The 2002 Mombasa Attacks

Arkia had two Boeing 757s at the time of the attack.
Arkia had two Boeing 757s at the time of the attack.

The 2002 Mombasa attacks refer to terrorist attacks on an Israeli-owned hotel and a plane belonging to an Israeli airline in Mombasa, Kenya on 28 November 2002. An all-terrain vehicle crashed through a barrier outside the Paradise Hotel and blew up, killing 13 and injuring 80. At the same time, attackers fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane. The Paradise Hotel was the only Israeli-owned hotel in the Mombasa area.

The attacks

– Hotel bombing

The blast occurred on the eve of Hanukkah just after some 60 visitors had checked into the hotel, all of them from Israel for a holiday stay. 13 people were killed and 80 injured. Ten Kenyans died in the attack and three Israelis, two of them children. Nine of the victims were dancers who had been employed to welcome hotel guests. In an overnight rescue mission, four Israeli military Hercules planes were sent to Mombasa to evacuate the dead and injured.

– Plane attack

Almost simultaneously, two shoulder-launched Strela 2 (SA-7) surface-to-air missiles were fired at a chartered Boeing 757 airliner owned by Israel-based Arkia Airlines as it took off from Moi International Airport. The Arkia charter company had a regular weekly service flying tourists between Tel Aviv and Mombasa. Kenyan police discovered a missile launcher and two missile casings in the Changamwe area of Mombasa, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the airport. The pilots planned on an emergency landing in Nairobi after seeing the two missiles streak past them, but decided to continue to Israel. The airliner landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv about five hours later, escorted by Israeli F-15 fighter jets. Following the attack, all flights from Israel to Kenya were cancelled indefinitely.

Perpetrators

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the London-based Islamic organisation Al Muhajiroun, said that warnings had appeared on the Internet. “Militant groups who sympathise with Al-Qaeda warned one week ago that there would be an attack on Kenya and they mentioned Israelis,” he said. Initially, Israeli government spokesmen denied that such a warning had been received. But four days after the blast, Brigadier-General Yossi Kuperwasser admitted that Israeli military intelligence were aware of a threat in Kenya, but that it was not specific enough. Former Mossad head Danny Yatom took a similar line, saying that Israel got so many terror warnings they were not taken seriously.

In Lebanon, a previously unknown group called the Army of Palestine has said it carried out the attacks and said it wanted the world to hear the “voice of the refugees” on the 55th anniversary of the partition of Palestine.

Two Strela 2 missiles were fired during take-off, but missed the plane.
Two Strela 2 missiles were fired during take-off, but missed the plane.

On 20 December 2006, Salad Ali Jelle, Defence Minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, said that one of Washington’s suspects, Abu Taha al-Sudan, was an Islamic Courts Union leader fighting against the Transitional Federal Government in the 2006 Battle of Baidoa.

International response

Washington condemned the attacks: “Today’s attacks underscore the continuing willingness of those opposed to peace to commit horrible crimes,” President George W Bush said “The United States remains firmly committed, with its partners around the world, to the fight against terror and those who commit these heinous acts. “Bush urged all “those who seek peace… to dismantle the infrastructure of terror”.

  • UN – The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1450 condemning the attacks. Syria was the only member to oppose the resolution.

  • Israel – Israel’s Foreign Minister Benyamin Netanyahu called the attacks a “grave escalation of terror against Israel”.

  • Kenya – The Kenyan government described the attacks as “senseless terrorism” against Israeli interests. It also condemned the perpetrators for using Kenyan soil to carry out their activities.

  • United Kingdom – UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed his “utter condemnation” of a suicide bomb attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya.

  • United States – Secretary of State Colin Powell said “We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist bombing earlier today in the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa Kenya that killed at least eleven and wounded dozens – both Kenyans and Israelis.”

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