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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 08:13 GMT
Kenya inquiry targets Somali militants
Still from amateur video moments after the attack
The blast and fire reduced the hotel to cinders
United States officials say they believe a Somali-based Islamic group may have carried out Thursday's twin attacks on Israeli targets in the Kenyan city of Mombasa.

The officials say the group, Al-Ittihad al-Islamiya (AIAI), also known as the Islamic Union, is a prominent militant organisation in the Horn of Africa with links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.


I appeal to Kenyans especially those in Mombasa not to start fighting the Muslims there because this may yet be the beginning of a vicious cycle of violence.

Wanjiku, Kenya

AIAI has around 2,000 members and is thought to be behind a series of bomb attacks in Ethiopia in the late 1990s, according to the US State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism report.

Washington is still investigating whether al-Qaeda was directly involved in the attacks, as Kenyan and Israeli officials have been speculating.

Twelve people are being held for questioning by Kenyan police, including six Pakistanis, three Somalis, an American and a Spaniard.

Police say they are all believed to hold valuable information, but both Spanish and American officials have indicated that their citizens were simply on holiday in Kenya, and may have nothing to do with Thursday's events.

Three suicide bombers killed themselves and 13 people in Thursday's car bomb attack on the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel.

The dead included three Israeli tourists, but were mostly Kenyans.

There was an almost simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli commercial airliner.

Open in new window : Kenya attacks
Click here to see images of the attacks in Kenya

US and Israeli security officers have joined the hunt for those responsible for attacks, with investigators sifting through the rubble of the hotel.

And the US and several other Western countries have increased security at embassies and issued warnings to citizens travelling to Kenya.

Troublesome border

A previously unknown group called the Army of Palestine earlier claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Enlarge image
Enlarge image

Full size graphic showing car bomb and missile attacks
But US officials are focusing attention on AIAI because of its suspected al-Qaeda links and presence in Kenya.

It is thought to be behind bomb attacks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in 1996 and 1997 and the kidnapping of relief workers in 1998.

Kenya has a long remote border with Somalia which is particularly difficult to police because of incursions by armed bands known as shiftas.

Ten years of conflict and instability in Somalia have made weapons easily available in border areas.

Warnings

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, visiting the bombed hotel, said the attacks showed terrorism was dangerous not only to Europe and the United States, but also to Africa.

But his Vice-President, Musalia Mudavadi, expressed dismay that the country had become a battleground for other people's wars.

The Kenyan authorities have pledged to spare no effort in tracking down the attackers.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, meanwhile, has vowed revenge for the attacks and put the Mossad intelligence agency in charge of investigating them.

The US State Department said Americans should be aware of a "risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites".

The United Kingdom Foreign Office warned its citizens to be vigilant, and mentioned a "potential threat" in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Australia, whose citizens were targeted in the Bali bombing last month, warned two weeks ago of an increased terrorist threat in Mombasa and Nairobi, and told its citizens to avoid non-essential travel.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Harding reports from Kenya
"Dozens of Kenyan victims are still being treated"
Kenyan government minister Christopher Obure
"The attack appears to have been carefully planned and carefully orchestrated"
Philemon Abongo, Kenya's police commissioner
"We think that these people could have useful information"

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See also:

23 Nov 02 | Country profiles
29 Nov 02 | Media reports
29 Nov 02 | Politics
29 Nov 02 | Africa
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