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Report Details Plan to Bomb U.S. Embassy in Kenya

October 25, 2003|From Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Al Qaeda operatives planned to destroy the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in June with a truck bomb and a hijacked plane loaded with explosives, a Kenyan police report said.

The report, based on an interrogation of a terrorism suspect, could explain why the embassy was closed June 20-24 and why Kenyan officials banned flights to and from Somalia, a neighbor that is a suspected haven for terrorists, from June 20 to July 8.

Those actions suggest some knowledge of the plot on the part of U.S. and Kenyan authorities, who have been on alert since the 1998 car bombing of the former U.S. Embassy in downtown Nairobi, which killed 219 people, including 12 Americans.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the embassy attack as well as the deadly bombing of a Kenyan hotel north of Mombasa in 2002. The suspect who described the plot to attack the embassy in June, Salmin Mohammed Khamis, is among six men whose murder trial in the hotel attack begins Monday.

Friday a source close to the trial provided Associated Press with the police report of Khamis' alleged account, taken hours after his June 17 arrest.

In the police report, Khamis does not comment on the hotel attack, which killed 13 people, including three Israelis. Instead, the 27-year-old Kenyan gives an insider's account of the embassy plot, for which he has not been charged.

Khamis' job was to drive a truck from Mombasa to Nairobi, the report said. Once there, he was to load the truck with explosives assembled in a house in the Eastleigh neighborhood, home to thousands of Somalis.

"From Eastleigh, the suspect was to drive the motor vehicle from the place to the U.S. Embassy with his friends on board, to carry out the suicide mission of the bombing of the embassy," the police report said.

Meanwhile, a second group was to charter a small plane at Nairobi's Wilson Airport. Their pretense would be that they were heading to Somalia with a cargo of "khat," a mild stimulant grown in Kenya and chewed by many Somalis. Instead, the plan was "to load a bomb called 'jumbo' and hijack the plane and bomb the U.S. Embassy simultaneously with the first group," the report said.

From the statement, it appears that the day of the attack had not been set, and it was not clear if Khamis' arrest helped foil the plot.

But the police statement ends with the assessment that "the mission could have been accomplished."

The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the police report. In May, a U.S. official said Al Qaeda was targeting foreign embassies in Kenya.

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