CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – A statement attributed to al-Qaida claimed responsibility yesterday for last week’s car-bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and the attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner the same day.
The statement, posted on an Islamic website, called the Thursday’s attacks a Ramadan greeting to the Palestinian people and referred to the al-Qaida attacks against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 231 people – including 12 Americans – and wounded more than 5,000.
“At the same place where the ‘Jewish Crusader coalition’ was hit four years ago … here the fighters … came back once again to strike heavily against that evil coalition,” the statement said. “But this time, it was against Jews.”
In Washington, U.S. counterterrorism officials said they considered the claim credible and part of growing evidence that al-Qaida was involved in the Kenya attacks.
Three suicide bombers attacked the Paradise Hotel, killing 10 Kenyans, three Israelis and the three bombers. Just minutes before the hotel bombing, two Strela missiles narrowly missed an Israeli charter plane departing from Mombasa’s airport, in what was the first phase of the dual attack on Israelis in Kenya.
The five-page claim was made in the name of “The Political Office of al-Qaida Jihad Organization.”
Unlike four years ago, when the United States was the target in Kenya, the statement said this time the message was for Jews.
“We send them a message: Your practices in corrupting earth, occupying sacred places, criminal acts against our families in Palestine … all your practices will not pass peacefully without firing back,” it said. “Your children for ours, your women for ours, your elders for ours, and we will follow you wherever you are because you made us live in terror and fear.”
It pledged that further attacks would be carried out, saying “it is a war between faith and the infidel, between truth and fallacy, between justice and injustice.”
The only other claim of responsibility came shortly after Thursday’s attacks, made in a fax to news organizations in Beirut from the previously unknown Army of Palestine. Palestinian officials have denied any involvement by Palestinian groups.