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2002 Kenya Bombing Linked to Mideast Conflict, says Prosecutor - 2004-02-02

The prosecution in Kenya plans to link four men charged in connection with the November 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel to the al-Qaida terror network. The murder trial is underway in Nairobi.

In his opening statement, state prosecutor Edwin Okello said the attack on Paradise Hotel was directly related to tensions in the Middle East.

"Evidence will also show that Paradise Hotel was targeted because it is owned by an Israeli and its guests are predominantly Israelis," said Mr. Okello.

He said the suicide bombers, who in November 2002 killed 12 Kenyans and three Israelis, selected the particular location specifically to kill and maim Israeli nationals. The loss of Kenyan lives, said Mr. Okello, was the price Kenya paid for its friendly ties with Israel.

Four men have been charged with 15 counts of murder each for their alleged role in the Paradise Hotel bombing. They are Omar Sa'id Omar, Mohammed Kubwa, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, and Mohammed Ali Saleh Nabhan.

The prosecutor told High Court Justice John Osiemo his team will prove the four had, what he called, frenzied communication with the suicide bombers and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a suspected al-Qaida operative who is also allegedly behind the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi.

He said the prosecution also intends to show how the four coordinated the missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet as it was taking off from the Mombasa airport within minutes of the hotel bombing.

The suspects are also alleged to have used fake identification to rent three houses in the coastal city of Mombasa where they planned the bombing.

The trial is expected to last at least a month. Three other alleged terrorists went on trial last month on lesser charges of conspiracy to carry out the attacks.

The prosecution in the murder trial says it intends to call more than 140 witnesses to the stand.