US sees al Qaeda link
The United States said yesterday there was evidence linking al Qaeda to last week's twin attacks on Israelis in Kenya where authorities denied allegations they had ignored warnings of the strikes.
Israel also had warnings before a suicide attack killed the three bombers, three Israelis and 10 Kenyans at an Israeli-owned hotel in the resort of Mombasa on Thursday.
An almost simultaneous missile attack narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off nearby. A missile launcher used in that attack has been linked to al Qaeda, a US official said.
Washington also sees as credible a purported al Qaeda statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.
The bombing was the African country's bloodiest since the 1998 US embassy bombings widely thought to be the work of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
"The fighters of al Qaeda return to the same place where the Crusader-Jewish coalition was hit four years ago," said the statement on the Internet, referring to the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
In Washington, a US official said the statement, signed by the "Political Office of Qaeda al-Jihad", was being seen as credible. He said there was increasing reason to believe that al Qaeda was involved.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the serial number on the missile fired at an Israeli airliner last week was close in sequence to a missile fired at a US military aircraft in Saudi Arabia.
"Essentially, the serial number found in the Prince Sultan Air base attack last May is close in sequence to that used in Kenya, suggesting it came from the same batch," he said.
As President Daniel arap Moi headed for security talks in Washington, his government denied allegations that it failed to act on warnings before the attacks and ignored information that al Qaeda suspects had infiltrated Kenya from lawless Somalia.
"The government would like to state that any security information received was promptly acted upon and this resulted in the arrest of several suspects, some of whom were taken to court and deported for illegally being in Kenya," the Kenyan presidency said.
But a senior Kenyan military intelligence official told Reuters that the authorities had done little after receiving warnings from foreign intelligence services including those of Britain and Australia
"Little or no action was taken to prevent the attacks," the military official said.
He said Kenyan security services had been warned about infiltration of al Qaeda supporters from neighbouring Somali for possible attacks in the Indian Ocean coast region.
"They all got that information. They were told to look out for specific individuals and to monitor the border with Somalia more closely," he said.
"The information we were given was that the threat was related to al Qaeda, that al Qaeda people were involved."
US officials have said they suspect that the Somali-based group al Itihad al Islamiya played a role in the attacks. They say the group has links to al Qaeda.
Kenyan police have held six Pakistanis and four Somalis for questioning since Thursday's attacks, but say they have found no links to al Qaeda or to al Itihad.
"We haven't made much progress because we are still trying to talk to the public who might have seen the terrorists," said William Langat, a senior Kenyan police officer .
In Jerusalem, an official said Israeli military intelligence had warnings that al Qaeda was preparing for a possible strike in Kenya before last week's attacks.
Brigadier-General Yossi Kuperwasser told lawmakers in a closed-door session on Monday that Israeli intelligence had received information about al Qaeda reconnaissance in Kenya, parliament spokesman Giora Pordes told Reuters.
But Kuperwasser, chief researcher for military intelligence, told the parliamentary committee that Israel had no specific information that Mombasa or Israelis vacationing there would be targeted, Pordes said.
Pordes made no mention of warnings being passed on to Kenya. Langat said: "It is bad if they knew about the impending attack and did not pass it on to us. It is unfortunate."
Israel said on Monday that Kenya lacked the facilities and expertise to probe the attacks, but Moi insisted his government was up to the task.
Moi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi are expected to discuss security in the Horn of Africa with President George W. Bush on Thursday. Bush has pledged US support in hunting down the culprits behind the Mombasa attacks.