Kenyans hold suspects over bomb attack

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The Independent Online
FIVE DAYS after the bomb blast at the United States embassy in Nairobi, the Kenyan authorities yesterday announced the arrest of an unspecified number of people in connection with the attack. A statement signed by President Daniel arap Moi, said: "A number of persons have been detained in relation to this incident and are providing useful leads into the circumstances surrounding the bomb blast." It gave no further details.

The arrests came as foreign rescue teams abandoned hope of finding more survivors and started to leave Nairobi. The latest toll is 247 dead, including 12 Americans, and more than 5,000 injured. Another 10 were killed and 70 injured in the simultaneous bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Tanzania had earlier announced the arrest of 14 people, but several have subsequently been released. The US authorities have withheld comment on the arrests, concentrating on arrangements for the dead and injured and securing other embassy buildings that might be vulnerable to attack.

News of the arrests in Kenya came soon after the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, had set out on a 24- hour round trip to the US air base at Ramstein in Germany to escort home the remains of 10 of the dead Americans. Before leaving, she spoke of her journey as "a mission of pride and sorrow".

Paying tribute to the ethic of the US diplomatic corps, which has become a dominant American media theme in the aftermath of the bombings, she said: "I go with deep respect for the service provided to our country by those who gave their lives on its behalf," and she repeated the pledge, made by President Bill Clinton and other US officials, that the guilty would be brought to justice.

Among the bodies being brought back from Germany will be those of Julian Bartley, the US consul-general in Nairobi, who was one of the highest- ranking black Americans in the American foreign service, and his son, Jay, a college student who had a summer job at the embassy.

Two of the Americans killed were not being repatriated with the others: one, who was married to a Kenyan and was to be buried in Kenya, and Sherry Olds, whose flag-draped coffin was returned separately yesterday to Florida at the request of her family. President Clinton, who returned from his fund-raising trip to California overnight, spent most of the day in meetings with foreign policy and security advisers at the White House. Discussions were expected to cover enhanced security precautions for US embassies world-wide and the US response to the bombings. Today he will preside over a memorial ceremony at Andrews Air Force base.

Officials have refused to be drawn on who might be responsible for the attacks, other than stressing that professional terrorists must have planned the first co-ordinated attack on two targets in separate countries. A report from a US-based Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was being treated with caution. The group issued a statement saying that key Iranian diplomats stationed in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam left their posts in the week before the bombings. The group claimed the diplomats had been involved in "the export of fundamentalism and terrorism to African nations".

Foreign policy analysts, however, were sceptical about Iranian involvement at a time when the US and Iran are engaged in a tentative rapprochement and Iran has publicly dissociated itself from international terrorism.

The only claim so far made public has come from a hitherto unknown group styling itself the Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Places, which admitted responsibility in a communication to the Cairo-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat - a regular channel for such claims.

In Nairobi, rescue workers abandoned hope of saving any more survivors from the bomb attack after finding the body of Rose Wanjiku, a Kenyan woman who they had fought for days to free from the rubble of a five-storey office block next to the embassy. Officials said investigators would now concentrate on hunting for the bombers.

"This morning we finished the mission," said Colonel Udi Ben-Uri, of the Israeli army. "We pulled out 95 bodies [since rescue efforts began]. We found three people trapped alive."

As the rescue operation wound down, the US State Department confirmed that six of its diplomatic buildings around the world were being temporarily closed to allow for security improvements.