- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

NAIROBI, Kenya — Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked a Kenyan resort hotel and an Israeli jetliner last year plotted the attacks and obtained their weapons in neighboring Somalia and were able to hide out in the Horn of Africa nation afterward, a draft U.N. report concluded.

At least four of the terrorists remain in Somalia, a U.N.-appointed panel of experts said.

The panel “has also learned of recent attempts by extremist groups to procure explosives on the Mogadishu arms market, as well as ongoing militia training in the use of explosives,” said the report. A copy was obtained by the Associated Press.

“On at least one occasion in the past 12 months, arms delivered illegally to Somalia were employed in the commission of a terrorist act in Kenya,” the report said of the attempt to shoot down the airliner.

“Although that particular attack was unsuccessful, the panel believes that additional weapons may have been imported into Somalia solely for the purpose of carrying out further terrorist attacks in neighboring states.”

Three Israeli tourists and 12 Kenyans were killed when suicide bombers rammed a car loaded with explosives into the Paradise Hotel on Kenya’s coast on Nov. 28 last year. Almost simultaneously, two surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Israeli charter jet taking off from nearby Mombasa.

The panel was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this year for a six-month period to investigate violations of a 1992 arms embargo imposed against Somalia — a Muslim nation that has not had an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

A U.N. sanctions committee will review the report, after which the Security Council is expected to review it.

Investigators believe Fazul Abdullah Mohammed — a native of Comoros who is on the FBI’s most wanted list — masterminded the attacks. Mohammed has also been indicted by a U.S. court for the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 231 persons.

Shortly after the embassy attacks, al Qaeda’s East Africa network began to reorganize under Mohammed’s leadership, assembling along the Kenyan-Somali coast, the U.N. report said.

The two shoulder-fired SA-7B missiles fired at the Israeli plane were delivered to Somalia from Yemen before being smuggled by sea to Kenya in August 2002, according to the report.

Ahead of the attacks, the terrorists divided into four groups: One was to attack the Paradise Hotel; another, led by Mohammed, was to attack the airline; a third was in Mogadishu; and a fourth was sent to Lamu, an island off the Kenyan coast, to prepare the terrorists’ escape to Somalia, the report said.

Two or three cell members — car bombers — died in the attacks. “Most of the team remained in Mogadishu for several months after the attacks, living on cash allowances provided by their Sudanese financial controller,” the report said.

One of the team, Suleiman Abdalla Salim Hemed, was seized by Somali gunmen in Mogadishu in March and handed over to U.S. officials.

After the September 11 attacks, U.S. officials cited Somalia as a possible haven for terrorists and shut down a Somali banking group that the United States charged was financing al Qaeda. U.S. troops have set up base in neighboring Djibouti as part of the war on terrorism.

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