- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

From combined dispatches
MOMBASA, Kenya An American woman and her Spanish husband were freed yesterday after two days of questioning in connection with a car-bomb attack on an Israeli-owned beach hotel here last week.
Alicia Kalhammer of Tallahassee, Fla., and her husband, Jose Tena of Madrid, both said they were "fine" after they left the Mombasa port police station. They said they bore no grudge against Kenyan authorities.
"There are no hard feelings. We love Kenya. We love the Kenyan people, and we know they were doing their job," Mrs. Kalhammer, 31, said.
Mrs. Kalhammer, and Mr. Tena, 26, a U.S. permanent resident, were picked up by Kenyan police about 90 minutes after the attack as they were about to leave the Le Soleil Beach Club, where they stayed for two nights. The hotel is a few miles from the Paradise Hotel where the car bomb killed 16 persons, including three attackers.
Kenyan authorities yesterday said they have so far found no link between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and the other 10 persons detained over the bombing, which occurred minutes after suspected terrorists launched two shoulder-fired missiles at an Israeli charter plane taking off from Mombasa airport but missed the target. The plane was carrying 261 persons.
The other detainees are six Pakistanis and four Somalis who were arrested for entering Kenya illegally and only later came under suspicion by those investigating the attacks, police said.
U.S. officials said Friday the top suspect for the hotel blast was the Somali-based group al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, known also as AIAI or the Islamic Union.
They said it was a prominent radical Islamist group in the Horn of Africa and had links with al Qaeda.
The interim government in lawless Somalia called yesterday for the dismantling of "terror groups" in East Africa, without commenting on the U.S. charge. A leading Somali cleric, however, said such violence was the result of what he called oppression.
Kenyan Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuli, asked if police had found any connection between al Qaeda and those being held over the explosion and a failed simultaneous attempt to shoot down the Israeli airliner, told reporters: "None so far."
Australia said it received information more than two weeks ago about terrorist threats in Mombasa. American officials said there were indications that American, British and Israeli citizens traveling abroad were facing greater danger.
Friday's U.S. comments were the first from Washington to point a finger at al Qaeda and the Somali group since the attack.
Al Qaeda is widely accused of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which 224 persons died, most of them Africans.
An official of Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) said Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah "condemns in the strongest terms what happened in Mombasa."
"The government feels it is time to work together as a region and international community to dismantle terror groups wherever they are," the official quoted Mr. Farah as saying.
The TNG denies charges by some of its Somali warlord opponents and by the government of neighboring Ethiopia that it harbors Al-Itihad members suspected of involvement in violence.
Sheik Ali Sheikh Mahmud, a Somali cleric who has denied charges that he is a leading member of Al-Itihad, said: "I am very sorry about what happened in Mombasa, but this kind of thing will not cease until some parts of the international community stop ignoring the rights of oppressed people.
"No one can ignore the rights of Muslims in this world," he said in brief remarks by telephone to Kenya-based reporters.
The previously unheard of "Army of Palestine" has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Meanwhile, near Mombasa, Israeli and U.S. experts scoured the debris of the hotel and the wreckage of the suicide bombers' four-wheel-drive Pajero.
Police have found the registration plate for the vehicle used in the suicide attack, but it is not clear who its owners are. There has been no progress tracing the vehicle used in the missile attack, although Kenyan officials believe it still is in the country.
Officials close to the investigation said it was likely the rockets were Russian-made Strelas. Mr. Sunkuli said the discarded missile launchers, which he said were originally olive green but had been painted blue by the terrorists, "most likely" were Russian, but could be German or American.
Israeli survivors were flown home on Friday to tearful reunions in an Israeli air force plane, which also took back the bodies of the three Israelis killed, two brothers ages 13 and 15, and a 61-year-old man.


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