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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 06:32 GMT
Israel evacuates tourists from Kenya
Dvir Anter, 13, and Noy, 12,  Anter [photo: Haaretz newspaper]
Two Israeli boys were killed in the attack [photo: Haaretz newspaper]
Israel has been evacuating its citizens from Kenya after two attacks on Israeli targets in the city of Mombasa which killed at least 15 people.

In an overnight operation that went on into the early hours, four military Hercules planes with teams of doctors and psychologists flew into Mombasa and evacuated injured Israeli tourists and all those who wanted to leave.

Earlier, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed to hunt down the perpetrators of the attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon's victory was overshadowed by the attacks
"Our long arm will get those who carried out the terror attacks. No one will be forgiven," Mr Sharon said shortly after being re-elected to lead his Likud party into January's general elections.

American and Israeli investigators have arrived in Kenya to help with the investigation.

Twelve civilians - including one Israeli adult and two children - were killed alongside the three suicide attackers at an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa.

In a separate attack, two missiles narrowly missed an Israeli holiday jet that had taken off from the city's airport.

Mr Sharon has put the Mossad intelligence agency, which has a reputation for ruthlessness, in charge of investigating the attacks. American investigators are reported to have joined the hunt.

Mossad is best known for hunting down and killing several Palestinians suspected of the kidnap and murder of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Reduced to rubble

Kenya has pledged to spare no efforts in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the attacks.

Police said they were questioning two men who were detained in Mombasa after the attacks, but gave no further details.

Security has been stepped up throughout the country since the attacks, especially in coastal areas and national parks frequented by tourists.

US security officials have been sent to protect American citizens on a cruise ship currently docked in Mombasa harbour.

The bombing, at 0800 local time (0500 GMT) on Thursday, reduced a large part of the Paradise Hotel to rubble and the rest to a smouldering shell.

Kenyan police said that as well as the three Israelis, nine Kenyans died, most of whom were said to be traditional dancers who came to welcome the tourists.

Three suicide bombers were also killed, they added.

The blast occurred just after some 60 visitors had checked into the hotel, all of them from Israel, hotel officials said.


In Lebanon, a previously unknown group called the Army of Palestine has said it carried out the attacks.

The group said it wanted the world to hear the "voice of the refugees" on the 55th anniversary of the partition of Palestine.

If these terrorists have scores to settle, let them fight the battles in their own countries

T.J. Kisukwa, Kenya

But Kenyan and Israeli officials speculated that Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network might have been responsible.

Washington condemned the attacks, but said it was too early to blame al-Qaeda.

"Today's attacks underscore the continuing willingness of those opposed to peace to commit horrible crimes," President George W Bush said in Crawford, Texas, where he was spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

"The United States remains firmly committed, with its partners around the world, to the fight against terror and those who commit these heinous acts."

Mr Bush urged all "those who seek peace... to dismantle the infrastructure of terror".

If confirmed as the work of al-Qaeda, it would be their first direct attack on Israelis - despite Bin Laden's hostility towards Israel.

Mombasa, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, is a popular destination for foreign visitors and the hotel was frequented mainly by Israeli tourists.

In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania were attacked in nearly simultaneous car bombings that killed 219 people and 12 people respectively. The US blamed al-Qaeda.

Coordinated, synchronised attacks are a hallmark of al-Qaeda, and the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says months of careful surveillance clearly went into the latest Kenya attacks.

Near miss

In the second attack, missiles were fired at an Arkia airline plane - a Boeing 757 carrying 261 passengers.

The airliner landed safely at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv about five hours later. It was escorted in by Israeli F-15 fighter jets.

Kenyan police said a missile launcher and two missile casings were found in the Changamwe area of Mombasa, about two kilometres from the airport.

The Arkia charter company has a regular weekly service flying tourists between Tel Aviv and Mombasa.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Mombasa
"You can see and still smell the intensity of the heat caused by the explosion"
Israeli Foreign ministry spokesman, Gilad Millo
"We are telling the Israeli people that international terrorism has stepped up and we are seeing a dangerous phenomenon"
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
"Terrorism will not dictate the agenda of Israel"

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28 Nov 02 | Middle East
23 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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