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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Links Al-Qaida to Attacks in Kenya

MOMBASA, Kenya -- The United States said Tuesday there was increasing reason to believe al-Qaida was involved in last week's attacks on Israelis in Kenya, where reports suggested authorities received warnings months ago.

A missile launcher used in a failed attack on an Israeli airliner has been linked to al-Qaida, a U.S. official said. Washington also said a statement purporting to be from the group claiming it carried out the assaults was credible.

A suicide bombing killed the three bombers, three Israelis and 10 Kenyans Thursday at an Israeli-owned hotel in the resort of Mombasa. An almost simultaneous missile attack narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off nearby. It was the African country's bloodiest bomb attack since the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, widely thought to be the work of guerrillas linked to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

"The fighters of al-Qaida return to the same place where the Crusader-Jewish coalition was hit four years ago," said the statement posted on the Internet, referring to the bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people, most of them Africans.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the statement, signed by the "Political Office of Qaida al-Jihad" and posted on an Islamist web site, was being viewed as credible. He said there was increasing reason to believe al-Qaida was involved.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the serial number on the missile fired at the Israeli airliner last week was close in sequence to a missile fired at a U.S. military aircraft in Saudi Arabia.

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi headed to Washington on Tuesday for talks with President George W. Bush, who has pledged U.S. help to track down the culprits in the attacks.

"With the assistance of our international partners, we shall apprehend any surviving culprits," said Moi, who was due to stop in London before flying to Washington to meet Bush on Thursday.

U.S. officials have also said they suspect a role in the attacks by the Somali-based group al-Itihad al-Islamiya, which they say has links to al-Qaida.

Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said Tuesday that police, army and intelligence officials had received warnings of a possible attack as early as March.

"It is understood the warnings were given in a series of detailed reports to various government agencies which named potential targets and recommended steps that must be taken to combat the threat," the newspaper said in a report.

Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuli denied the report. "There has never been any such report made to the government," Sunkuli said.