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Bush: Al Qaeda linked to Kenya attacks

U.S. Marine forces joined Kenyan military units in patrolling coastal villages as part of Exercise Edged Mallet.
U.S. Marine forces joined Kenyan military units in patrolling coastal villages as part of Exercise Edged Mallet.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday he believes al Qaeda was involved in last Thursday's suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned resort hotel in Kenya that killed 13 people and the nearly simultaneous unsuccessful missile attack on an Israeli charter jet.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed when three suicide bombers detonated a car bomb outside the Paradise hotel in Mombasa. Within minutes, the airliner taking off from the Mombasa airport with 271 aboard was brushed by two shoulder-fired missiles.

Kenyan police had three people in custody Wednesday in connection with the attacks, including a car dealer who said he sold the bombing vehicle to two men of Arab descent.

The car dealer, a Kenyan, was brought in for questioning Tuesday evening, said William Langat, who is leading the investigation. The man said he sold the green, four-wheel-drive vehicle to the men two weeks ago, Langat said.

The two other Kenyans were reported by witnesses to have been in the Mombasa airport area when the missiles were fired at the jet, Langat said.

Meanwhile in Nairobi, British officials closed their embassy in the Kenyan capital after officials received a "specific threat." Mark Norton, public affairs officer for the British High Commission, would not disclose the nature of the threat. He said the building would remain closed while it is investigated. (Full story)

Suspicions that al Qaeda was behind the attacks grew after a statement attributed to the terror network claimed responsibility and more links surfaced between the plane attack and two previous missile incidents.

The purported al Qaeda statement was posted Monday by Web sites that have carried al Qaeda statements in the past.

"I believe that al Qaeda was involved in the African bombings in Kenya," Bush told reporters following a White House ceremony for a new law designed to make the Internet safer for children.

"I believe al Qaeda hates freedom. I believe al Qaeda will strike anywhere they can in order to disrupt a civil society, and that's why we're on the hunt."

Bush said the United States and its allies were "slowly but surely" dismantling al Qaeda and he promised to "bring them to justice."

Israeli sources told CNN they believe the attacks were launched from Somalia, Kenya's largely lawless eastern neighbor, and were organized by Fazul Abdullah Mohammed -- who Israeli officials identified as al Qaeda's chief of operations there.

Mohammed is under indictment in the United States in the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Intelligence sources said they believe he is hiding out in Somalia.

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