|Thursday, November 28,
KIKAMBALA, Kenya In
simultaneous terrorist attacks on Israeli tourists Thursday,
three homicide bombers killed 12 other people and wounded 80
at an Israeli-owned hotel, and militants fired at least two
missiles at but missed an Israeli passenger
jet taking off from Mombasa airport.
people were detained and were being questioned in the Kenya
attacks but have not been formally charged, according to the
duty officer at police headquarters in Nairobi. The officer,
who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were detained
in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa but gave no further
A previously unknown militant group calling
itself the Government of Universal Palestine in Exile, The
Army of Palestine claimed responsibility, but Kenyan, Israeli
and U.S. officials said Usama bin Laden's terrorist network
couldn't be ruled out.
In a fax to news organizations in Beirut,
Lebanon, the militant group that claimed responsibility said
the attacks were timed "to strike at Israeli interests" on the
eve of the anniversary of the Nov. 29, 1947, decision by the
United Nations to partition Palestine and allow creation of a
It was not immediately possible to verify
the statement's authenticity and Palestinian officials denied
any connection with the attacks.
Israeli government adviser Zalman Shoval
said Al Qaeda's past activities in East Africa and the nature
of the attacks pointed to the group, which carried out almost
simultaneous bombings to the U.S. embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in 1998 that killed 231 people including 12
Americans and injured about 5,000.
If Al Qaeda was responsible for the attack,
it would be the first by the terrorist group on Israeli
interests. There have, however, been indications the
organization might begin targeting Israelis to win support
among Muslims angry over Israeli actions against
Dia'a Rashwan of Egypt's Al-Ahram Center
for Political and Strategic Studies said Al Qaeda operatives
can move among the region's Muslim population without
attracting much attention and the nation's underpaid and
understaffed police force has difficulty tracking them
"We can't rule out the group that struck at
us in 1998," Kenyan Vice President Musalia Mudavadi said,
adding that national intelligence had received reports the
country could be targeted again by terrorists.
Israel vowed to track down those behind the
attacks and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon put the Mossad spy
agency in charge of the investigation. The agency hunted down
and killed nearly all the Palestinians believed responsible
for kidnapping and killing 11 Israelis during the Munich
Olympics in 1972.
"Our long arm will get those who carried
out the terror attacks. No one will be forgiven," Sharon said.
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz added: "If anyone doubted
that the citizens of the state of Israel cannot stand up to
the killers of children, this doubt will be removed."
In apparently unrelated violence, six
Israelis died in another bloodletting at home as gunmen open
fire on a bus station and a crowd waiting to vote in the Likud
Party primary in northern Israel.
Israeli troops and medics began arriving in
Mombasa to quickly evacuate the wounded and Israeli tourists.
An Israeli plane left Mombasa early Friday with 80 passengers,
including 10 lightly injured.
The deadly attack at the beach-front
Paradise Hotel, some 15 miles north of Mombasa, occurred about
8:35 a.m. as new guests were checking in and others were
According to witnesses, a green four-wheel
drive carrying three men smashed through the main gate to the
sprawling hotel compound a collection of buildings
surrounded by palm trees that stretch to a nearby sandy white
One man jumped from the vehicle, sprinted
into the reception area and detonated a bomb, while the others
detonated a bomb in the vehicle.
Police said they didn't know anything about
earlier reports by hotel staff who said they saw a light plane
circle over the hotel and drop three packages at the time of
The huge blasts shattered windows and
masonry along the front of the hotel, incinerated vehicles
parked nearby and set fire to grass roofs of the outbuildings,
reducing their wooden frames to smoldering hulks. Stone walls
were all that remained of the lobby.
The victims were three Israelis, including
two teenage brothers from a Jewish settlement on the West
Bank, and nine Kenyans believed to be hotel staff, police
spokesman King'ori Mwangi said. The Israeli newspaper
Haaretz on its Web site said the third Israeli victim
was a 60-year-old man from the Tel Aviv suburb of Raanana.
The three bombers were not identified.
About five minutes before the hotel attack,
two missiles streaked by an Israeli-owned Boeing 757 as it
left the Mombasa international airport. The aircraft, owned by
the Arkia charter company, landed safely about 5 hours later
in Tel Aviv, Israel. None of the 261 passengers and 10 crew
members was hurt.
Late Thursday, the first of about 150
Israeli troops and army medical personnel began arriving in
Mombassa to treat the wounded and evacuate them and all
Israeli tourists in the area, estimated at about 140, said Ami
Mehl, deputy information director for the Israeli Foreign
"They've lost everything," Mehl said of the
tourists. "Some lost families and some have lost everything
but what they were wearing."
He said the operation, which included two
passenger jets and four transport planes, would be completed
in about 12 hours.
The targeting of Israeli tourists in Kenya
and a shooting spree by two Palestinian gunmen that killed six
Israelis at a polling station in northern Israel overshadowed
a Likud Party leadership primary in which Sharon defeated
Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The hotel attack in Kenya also was grimly
reminiscent of last month's bombing on the Indonesian resort
island of Bali, in which more than 190 people, mostly foreign
tourists, were killed.
"It was a big blast. I was thrown to the
ground and the windows shattered," said Zainul Jeddha, a
Kenyan who was in her room on the fourth floor. "There was
screaming, there was crying, it was chaos."
Police said the missiles were fired at the
plane from a white all-terrain vehicle about one mile from the
airport and three or four Arab-looking men were seen leaving
the area in the van. Investigators found two missile casings
near the airport.
At the hotel, seven charred bodies lay
strewn in the lobby before Red Cross workers put them in body
bags and removed them. All that was left of the attackers'
vehicle was a couple of suspension springs.
A distraught survivor marked a small piece
of burnt hair and skull with an index card so the remains
could be properly buried under Jewish law.
Hundreds of people massed outside the
hotel's gates as Kenyan authorities sifted through the
wreckage. Tour buses ferried survivors to other hotels in the
Rebecca Zevi, 30, an Israeli who was
working at the hotel, said she was in her room when the
"All the glass shattered. I ran to see what
was happening. There was screaming," she said. "I don't know
why this happened to us."
President Bush denounced the violence and
offered U.S. help in the investigation.
"Today's attacks underscore the continuing
willingness of those opposed to peace to commit horrible
crimes," Bush said. "The United States remains firmly
committed, with its partners around the world, to the fight
against terror and those who commit these heinous acts."
The State Department issued an advisory
warning Americans in Kenya to exercise "extra caution" at
hotels, tourist locations and urban areas, especially in
The 15-nation European Union also said the
attacks underlined the need "for international cooperation
against terrorism in all its forms." Germany urged its
citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Kenya and France
recommended its citizens practice "extreme vigilance" in this
The Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, a nation
of 30 million people, is a predominantly Muslim region, and is
a popular international tourist destination.
The Associated Press contributed to