- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

MOMBASA, Kenya Alicia Kalhammer and Jose Tena came to Kenya for a month of sun and safaris. What they got was a three-day ordeal that ended yesterday when they were released from the police station where they were held on suspicion of taking part in the twin attacks on Israeli tourists.
Shepherded out of the police station in this Indian Ocean port by American and Spanish diplomats, the casually dressed young couple's relief was obvious. Thoughts quickly turned to practical matters: "We have a rental car that's been sitting here for three days, so we're paying for it, and we want to either use or get rid of it," said Mrs. Kalhammer, 31, of Tallahassee, Fla.
Mrs. Kalhammer and Mr. Tena, her husband, arrived in Kenya on Nov. 6. Before heading to the coast and checking into a beachfront room at Le Soleil Beach Club on Nov. 26, they took a 10-day safari to the parched northwestern region of the East African country and spent time with a friend in the capital, Nairobi.
They were picked up by plainclothes Kenyan police when they tried to check out of Le Soleil shortly after hearing news of a suicide bombing at the nearby Paradise Hotel on Thursday morning. The attack on the hotel, popular with Israelis, killed 10 Kenyans and three Israelis, as well as the three bombers.
The Le Soleil was also popular with Israelis. Fearing another attack, "we decided because we had a rental [car] we would leave," Mrs. Kalhammer said. They didn't know where they would go.
They told the front desk they planned to check out and began packing. But the hotel manager had been told by police to call them if any guests tried to leave and to keep them at the hotel until authorities arrived.
The couple managed to check out, but they were taken away by police as they were leaving the hotel.
"When they first took us, we tried to ask questions: 'Are you taking us for our safety, or are you taking us because we're in trouble?,'" Mrs. Kalhammer recalled. "They said, 'This is not the time to ask questions; you talk to our boss.'"
An hour later, they were sitting on chairs behind the front desk of a police station at Mombasa cargo port. The couple would spend the night on those chairs before being moved to a cell.
"The first day I was quite afraid, just because we had no idea why were being detained," said Mrs. Kalhammer, who lived in Kenya from 1976 to 1981, when her father was an auditor with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
By the second day, a friend in Nairobi had managed to contact them and alert U.S. officials about their predicament. Soon after, U.S. investigators arrived to check on them. Meanwhile, they had been interrogated three times by Kenyan police.
Asked whether the couple would visit Kenya again, she replied, "Absolutely, it's a beautiful country if they let us back in."


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