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Al-Qaida Attack Threat Was Made, But Not Specific, Says Israeli Official - 2002-12-03

A security official in Israel has said Israeli intelligence had advance warning that the al-Qaida terror network was planning an attack in Africa and that Mombasa, Kenya was one of the likely targets. But the official is quoted as saying the warning was only general in nature and did not have enough detail to have prevented the suicide bombing of a resort hotel that claimed the lives of 10 Kenyans and three Israelis.

Israel radio said military intelligence chief General Yossi Kuperwasser told a parliamentary committee that Israeli intelligence knew attacks were being planned.

The report quoted General Kuperwasser as saying the information was "very general" in nature and was not clear when al-Qaida would attack or if Israelis would be the targets.

Intelligence experts say Israel receives so many warnings that most are not taken seriously unless the information is very clear, defined and verified as being from a reliable source.

Officials here say that since the bombing in the Indonesia resort of Bali in October, Israel has been flooded with intelligence information from all over the world.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a resort hotel near Mombasa last week. Earlier, an Israeli passenger plane taking off from Mombasa narrowly escaped being hit by two missiles.

An Internet website published a statement Monday that was said to be from al-Qaida claiming it had carried out last Thursday's attacks in Kenya. The statement includes phrases, terms and nicknames that have characterized other al-Qaida communications in the past. U.S. officials say the claim appears to be credible.

Meanwhile, the Ha'aretz newspaper reports that Israel's army chief, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, issued a warning this week that al-Qaida's leader, Osama bin-Laden, is working with Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.