Terror Hits Mombasa, Kenya

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A Brief History

On November 28, 2002, Islamic terrorists struck at Israeli targets in Mombasa, a port city on the East coast of Africa in the country of Kenya.  Supposedly upset over the 55th  anniversary of the creation of Israel, an event that by definition also meant the dissolution of Palestine and the separation of the Palestinian people,  Army of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attacks, an all-terrain vehicle suicide bombing and the attempted downing of an Israeli charter jet.

Digging Deeper

The all-terrain vehicle was loaded with explosives and driven through a protective barrier to reach the Paradise Hotel, an Israeli owned business.  The blast killed 13 people and wounded another 80 victims.  The charter airliner was attacked by terrorists that fired 2 Soviet or Russian made Strela 2 (SA-7) anti-aircraft missiles at the plane, though both missiles missed the target.  The SA-7 is a man-portable, shoulder fired lightweight heat seeking anti-aircraft missile somewhat similar to the American Redeye surface to air missile.

Kenya is an Equatorial sub-Saharan African country of about 52 million people, 99% of which are native (Black) African.  Surprisingly for a Black African country, the leading religion is Christianity, with 83% of the population claiming to be Christians.  (Note: The father of US President Barack Obama was a native of Kenya and was raised a Muslim, though he became an atheist as an adult.)  Only 15% of Kenyans claim to be of the Islamic faith.  So few Jews live in Kenya that there is only one synagogue in the entire country (in the capital, Nairobi).  Formerly part of the British Empire before getting its independence in 1963, Kenya maintains good relations with the US and the UK, as well as its neighbors in the Rift Lakes area of Africa.  A less amenable relationship exists with Somalia to the North, though both countries have cooperated at least somewhat against Islamic terrorists.

Mombasa was the earliest capital of Kenya, and today ranks as the second largest city to the capital Nairobi.  Mombasa has about 1.2 million inhabitants, with a metro area population of about 3.5 million.  (Note: The author has been to Mombasa and found the place interesting and a nifty place to visit.  Lots of cool shops and souvenir opportunities and the people were pretty nice, too.)

Although it was later reported that there had been at least some warning of an impending terrorist attack in Kenya, the ambiguous information did not provide a clear idea of when and where the attack would occur, which is often the case with so called terrorist event intelligence or warnings.  (No kidding, for real, as a police officer after 9/11 we used to get “confidential” warnings over the police computer net of “a possible terror attack at an unknown time and place by unknown means and by unknown people.”  Really.  We really got such idiotic “warnings.”  I suspect the Kenyan police and internal security people felt the same way when they got blamed for failing to heed such “warnings.”)

Terrorism existed in the world for centuries before our time and has come in many forms from many different groups of people and political/religious groups and ethnicity.  You could even say the resistance in Europe during World War II was a group of terrorist organizations.  After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, or so we have heard.  Today most of the terrorist activities we hear of are somehow connected to the Israel-Palestinian conflict or over Islamic extremists that are at holy war against other branches of Islam or other religions.  We wonder what the future focus of terrorism will be…

Question for students (and subscribers):  Are terrorist acts a legitimate expression of political or ideological protest or revenge? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Crenshaw, Martha. Terrorism in Africa. Dartmouth Publishing Co Ltd, 1994.

Hornsby, Charles. Kenya: A History Since Independence. I.B. Tauris, 2013.

United States Government. Fighting Terrorism in Africa. Independently published, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Juergen Lehle of Arkia Israel Airlines Boeing 757-300 4X-BAW, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.