Israel links Kenya terrorists to al Qaeda

A Kenyan soldier stops people from going near the Paradise Hotel, north of Mombasa, after a bomb attack.

Twisted wreckage of the vehicle used by three suicide bombers.
 


Israeli security and Red Cross workers prepare to cover the body of a Paradise Hotel blast victim.
Thursday, November 28, 2002 Posted: 7:34 PM EST (0034 GMT)
MOMBASA, Kenya (CNN) -- One of the three suicide terrorists in the hotel bombing here was identified by Israeli Army Radio as Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah -- a name that matches one of the most wanted al Qaeda terrorists sought by the FBI.

The name of one of the other bombers also is similar to a wanted al Qaeda terrorist.  Both of the men were indicted in connection with the deadly 1998 twin U.S. embassy bombings in Africa that killed 224 people.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the identities of Thursday's bombers.

John Malan Sawe, the Kenyan ambassador to Israel, put the blame for Thursday's attack squarely on Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, which was behind the 1998 embassy bombings.

"I do believe the people who have been responsible for terrorism all over the world must be the same people who have done it," said Sawe.  "I believe it must be connected to al Qaeda."

At President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, a spokesman said it was premature to say whether the attack was linked to al Qaeda.

"The U.S. government deplores this violence and we stand ready to assist the governments of Kenya and Israel in investigating these attacks," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

State Department sources said they have not determined who is responsible in Thursday's "clearly coordinated" attacks -- the firing of surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane and the car bombing.

Among theories under consideration are that the attacks were planned by Hezbollah or other Palestinian rejectionist groups alone, or that they were planned by one of those groups in concert with al Qaeda.

Thirteen people and the three bombers were killed in the hotel attack.  The missiles missed the aircraft and it arrived safely in Tel Aviv after the pilot reported seeing "smoke trails" behind the plane seconds after takeoff. (Full story)

An Israeli Army Radio report identified Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, of Egyptian origin, and Faed Ali Sayam, a Kenyan Muslim, as two of the three suicide bombers.  The third attacker was not immediately identified.

The name Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah is well-known to authorities and terrorism experts. 

Abdullah, also known as "Saleh," is the al Qaeda leader of East African cells and a member of al Qaeda's leadership group, the shura council, according to federal prosecutors.

Abdullah is accused of having a direct role in plotting the 1998 embassy bombings and is charged with murder of all 224 persons killed in Kenya and Tanzania.  The 5-foot, 8-inch Abdullah is on the FBI's most wanted list, with a $25 million reward posted on his head.

Among the Israeli victims were two young brothers: Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The boys' mother and sister were among the wounded.  Rescue workers put the number of wounded at 26, 13 of them Kenyans and 13 Israelis.

Screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage, witnesses said. (Full story)

Some of the wounded were hurt by glass flying into their rooms, and others were burned.

The owner of the Paradise Hotel in Malindi, north of Mombasa, said three men fought with security guards before driving into the hotel.

Officials said at about 8:30 a.m. local time a vehicle pulled up to the entrance of the hotel and was refused entry.  The men reversed and drove through the gate and into the reception area, causing the huge explosion that tore through the building.

The car bomb appeared to have been made of plastic explosives, police said.

The attack came moments after a group of Israeli tourists had arrived to check in. Officials from Israel's foreign ministry said Kenyans performing a welcome dance for hotel guests were among the wounded.

A previously unknown group calling itself "The Army of Palestine" faxed a claim of responsibility to the Reuters news agency in Beirut. Another such fax was received by Al-Manar, Hezbollah television, where editors said it did not appear credible. 

In a faxed statement, the previously unheard-of group said it wanted 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."

The Bush administration has offered assistance to Israel and Kenya, and a couple of foreign national investigators working for the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi have been dispatched to support the investigation in Mombasa.

In addition, President Bush issued a statement saying, "I condemn, in the strongest possible terms" both the attacks in Kenya, in which attackers killed 13 other people, and a shooting in Israel Thursday that took five lives.

"I want to extend my condolences to the victims and their families, and to the governments and peoples of Israel and Kenya," he said.  "Today's attacks underscore the continuing willingness of those opposed to peace to commit horrible crimes.  Those who seek peace must do everything in their power to dismantle the infrastructure of terror that makes such actions possible.

"The United States remains firmly committed, with its partners around the world, to the fight against terror and those who commit these heinous acts."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a similar statement, adding, "We also call on the Palestinians to take immediate and sustained steps to eradicate the infrastructure of terrorism and violence that has wrought such tragic bloodshed."

Israeli intelligence sources told CNN that Kenyan authorities recovered two launch tubes from a field adjacent to Mombasa's airport where the Arkia Boeing 757, a weekly charter flight, took off with 261 passengers and crew.

The missiles fired were "almost certainly SA-7s, or Strela missiles," the sources said, because Stingers and SA-18s are heat-seeking, and therefore unlikely to miss.

Pilot Rafi Marek decided to continue to Tel Aviv, the scheduled destination, after checking that the aircraft was working properly.

Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Today they fired missiles at Israeli planes, tomorrow they'll fire missiles at U.S. planes, British planes, planes from every state."

Speaking to CNN shortly after the Mombasa attacks, Dan Plesch of the Royal United Services Institute, a UK-based body for the study of defense and security issues, said by targeting such so-called "soft targets" as tourists, those behind the attacks were clearly aiming to ratchet up the levels of fear and with it the inevitable pressure for retaliatory action. (Full story)

He told CNN: "One of the motives of the terrorists is to incite overreaction.  We have to remember that they really want us to crack down because that really plays into their hands."

Kenya has seen previous terrorist attacks against Western interests.  On August 7, 1998, a blast at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi killed 219 people and wounded 5,000.  A nearly simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Tanzania killed 12 people and injured more than 80.

The United States sentenced four men to life in prison without parole for their roles in the attacks.  It accused them of having links to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network, who were also blamed for the September 11 attacks.

Mombasa is used by U.S. Navy vessels assigned to the Indian Ocean.  Although the ships bring dollars to the city of 1 million people, many of the mostly Muslim residents resent Americans.

Muslims are a minority in Kenya as a whole, officially accounting for 10 percent of the country's 29 million people.

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