MOMBASA, Kenya – Kenyan and Israeli investigators are questioning the brother and mother of a man believed to have bought the vehicle used in the homicide bombing of a hotel crowded with Israelis — an attack that killed more than a dozen people, police said Wednesday.
Esha Abdallah Nabhan, 50, and Mohamed Ali Saleh Nabhan, 32, were picked up on Monday after investigators traced the purchase of a green Mitsubishi sport utility vehicle used in the attack to Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, said Deputy Police Commissioner William Langat.
Investigators do not know whether the 23-year-old is alive or if he was one of at least two bombers believed to have died on Nov. 28 when the vehicle packed with explosives plowed into the Paradise Hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa.
His mother and brother, who are not considered suspects, have told police they know little about Saleh's recent past, saying he, his wife and young child moved out of his parents home four months ago and did not say where they were living, Langat said.
Langat said the wife and child have also disappeared, and police are looking for them.
A lawyer for the family, Nabhan Swaleh, charged that police were holding the mother and brother as bait with which to lure Saleh, an accusation Langat denied. Swaleh said he would demand in court Friday that the two either be charged with a crime or released.
Under Kenyan law, police are allowed to hold people without charge for up to 14 days.
Police are also holding another 15 people, although none are considered suspects in the bomb blast. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the explosion.
Minutes before the blast, unidentified assailants fired two missiles at an Arkia Airlines Boeing 757, narrowly missing the charter aircraft as it was taking off from Mombasa airport with Israeli tourists returning to Tel Aviv.
The twin attacks were first claimed by the previously unknown Army of Palestine, but a few days later Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network said it was responsible in a statement on an Islamic Web site.
Al-Qaida also threatened more strikes against the United States and Israel in a separate statement attributed to its spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.
Israel blames al-Ittihad al-Islami, a Somali-based group with links to the al-Qaida network, for the two attacks, but Kenyan authorities say there is no evidence to prove that.