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US Officials Call for Stronger Defense Against Future Terror Attacks - 2002-12-01

U.S. officials say the terrorist attacks last week in Kenya underscore the need to defend against the danger of further attacks. The warning comes as a new commission prepares to investigate last year's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Investigators are trying to determine who was behind the attacks in Kenya last week that targeted Israeli tourists. Sixteen people were killed when suicide bombers detonated a car full of explosives at an Israeli-owned resort hotel near Mombasa. Minutes earlier, two missiles narrowly missed an Israeli passenger plane as it was taking off from Mombasa airport.

Israeli officials say suspicions are deepening that the al-Qaida network may have been behind the blast, although there is no tangible evidence. U.S. officials have said a Somali-based group thought to have links to al-Qaida may be connected to the attacks.

In an interview on the television program Fox News Sunday, Richard Shelby of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said there are increasing signs of affiliations among international terrorist organizations. "I think what you've got is a lot of terrorists dispersed all around the world, a lot of them were trained in Afghanistan, and now they're coming together, and acting where they can," Senator Shelby said.

Also appearing on Fox News Sunday were the two men asked to lead a new commission to investigate last year's September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who will head the panel, said the commission will look into a range of issues, from port security to police effectiveness, to draw lessons from those attacks and make recommendations for the future. "We want to make sure that when we're finished, the American public and the president know all the facts that are available," Mr. Kissinger said.

Former Senator George Mitchell, who will co-chair the commission, said the investigation will be thorough and pursue every lead, including questions about funding of terrorist groups. "We are going to be very aggressive and thorough in pursuing this investigation with respect to any area of activity, any country involved, any group. We are going to apply the same strict standard to Saudi Arabia and to everyone and anyone else who may become a subject of this inquiry," Mr. Mitchell said.

The 10-member panel will have eighteen months to complete its investigation.