Al-Qaida is considered prime suspect in attacks

By Sebastian Rotella and Warren Vieth
Los Angeles Times
Nov. 29, 2002

LONDON - The place, style and timing of twin terror attacks on Israelis in Kenya on Thursday are signatures with the handwriting of a prime suspect: the al-Qaida network.

Law enforcement officials and counterterrorism experts in Europe, the United States and Israel said it was too soon to conclude that the bombing of a resort near Mombasa that caters to Israelis and the simultaneous missile attack on an Israeli charter were definitely the work of Osama bin Laden's organization.

A few experts said Palestinian groups or Hezbollah, which has a history of hitting Israeli targets around the world, may have been involved.

But overall, veterans of the fight against al-Qaida saw the carnage in Kenya as part of the resurgent terror network's widening war against the West. In a global counterattack since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, an increasingly decentralized al-Qaida has expanded beyond its once exclusive focus on U.S. targets to single out U.S. allies with bombings from Pakistan to Tunisia to Bali.

It has accompanied the mayhem with unusually specific threats against countries that include Australia, Germany, Italy and Israel.

"The preferred target is still the U.S., but it's harder to hit the U.S. now," said Jonathan Stevenson of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "They have become more flexible. They will hit soft European targets, and any Western Christian, and now any Israeli, will do."

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