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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 14:03 GMT
Israel 'knew Kenya was target'
Kenyan soldiers sift through hotel rubble
The hunt for forensic evidence continues
Military intelligence officials in Israel say they were aware of an al-Qaeda threat in Kenya long before last Thursday's attacks which killed 13 people, but had no specific warning that Mombasa or Israeli tourists were being targeted.

The Islamic militant network is increasingly being suspected of responsibility for the attacks - a statement purportedly from al-Qaeda claimed responsibility on Monday.

It's very, very hard... to relate to specific information

Danny Yatom
former head of Mossad
In Kenya itself, the government is being accused of ignoring warnings of militant activity in the run-up to the attacks.

The row came as police revealed that questioning of 10 foreign suspects detained in the aftermath of the Mombasa attacks had produced no "useful leads".

Reconnaissance work

In Israel, a military intelligence officer, Brigadier-General Yossi Kuperwasser, told a parliamentary committee that Israel had had advance warning that al-Qaeda was doing reconnaissance work in Kenya.

It had "information that various people were collecting information in order to carry out terrorist attacks but not against what or whom," he was quoted as saying by parliamentary spokesman Giora Pordes.

"There was general information, but not regarding Israeli targets, rather on the attempt to carry out an attack in Kenya. Israel was never mentioned."

Warning fatigue

Germany and Australia, by contrast, issued public warnings in mid-November that militants were planning to attack Western targets specifically in Mombasa.

A former head of the Israeli secret service Mossad, Danny Yatom, told Israeli radio on Tuesday that Israel received so many terror warnings that most were not taken seriously.

Funeral for Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13
Israel lost three of its citizens in the hotel attack
"It's very, very hard... to relate to specific information unless it's very clear and defined and the source is reliable."

In Washington, US officials have said they consider an al-Qaeda claim of responsibility for the Mombasa attacks posted on a website credible.

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says there are growing suspicions that even if the website report proves to be spurious, al-Qaeda was connected in some way to the attacks in Kenya.

Kenyan recriminations

A Nairobi newspaper, the Daily Nation, has accused the Kenyan Government of ignoring four bomb warnings dating back to March.

According to the paper, Police Commissioner Philemon Abongo received four warnings:

  • On 11 March, he was warned that the Somali-based Islamic militant group al-Ittihad Al-Islamiya had smuggled a bomb into Kenya and was planning to attack Western interests such as the US embassy, the Israeli embassy and the compound of the US Agency for International Development.

  • Two weeks later, it was reported that six explosives experts had recently left Mogadishu in Somalia and were heading for the Kenyan border with the aim of attacking US, British and German military targets, "especially at the coast".

  • Days later, a warning came that two "terrorists" would leave Doble in Somalia for Garissa from 27 March and then head to Nairobi for an attack using "logistics already in place".

  • One day later, the fourth and final warning said the two suspects were both Iraqis and it gave their names and passport details, including photographs.

The deputy police commissioner heading the Kenyan investigation in Mombasa, William Langat, has insisted that police only heard of the terror warning issued by Australia after the attacks last week.

Al-Qaeda militants pose with anti-aircraft missile in archive footage
Al-Qaeda has a reputation for meticulously planning attacks
He was quoted by Kenyan TV as saying that the security agencies had not received any intelligence reports over an impending bombing.

He also added that police had "not extracted any useful leads" from the 10 suspects detained after Thursday's attacks.

The authorities had picked up six Pakistanis and four Somalis, all apparently shark fishermen forced to put into port in Mombasa.

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See also:

03 Dec 02 | Africa
03 Dec 02 | Media reports
02 Dec 02 | Africa
02 Dec 02 | Africa
29 Nov 02 | Africa
30 Nov 02 | South Asia
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