Simultaneous kenya attacks
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Nov. 28, 2002
Israel weighs response after 8 die in twin attacks in Kenya (UPDATE)
By THE JERUSALEM POST INTERNET STAFF AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
In simultaneous attacks on Israeli tourists in Kenya, an explosion rocked an Israeli-owned hotel on Thursday, killing at least 11 people, including three suicide bombers, and 80 people were wounded.
At the same time, at least two missiles were fired at, but missed, an Israeli airliner that had just departed the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.
Israel suspects Al Qaida is behind the attacks. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called emergency defense consultations, which are expected to convene this afternoon in Tel Aviv to weigh Israel's response. IDF medical personnel are being flown to the site.
Kenya's ambassador to Israel, Lt. Gen. John Sawe, told the Associated Press that 11 people were killed and 80 wounded in the explosion at the Paradise hotel on the Kenyan coast.
An Israeli security official at the scene and a hotel worker said at least seven Kenyans and one Israeli were killed in the 8 a.m. local time blast, at the hotel in Kikambala, 20 kilometers (15 miles) north of Mombasa, the official said.
Yoav Biran, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said at least three Israelis were killed. He said the number could rise. Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said two of the victims were children.
Kelly Hartog, editor of the Jerusalem Post's In Jerusalem weekly, had just arrived at the hotel and was among survivors of the blast taken to a nearby beach as rescue work proceeded.
"The entire building shook," Hartog said. "From
what I can gather, a car crashed through the
gates of the hotel and into the lobby. Bombs
were then thrown from the car. I saw people
covered with blood, including children."
An Associated Press reporter in Mombasa saw seven bodies burnt beyond recognition in the hotel grounds. Na'ima Nissim, an Israeli survivor, said it took several hours for some of the wounded to receive medical attention. She told Israel Radio of seeing bodies in pieces as a fire consumed the hotel around her shortly after the blast.
Rescue workers covered the bodies and searched for more casualties.
A Kenyan police spokesman told Israel Radio that an all-terrain vehicle ploughed into the reception area of the hotel, killing three Arabs inside the vehicle, six Kenyan hotel employees and two Israelis. Israeli officials said three Israelis were killed.
Steven Odero, a waiter at the hotel, said a green all-terrain vehicle approached the gate of the hotel and crashed through a barrier outside the hotel just before the explosion. Its passengers had been arguing with guards at the hotel before breaking through the barrier, Odero said.
At the same time, a small aircraft flew overhead and appeared to drop something near the hotel's reception, he said.
The explosion then gutted the hotel, Odero said. Other witnesses said the wood-framed building then went up in flames.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Sawe said he suspected Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
"I don't have any doubt this is al-Qaida," Sawe said. Israeli officials are also investigating Al-Qaida involvement in the attacks, media reports said.
At about the same time, two missiles were fired toward an Israeli aircraft that had just taken off from Mombasa airport, said Ron Prosor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. The pilot saw a flash of light on the left side of the plane, said a company official, Shlomo Hanael.
The aircraft belonging to the Arkia charter company was lightly damaged, but no one aboard was hurt, Israel TV's Channel Two said. The aircraft, with 260 passengers and 10 crew members aboard, had initially prepared for an emergency landing in Nairobi, but then decided to continue to Israel.
Israeli Aharon Hammel, who owns a hotel near the Paradise, said he saw the bodies of Kenyans but didn't know about Israelis.
"The whole hotel is burned. The whole hotel. There is a lot of smoke. The whole hotel is burned totally, both wings, the lobby and everything, it's all burned." Israel Army Radio said Israeli security officials are looking into the possibility that the attacks were carried out by Al Qaida.
A hotel guest, Dr. Nimrod Grissarov, said he had arrived Thursday morning with a group from the Israeli town of Beersheba, with children celebrating a Bat Mitzva.
"I can tell personally you I treated three victims whom I would classify as moderately wounded...they had head injuries, a kidney injury," he told Army Radio.
Kenya was the scene of a terrorist attack on Aug. 7, 1998, when a car bomb blast outside the US Embassy in Nairobi killed 219 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded 5,000.
A nearly simultaneous attack on the US Embassy in neighboring Tanzania killed 12 people and injured more than 80.