The Pakistanis and the Somalis were arrested for illegally entering the country, officials said. The American woman and her husband were detained as they checked out of the Le Soleil Beach Club about 90 minutes after the attacks.
The mother of the American being questioned told CNN her daughter and her husband, a Spaniard with a resident alien card, were visiting her childhood home.
Israeli military planes early Friday evacuated more than 250 tourists -- some of them survivors of the car bombing, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gilad Millo said. (Full story)
-- CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Barbara Starr and Correspondent Ben Wedemen and Senior International Correspondent
Sheila MacVicar contributed to this report.