NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya (search) will charge four people with murder for a hotel homicide bombing that killed three Israelis and 11 Kenyans in the coastal city of Mombasa (search), officials said Monday.
Kenyan officials said the country decided to announce the charges after the U.S. ambassador criticized Kenya's efforts to fight terrorism last week. The Pentagon (search) raised the terrorism threat level to "high" in the East African nation Thursday and the embassy was closed.
Three of the four suspects who will be charged are tied to a man believed to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an alleged Al Qaeda operative and leading suspect in the November homicide attack on the hotel in Mombasa, as well as the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. He has reportedly resurfaced in Mombasa.
In the November attack, homicide bombers detonated a car packed with explosives outside a hotel popular with Israelis. Minutes earlier, assailants shot shoulder-fired missiles at a chartered Israeli jet as it took off from Mombasa's airport. The missiles narrowly missed.
The suspects were charged in March with harboring an illegal alien, thought to be Mohammed. New evidence gathered in the homicide bombing investigation led to the murder charges, Philip Murgor, the director of public prosecutions, told reporters.
Murgor named three of the suspects as Aboud Rogo Mohammed, Kubwa Mohamed and his father Mohamed Kubwa. Murgor refused to identify the fourth suspect, and would not say whether it was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador Johnnie Carson said that other countries targeted by terrorists have arrested suspects but "in Kenya, there has not been a single arrest or conviction." After the Pentagon raised the threat level, the embassy was closed until Tuesday at the earliest.
The trio named by Murgor all knew Abdul Karim, who has been identified as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, officials said.
In March, Mohamed Kubwa told The Associated Press that Aboud Rogo Mohammed had introduced his family to Abdul Karim early last year and took him to the family home in Siyu, a town on Pate island near Somalia.
The four suspects could appear in court as early as Tuesday. Murgor said said several other suspects had been detained and are being questioned in connection with recent warnings of a terrorist attack in Kenya. He refused to elaborate.
The latest round of terrorism warnings began May 14 when Kenyan National Security Minister Chris Murungaru said Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was back in Kenya.
Later that day, the U.S. State Department urged citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Kenya. British Airways then canceled its daily flight between Nairobi and London because of an "imminent" threat.
Mohamed Kubwa and Kubwa Mohamed were out on bail when the alerts were released and soon after were taken back into custody.
After the U.S. Embassy closed last week, the Kenyan government suspended air traffic between Kenya and neighboring Somalia, a Muslim nation that has not had an effective government since 1991 and is believed to be a transit point and staging ground for Al Qaeda operatives working in eastern Africa.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Tom Hart said the closure was due to "new and concrete information concerning the continuing threat of terrorist activity in Kenya and East Africa."
The latest warnings have raised the pressure on Kenya -- a key U.S. ally and a regional economic, diplomatic and transportation hub -- to take action.