- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

President Bush yesterday blamed al Qaeda for last week's suicide bombing and attempted missile strike in Kenya, publicly linking the terrorist network with the deadly attacks for the first time.
"I believe that al Qaeda was involved in the African bombings in Kenya," the president said.
The bombing at a hotel killed at least 15 persons, while the missiles narrowly missed an Israeli jetliner as it took off from a Kenyan airport. Al Qaeda was also responsible for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans.
"I believe al Qaeda hates freedom," Mr. Bush said. "I believe al Qaeda will strike anywhere they can in order to disrupt a civil society."
That includes the Palestinian territories, according to Mr. Bush. He blamed terrorists for recent violence in the Middle East, although he did not specifically blame al Qaeda.
"I am concerned that terrorists have disrupted the ability for peace-loving people to move a process forward," he said. "The net effect of terrorism is to not only stop the peace process, but is to cause suffering amongst all the people of the region.
"And that's why our war against terror must remain steadfast and strong wherever terror exists," he added.
Mr. Bush will hold talks on African security today in Washington with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Meanwhile yesterday, Kenyan police have detained three more suspects in the coordinated attacks on Israelis in Kenya, including a man they say sold the four-wheel-drive vehicle used in the hotel bombing.
Two suspects taken into custody yesterday were identified by witnesses as being near the Mombasa airport last week when a pair of surface-to-air missiles narrowly missed an Israeli charter flight minutes before the attack on the hotel.
The seller of the car, detained in Mombasa late Tuesday, told police he sold the Mitsubishi Pajero to "two Arab-looking young men," who traded in a Toyota Corolla sedan and paid about $1,025, Deputy Police Commissioner William Langat said.
None of the suspects was identified.
On Monday, Mr. Langat told reporters at a news conference the vehicle used in the bombing had been purchased in 1991 by a foreigner working for a Christian charity. It apparently remained registered in that name, although the foreigner left Kenya in 1998.
The vehicle exploded outside the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa on Nov. 28. Ten Kenyans, three Israelis and at least two bombers died.
Mr. Langat said there was no information on a second four-wheel-drive vehicle that was seen driving away from the spot near the airport where the missiles were fired 12 miles south of the hotel.
At least 10 other men, believed to be Pakistanis and Somalis, are being held for questioning by Kenyan police. Mr. Langat said their status was somewhere in between "suspects and not connected."
Ali Omar Haji Mohammed, the Somali owner of the fishing boat that brought the 10 suspects, including him, to Mombasa's port on Nov. 23, said that among those detained were five Pakistanis he had hired in Karachi, where he bought the boat, and three Somalis.
He said police have questioned him five times. On Tuesday, he said, two Americans went to his boat, moored in Mombasa's old port, asked him some questions and scraped blue paint from the hull and put it in a plastic bag.
U.S. officials have pointed to the Somali Islamist organization al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a group said to have ties to al Qaeda, as a probable participant in the attacks.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.


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