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Israeli Plane and a Hotel Targeted in Kenya

Aired November 28, 2002 - 06:36   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get more reaction out of Israel now to the attacks that occurred in Kenya.
Mike Hanna is back with us from Jerusalem.

Mike -- what is the latest you're hearing from there?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, within the next half-hour or so, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be holding a meeting with various security advisors to discuss the situation arising out of these attacks in Kenya.

The attacks apparently aimed at Israeli interests, in particular, the suicide bomb attack, according to reports, at an Israeli-owned hotel north of the port (ph) town of Mombasa, and the firing of at least one or perhaps two missiles at an Israeli charter aircraft taking tourists from Mombasa back to Tel Aviv.

Now, those tourists have arrived safely, more than 200 people aboard that plane, but obviously great concern within the Israeli government and among Israelis about a new front possibly opening up here.

The Kenyan ambassador to Israel was very quick to point fingers as to the blame for these attacks, saying that he was certain that it was an al Qaeda attack directed against these particular targets.

From the Israeli foreign ministry, their position is, is that they want to investigate. They need to know more details before they can start apportioning blame. But the foreign ministry is saying very clearly, too, and pointing out that the bulk of those killed and injured are, in fact, Kenyan citizens. And from the Israeli foreign ministry point of view, what is being seen here is part of a worldwide growth of terror against a variety of targets, not necessarily just Israeli ones.

But still, Israel looking very carefully at this situation. Flights were suspended for a short while out of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. However, the airport authorities now tell us that flights are proceeding normally in and out of that airport.

And Israel, once again, waiting for further details. The Israeli prime minister holding a meeting with security advisors later on in the day.

CALLAWAY: And speaking of the Israeli government, these attacks come at a critical time with elections. What is going to be the reaction there?

HANNA: Well, indeed, yes, in the course of today is the primary for the Likud Party. This brings up two people who have been featured very centrally in the day's events. The prime minister, Ariel Sharon, will be contesting the leadership of Likud against his foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. These two obviously have been closely following events in Kenya, closely dealing with that situation, and they'll be coming up for a race for the leadership of the Likud Party later on in the day.

CALLAWAY: Mike -- Mike, I hate to interrupt, but we're getting our first pictures now from Mombasa of the attack there at the Paradise hotel, which is Israeli-owned. We've been telling you about this story all morning. It happened overnight, as a car bomb exploded there at the Mombasa Paradise hotel. A number of Israelis stay at that hotel. It is Israeli-owned.

We know that 11 people were killed in this attack here at the hotel. As you can see, it has just been devastated by this bomb, this explosion. We know that two of the people killed were Israeli children. Most, we are hearing, of the fatalities were apparently Kenyans, a number who were there providing entertainment for the Israeli tourists, who were there staying at the hotel.

The fire apparently got into the roof of the hotel, and it completely destroyed this building.

And as this attack was taking place at the Paradise hotel, an Arkia jet was taking off at the airport there in Mombasa, and apparently two missiles were fired at that jetliner.

And Mike Hanna is still with us in Jerusalem.

Mike, we know that that plane with 261 passengers landed safely there in Tel Aviv. They were not even aware that the attack on the plane or the hotel had occurred. And we also understand, Mike, that Israeli military jets escorted this plane to the airport in Tel Aviv.

HANNA: Well, our CNN colleague, Matthew Chance, has been talking to people aboard that plane as it arrived, and they did make clear that nothing had been told to them as to what happened until shortly before the aircraft landed at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport.

And some of the passengers said that they had been told -- they had noticed something amiss, and they had been told that a bird had flown into the engine. However, it was only shortly before the plane actually landed that they were told that, first of all, there had been the possibility of missiles fired at the plane, and secondly, that there had been a major bomb attack on the hotel in Mombasa.

Now, not all of the more than 200 Israelis on board that chartered aircraft had been staying at the Paradise hotel specifically, which is where the attack took place. But they had been staying -- some of them had been at the hotel; others had been staying in hotels in the vicinity. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the passengers aboard that plane have certainly great concern and great relief at the fact that they arrived back safety.

CALLAWAY: Interesting enough, the Kenya's ambassador to Israel is already blaming al Qaeda and saying it's up to al Qaeda now to deny that they are responsible for these reports. But we talked with Ron Prost (ph) with the Israeli foreign ministry. He is, of course, not blaming anyone yet.

What is being said there where you are? What are the reports that are coming out on these attacks?

HANNA: Well, we have the same reports as you from the Israeli foreign ministry that it is not the point or the right time at which to start apportioning blame here or pointing out. Israel certainly needs more information, which no doubt it is gathering all the time. This is no doubt one of the things as well that will be discussed at the meeting between Ariel Sharon and his security advisors in the course of the afternoon.

The statement by Kenyan's ambassador to Israel was very soon after the attack, and he was absolutely adamant that al Qaeda are responsible. But Israel's foreign ministry and Israeli government, at the moment, not pointing fingers as yet, saying that it's still reviewing all of the details of these attacks.

CALLAWAY: All right, Mike Hanna, thank you very much, in Jerusalem.

Now, of course, this tragedy -- or these events are tragedies not only for Israelis, but for Kenyans alike. As we've told you, a majority of those killed in this car bomb explosion at the Paradise hotel were apparently Kenyans.

We're going to play a little bit now of what's being said there on Kenyan television about this explosion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were all covered with dust and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Her face is still -- was cleaned, though, but she's still with a lot of dust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that there are any people (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I don't think so.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just -- not from our group.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe because the fire started very quickly. We got our -- we took our stuff and run to the street (ph).

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a fire that anyone could stop. It was such a big fire.



CALLAWAY: That was some video from Kenyan television from victims there at the Paradise hotel.

We want to show you now some of the first pictures that we have now of the incident that occurred in Mombasa at the Paradise hotel. This, as you just heard that witness say, this hotel completely destroyed. Eleven people are reportedly dead. We have confirmation that three of them were Israeli, two of them children. The rest apparently were Kenyans.

A car bomb exploded there at this Israeli-owned hotel. The video that we are seeing of this hotel and reports that we're getting from our correspondents there that this hotel has been completely destroyed.

This attack occurred overnight, and as the car bomb was exploding there at the hotel, two missiles were apparently being fired at an Arkia airliner, as it was taking off from the Mombasa airport there heading to Tel Aviv. It did not stop. It kept going. No one on board injured. It landed safely in Tel Aviv. They were not even aware that an attack on their plane had occurred until they landed in Tel Aviv.

We will continue our coverage of this breaking story.


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