Initial findings of International Mombasa Probe

The combined US-Israeli-Kenyan investigation team has reached initial conclusions two days after the deadly al Qaeda twin assault on Israeli targets at the Kenyan resort town of Mombasa:
A. Backup teams were posted at both scenes of attack – the hotel and the airport – to take over if the first teams failed to carry the operation through. This is evident from the testimony of witnesses present at the Mombasa Paradise Hotel assault, in which 13 people were killed, three of them Israelis. They reported that, first, one of the bombers leapt forward to blow up the hotel lobby; next, the vehicle that brought him to the hotel crashed into a wall and exploded; then, a light plane flew overhead and dropped explosives on the buildings left standing.
This may have been al Qaeda’s first air raid.
Findings around the airport indicate two missile teams, one posted near one end of the runway and the second, some 5 km from the other end, to cover the eventuality of a change of wind altering the Arkia flight’s direction of takeoff. When they saw the plane sending out flares to deflect the heat-seeking missiles and flying out of reach with all 260 passengers safe, the two teams made off.
B. The total number of al Qaeda terrorists taking part directly and indirectly in the Mombasa attacks may be estimated at between 25 and 35, with another 100 helpers and paid local informers on the fringes of the operation. This would make it one of the largest terror attacks al Qaeda has yet mounted.
C. The type of shoulder-launched missiles fired at the Israeli airliner has not been established as yet. Some Israeli sources diagnose a SA-7 Grail; others, a Strela, while some Western sources suggest American-made Stingers with alterations by al Qaeda. Intelligence reports have spoken in the past of such adaptations.
D. Somalia would be the natural escape destination for the Mombasa terrorists.
According to one conjecture heard by debkafile‘s terror experts, the teams re-assembled after the attacks at a prepared landing strip south of Mombassa and were picked up by two or three light planes, which ferried them across the border to Somalia no more than 225 miles distant.. Mombasa international airport radar instruments recorded an aircraft landing at a point south of the town after the attack, probably the same one that bombarded the hotel, and two or three planes taking off from the same point shortly after. The investigators are now trying to locate the pilots.
They are also checking out a theory whereby the al Qaeda assault team split later, the missile crews taking off by air and the hotel backup team escaping by fast boat along the Indian Ocean coast to Somalia, in the same way that Fazul must have lifted his Ethiopian Airways hijack team off the Comoros in 1996.
E. The terror offensive launched by al Qaeda and its affiliates has upturned sharply in the last two months, both in scale and intensity. On October 6, suicides crashed the Limburg tanker in the Gulf of Aden; on October 18, the terrorists brought off a massacre on the Indonesian island of Bali; the Moscow theater siege occurred on October 23; USAID administrator Laurence Foley was murdered outside his Amman home on October 28; terrorist gun and missile fire have been constant in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan throughout October and November. The Mombasa strikes appear to be part of an escalating series entailing the deployment of hundreds of terrorists and multi-million dollar funding.
F. US and allied intelligence services, including that of Israel, have still not overcome their inability to predict al Qaeda’s moves, a shortcoming glaringly exposed on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden’s reappearance in Saudi Arabia underscores this lack of intelligence tools. From time to time, the capture of yet another high-ranking terrorist is announced. The last detainee reported in American hands on November 23 was Abd al Rahim Nashiri, described as one of bin Laden’s top 25 operations officers and member of the planning team for the USS Cole attack.
debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror experts are certain that the intelligence value of these captures is extremely limited because all the information they seem to have relates to past al Qaeda activities. None has anything to offer on the network’s present or future plans. Their capture has done little to shed light on, or inhibit, the Islamic fundamentalists’ terrorist campaign and may not even be fortuitous. Until the Americans can lay hands on al Qaeda leaders directly and actively involved in planning future terrorist assaults, they have little chance of stemming the bloody war of terror.

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