- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

MOMBASA, Kenya Kenyan authorities yesterday arrested 12 foreigners in connection with twin attacks on Israeli targets in Kenya on Thursday as Israeli and U.S. officials cast suspicion on Osama bin laden's al Qaeda or its allies.
The arrested persons comprised one American, six Pakistanis, four Somalis and a Spaniard.
Police spokesman King'ori Mwangi said police picked up nine of the foreigners on an Indian Ocean beach in the Mombasa area yesterday morning. He declined to say whether those suspects were attempting to leave the country by boat.
Mr. Mwangi also said all but two of the suspects in custody were traveling on what he termed "suspicious" passports, perhaps alluding to Somalia, where it is possible to obtain a travel document in less than an hour. The lawless country has not had a functioning government for more than a decade and is believed to be a refuge for some al Qaeda operatives.
Two shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles were launched against an Israeli charter jet leaving Mombasa airport Thursday morning, narrowly missing the Arkia Airlines Boeing 757 with 261 passengers and 10 crew members. It landed safely in Tel Aviv with no casualties.
A few minutes later, a vehicle packed with explosives broke through the gate at the oceanside Paradise Hotel. One attacker ran into the lobby and blew himself up, while two others exploded the vehicle. The bombs killed 10 Kenyans, three Israelis and the three bombers.
The American, who is a woman, and a Spanish man were taken into custody about 90 minutes after the bombing Thursday but may have mistakenly been caught in the police dragnet, sources close to the investigation said.
But a top police official suggested otherwise.
"Immediately after the incident we detained two people for interrogation; arising from the information they gave us by this morning, we were able to also detain 10 people," police Commissioner Philemon Abong'o told reporters.
The American and the Spaniard, believed to have been traveling as husband and wife, were arrested as they checked out of a hotel near the one hit by the attackers.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen confirmed that an American woman, and a Spanish man with U.S. resident status and believed to be her husband, were being detained. He declined to identify the pair.
A police source, however, named the woman as Alicia Kalhammer, who was said to have used a Florida address when she checked into Le Soleil Beach Club, three miles from the Paradise Hotel, on Nov. 26. The source was unable to identify the man because the couple checked in under Mrs. Kalhammer's name.
In Washington, initial suspicion centered on two groups: al Qaeda and al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a Somali Islamic group suspected of having links to bin Laden's network, a U.S. official said yesterday. It is also possible the two groups were working together, the official said.
Al Qaeda carried out almost simultaneous bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed 231 persons including 12 Americans and injured about 5,000.
Simultaneous attacks are an al Qaeda trademark, officials said, also noting that what was said to be bin Laden's recent audio message threatened Israelis. During the past year, U.S. intelligence has detected signs that al Qaeda was looking to strike in the Horn of Africa, the official said.
All of these groups have access to the shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles that were launched at the airliner, officials said. Those missiles are easy to obtain on the international arms market.
Officials said it appeared the two missiles were fired by someone standing in a gully next to the airfield. A white four-wheel-drive vehicle had been parked at the spot about 1 mile from the airfield, police said.
They recovered missile launchers and two missile casings, a government statement said. There was no official information on the kind of missile used, but reports in the Israeli press suggested that it could have been a Russian-made Strela shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile.
Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reported that investigators were examining possible links between the attacks and five Pakistanis and two Somalis detained Monday near the port of Mombasa after they were found with Somali passports all issued on the same day in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Mr. Mwangi refused to comment on the reports.
The previously unknown Army of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attacks. But Palestinian officials denied that any Palestinian group was involved.
The Israeli army sent a team of 150 doctors, psychologists and soldiers to Kenya's Indian Ocean coast a popular tourist destination after the attacks.
Gilad Millo, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said 235 Israeli tourists, including 15 injured in the blast, flew home yesterday. The bodies of the three Israelis killed in the attack were also on board the evacuation flight.


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