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Kenya Charges 4 with Murder in November Terror Attacks - 2003-06-24

In Kenya, four people have been charged with murder for their alleged roles in last November's suicide-bombing attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa.

The four suspects were charged in a Nairobi court with 13 counts of murder. The men, Kenyan nationals, did not enter a plea because some prosecution documents had not been adequately prepared.

The suspects are believed to have ties to Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an alleged al-Qaida operative who is a suspect in the bombing that killed 16 people last November at the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who remains at large, has also been indicted in the United States for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Kenyan prosecutors say one of the suspects in the November bombing, Kubwa Mohammed Seif, is the al-Qaida operative's father-in-law. The other suspects are Mohammed Kubwa, who is the son of Kubwa Mohammed Seif, and Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a man the Kenyan press describes as an Islamic cleric who introduced the al-Qaida operative to the family. There are few details about the fourth man, Sa'id Saggar Ahmed, who is a teacher.

In March, the four men were charged with the lesser offense of harboring an illegal alien, thought to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. But on Monday, Kenya's minister of justice and constitutional affairs, Kiraitu Murungi, told reporters that new evidence has led Kenyan authorities to conclude that the suspects had direct involvement in the hotel attack in Mombasa.

"The Kenyan police and related agencies have been investigating the incident with the assistance of certain international agencies and the government is pleased to note that significant progress has been made," Mr. Murungi said.

The announcement of the indictments coincides with Kenya's admission that it is upset by U.S. criticism that the east African country has not been doing enough to fight terrorism. Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Johnnie Carson, told a local television network that Kenya was the only terrorism-affected country in the world where there had not been a single arrest or a conviction.

The leading defense attorney for the four suspects, Maobe Mao, says he believes his clients have been charged, not on solid evidence, but in an attempt to mute criticism from the United States.

"The pressure is on the government of Kenya to go ahead and charge somebody or some people and have them jailed. So, we are not even looking at giving them a fair trial. We are looking at satisfying the demands of another country that something be done. And in the process, I believe a lot of things may be overlooked," Mr. Mao said.

The four suspects remain in custody. They will appear in court again on July 8.

Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Nairobi remains closed for a third business day. The embassy closed on Friday after U.S. intelligence agencies renewed warnings of a possible terrorist attack in Kenya.