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Israel had info

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Last update - 14:02 03/12/2002

Israel had information of possible Qaida attack in Africa

By Yossi Melman, Ha'aretz Correspondent and Agencies

Intelligence services in Israel had prior information suggesting that al Qaida intended to carry out a terrorist attack in Africa, with Mombasa as one of the possible sites, but no details that Israelis would be targeted.

Brig. Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser, head of the military intelligence research division, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Israel did not have specific information - like Germany and Australia did - that attacks were being planned in Mombasa, Kenya, Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said Tuesday.

Germany and Australia put out advisories in mid-November warning their citizens against visiting Mombasa, based on intelligence they had that terror groups were planning attacks on Western targets in the Kenyan port city.

Asked by a legislator whether Israel had similar information, Pordes quoted Kupperwasser as saying: "No, there was no concrete and exact information. There was general information, but not regarding Israeli targets, rather on the attempt to carry out an attack in Kenya. Israel was never mentioned."

Three Israelis were among the 15 people killed in the suicide bomb attack on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa. Only moments before the hotel blast, shoulder-launched Strella missiles were fired at an Arkia passenger plane taking off from Mombasa. The missiles narrowly missed the passenger-filled plane.

U.S. official: Missile launcher linked to attack in Saudi Arabia
The missile launcher used in the failed attack on the Arkia plane has been linked to a launcher used in an attempt to shoot down a U.S. military plane in Saudi Arabia earlier this year in an action blamed on al Qaeda, a U.S. official said on Monday.

"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," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The burnt-out launcher of a Soviet-made anti-aircraft missile found in May just outside Prince Sultan air base near Riyadh was linked to al Qaida, the official told Reuters, adding that there was increasing reason to believe al Qaida was involved in last week's dual attacks in Kenya.

Al Qaida statement on Internet claims Mombasa attacks
A purported al Qaida statement posted on the Internet on Monday claimed that the Islamic group had carried out last Thursday's twin attacks on the Paradise hotel and Arkia airliner in Kenya. Internet analysts said that the statement includes phrases, terms and nicknames that have characterized other remarks made by the group. The statement surfaced on, and was signed by the "Political Office of Qaida al-Jihad."

Reuven Paz, who researches Islamic fundamentalism, told Ha'aretz that the "political office" has been mentioned since April on Internet sites associated with al Qaida and bin Laden's supporters. According to Paz, the site is operated out of Qatar. Other such sites that had publicized material from bin Laden's "political office," such as ones in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan have fallen, apparently hacked by the CIA or other espionage organizations.

According to Paz, the site is considered one of the main forums for bin Laden followers, and the person who wrote the statement is proficient in the dialect of Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabia.

The statement said that that purpose of the attacks in Mombasa, in which three Israelis and ten other people were killed, was to, "destroy the dreams of the Judeo-Crusader alliance, which wants to preserve their strategic interests in the region. This operation was intended to strike another blow against the Israeli establishment, like the one in the past at the synagogue at Jerba." The statement went on to say that another goal of the attack was to destroy the myth that that Mossad can reach anyone anywhere.

The statement said that the attacks came as a response to, "the conquering of our holy places," and the Israeli killing and destruction in the territories. "We will kill your children for the killing of ours, your women for our women, your elderly for our elderly, your castles for our houses," it said.

Paz and other experts stress that this is indeed al Qaida language and it is similar to at least three or four previous Internet statements. However, they added that it was hard to determine with full certainty if indeed it is an authentic bin Laden statement, if he is alive, or whether it was published by someone posing as him or trying to continue his legacy, or even an imposter.

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