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Terror Attacks in Kenya

Aired November 28, 2002 - 07:01   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We thought we would get somewhat of a mild news day today; our inclination, through, completely wrong. The news out of Africa today quite startling in what appears to be simultaneous attacks.
First, missiles fired at an Israeli passenger jet that was taking off from Kenya bound for Tel Aviv. About five minutes later, at a local tourist hotel, some sort of suicide bomb pack was laden inside of an all-terrain vehicle that was rammed into the side of a hotel.

The bombers are dead. Several Kenyans are dead as well, and we are told at least three Israelis, including two young children, were killed also. Another report indicates at least 80 have been injured at that tourist hotel, again, in the city of Mombasa, right along the southeast coast of Kenya.

All of these developments continue to unfold at this hour. So, too, do developments back in Tel Aviv. That plane did land safely little more than an hour ago.

And Matthew Chance was at the Ben Gurion International Airport just east of Tel Aviv, and he joins us now by way of telephone.

And, Matthew, it's my understanding you have found your way on board that airliner. What do you have for us now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Bill, I'm actually speaking to you from inside the cabin of that Boeing 757 that came under a missile attack as it left the airport in Mombasa. The plane is obviously empty now, apart from the technical and cleaning staff on board.

All of the passengers, the 261 of them, according to the airline officials that we have spoken to, have now disembarked. They've gone through passport (ph) control, been greeted in some very emotional scenes by their families and loved ones, obviously very relieved indeed about escaping this missile attack.

We learned from them that they didn't even understand, they didn't even know, they had no consciousness that they were in such serious danger when they left Mombasa until right to the very end of their flight, the five-hour flight to Tel Aviv. But when the crew came over the loud hailer (ph), the public address system on the plane telling them what had happened, that missiles had been fired at the plane, they were then joined by Israeli military aircraft and escorted through Israeli air space to land here at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. As I say, the plane has now been emptied. It didn't sustain any damage at all, we are told here. In fact, in about an hour-and-a-half from now, it's scheduled to take position to go on another flight; this time to London, so no serious damage to the plane -- Bill.

HEMMER: Matthew, you spoke with many of those passengers. They described a situation where they heard some sort of explosion or blast or a fiery streak through the sky on the left side of the plane. How much talk was there among passengers about what they saw and what they experienced upon takeoff?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, a lot of different opinions on what happened. I'd have to say, the majority of the people I've spoken to didn't suspect that anything had happened at all. They felt that nothing was unusual as the plane took off. Others say that they felt a shudder. Others say they asked the air crew what was happening, and one woman, one of the air stewardesses, had told the passenger that she thought some kind of bird had hit the engine, and that's why they were experiencing some slight trouble.

But I mean the fact is the plane continued onto its destination. The pilot, we learned from the airline, said that he saw a flash out of the window. He considered making an emergency landing, but decided in the end, because there was no serious damage or no damage, to proceed on to Tel Aviv.

HEMMER: Matthew, thank you -- Matthew Chance by way of telephone on board that 757 in Tel Aviv. We'll be back in touch with Matthew in a moment.

We want to go to Africa quickly, Mombasa, by way of videophone, Catherine Bond has made her way to the scene there.

Catherine -- what do you have for us now?

CATHERINE BOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand at just about 8:30 local time here in Mombasa, a green Pajero drove up to the gate of this hotel, the Paradise hotel outside Mombasa. It tried to come in. The security for the hotel stopped it. And when they refused it entry, it reversed and sped through the gate, broke it down, came down into the reception area of the hotel. One of its three occupants got out, walked into the hotel lobby, blew himself up. The other two occupants blew themselves up inside the vehicle.

There's a crater where the vehicle blew up. There's a certain amount of metals, it's twisted and has been blown across in this direction.

There are the victims, 13 victims killed in this blast, lying to just one side of the hotel covered by white tarpaulins. A number of other people have also been evicted (ph) to hospitals in Mombasa. We understand there are at least 23 Kenyans who have been badly injured, and at least 13 to 14 Israelis.

Here at the hotel, two Israeli children and one Israeli adult were killed, and 10 Kenyans, some of them perhaps entertainers who had come to the hotel to work, the others, hotel staff.

We have spoken to the hotel owner, who is an Israeli. The hotel was, according to other sources as well, 100 percent Israeli-occupied -- Bill.

HEMMER: Catherine, how familiar are you with the security measures that may or may have not been in place at that hotel, knowing that this is an area and a location where many Israeli tourists go to get away from things back home?

BOND: I think perhaps they wouldn't expect to be a target here in Kenya, although there was one anti-Israeli incident in the 1970s -- that's 30 years ago now. So, they wouldn't have expected to be targeted on holiday here.

There are security measures at most Kenyan hotels, some simply for reasons of keeping out criminals. And so, the procedures here would have been much the same as they were everywhere else.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) a large number of tourists were being taken away from this hotel to other hotels in coaches. So, it's very clearly -- it's a club. It's the sort of place where you would (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Israel and you'd be brought directly here from Israel. It's not on a main road. It's slightly off the beaten path. It's on a lot of poor roads, in fact. It's right on the beach front.

And it's the investment of an Israeli (AUDIO GAP) new hotel. And as you can see, the damage to it has been very extensive, because the explosion caused the fire and the fire got in the roofing.

HEMMER: Yes, Catherine, if you can turn over your right shoulder there, I know by way of videophone the picture is not always as clear as we'd like it. But if you could take us through again what you were describing about what is in the background behind you -- Catherine.

We're going to try and hang with this. It's coming halfway around the world right now.

Catherine, if you can still hear me, please continue.

OK, she cannot hear us anymore. We apologize to our viewers about that.

There has been already very early speculation, not only in Kenya, but also back in Israel that this has the fingerprints of al Qaeda. No firm proof of that right now. So far as we know, no claim of responsibility, but in a moment, we're going to talk with a number of guests today about how this link may or may not be able to be made at this point.


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