Analysis: Tension Developing Between Investigative Teams From Kenya and Israel in Mombasa at the Site of Terror Attacks

All Things Considered: December 2, 2002

Tension Increases Between Israeli, Kenyan Investigators

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

LYNN NEARY, host:

And I'm Lynn Neary.

In Kenya, friction is mounting between Israeli and Kenyan teams trying to determine who was behind last week's attacks on an Israeli hotel and airliner. Israelis want more access to the evidence; the Kenyans are balking. Sixteen people died when suicide car bombers destroyed the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near the costal city of Mombasa. Most of them were Kenyans. From Mombasa, NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting:

Not long after sunup, Kenyan investigators were already at the scene of last week's terrible attack, searching one of the few rooms left intact by the explosion, hoping to find more clues about who was responsible.

SOUNDBITE OF BANGING NOISE

SULLIVAN: A few feet away, another group of police investigators sifted through the ashes near what used to be the hotel lobby. Any piece of metal, any sliver of wood that might provide a clue carefully sealed in plastic bags for forensic teams to examine at length.

Israeli investigators were also on the scene this morning despite reports of tension between the two services over who should examine the evidence gathered so far. Israeli officials are quick to say the Kenyans have been extremely cooperative overall, but the Israelis say the Kenyans simply don't have the experience or the equipment to conduct a proper investigation. The Israelis want some of that evidence flown back to Israel for further analysis. The Kenyans have so far refused, insisting they have the resources and the ability to do it right.

SOUNDBITE OF BRAYING NOISE

SULLIVAN: Not far from the hotel in Goloko village, three Kenyans were finally laid to rest yesterday after the government waived the fee hospital administrators had been demanding for release of the bodies. The three, all from the same family, performed regularly at the hotel, greeting each new batch of tourists with traditional dancing and music.

Seventy-two-year-old Baya Wayah(ph) points to the freshly dug raised mound of red earth where his brother Sephari(ph) now lies. His brother, Baya Wayah says, started working at the Paradise when it opened four years ago.

Mr. BAYA WAYAH (Brother of Victim): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: `What he earned there helped a lot,' Baya Wayah says. `It wasn't enough to earn a living, but it was still very welcome. And my brother used that money to help all of us, not just himself. Some people may blame the Israelis for bringing the trouble here,' he says, `but I don't blame them at all. They've brought money for us and put food in our stomachs. What will happen to us if they leave? I blame whoever was behind this.'

SOUNDBITE OF BEANS BEING SCOOPED UP

SULLIVAN: Inside the mud-walled, dirt-floor hut nearby, Sephari's widow Asha(ph) sits behind a curtain mourning her dead husband. One of her sisters scoops beans from a large sack as she prepares lunch. Asha Sephari has eight children and a ninth on the way, and wonders how she will feed them and find money for school now that her husband is dead.

Ms. ASHA SEPHARI (Widow of Victim): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: `I could marry again, but who would want me when I already have eight children?' she asks. `And even if someone did marry me, he wouldn't recognize them as his children and he wouldn't take care of them.'

Asha, too, wants to see those responsible punished, but she also wonders if it might have been better if the Israelis hadn't built a hotel here. `If they hadn't come,' she says, `then maybe this wouldn't have happened.'

Outside, 26-year-old Samel Katana(ph) waits for a chance to speak, grimacing as he clutches his right ear. Katana is a woodcarver who sells his creations to the tourists who come here. He was on the beach at the Paradise when the attack occurred and watched a friend's head taken off by flying metal. Katana thinks his eardrum has been punctured by the blast. Unlike the widow Asha Sephari, however, Katana has no doubt about whether the Israelis should keep coming. `They are welcome,' he says, `for what they bring for us.' But at the same time, he says, he's tired of Kenyans having to die in someone else's war.

Mr. SAMEL KATANA (Friend of Victim): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: `This is the second time this has happened to us,' Katana says. `We were the victims in 1998 in Nairobi and we're the victims this time, too. If they want to fight the Americans, do it in America,' he says, `and if they want to fight the Israelis, then do it in Israel, but not here. We Kenyans are a peaceful people,' he says, `but if these terrorists keep on like this, we should think about joining the international community to hunt them down. We don't need this,' he says, `and we haven't done anything to deserve it.' Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Mombasa.

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