SLUG: 2-311609 Kenya / Terror Trial (L)
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT (L-ONLY)
TITLE=KENYA / TERRORISM TRIAL
INTRO: The trial of three Kenyan men suspected of plotting to blow up a hotel and shoot down an Israeli jetliner in Mombasa and bomb the U-S embassy in Nairobi opened Wednesday in Kenya's capital. Cathy Majtenyi reports from Nairobi.
TEXT: The trial opened with witnesses testifying about the backgrounds of Mohamed Kubwa Seif, Said Saggar Ahmed and Salmin Mohammed Khamis.
The three face charges of "conspiracy to commit a felony," which, if convicted, could mean a maximum seven-year prison sentence.
The three defendants stand accused of planning the 1998 bombing of the U-S embassy in Nairobi in which more than 200 Kenyans died. The al-Qaida terror network claimed responsibility for the Mombasa attacks and is widely blamed for the embassy bombing.
The men also allegedly plotted to bomb the new U-S embassy in Nairobi between November 2002 and June 2003.
The three men are also accused of being involved in the November 2002 suicide bombing of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel near the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa. At least 18 people, including the bombers, were believed killed in that attack.
They also face charges of attempting to shoot down an Israeli tourist jet as it was taking off from the Mombasa airport at about the same time as the hotel bombing.
All three pleaded innocent.
Witnesses at Wednesday's opening session testified about what happened at the Mombasa airport.
The three defendants were among seven people originally charged with murder in connection with the Paradise Hotel bombing. All charges against two others were dropped late last year.
Their charges were reduced to "conspiracy to commit a felony" late last year after prosecution lawyers admitted there was insufficient evidence to charge them with murder.
However, four suspects are still being charged with multiple counts of murder in connection with the Paradise Hotel bombing.
The murder trial of Omar Said Omar, Mohamed Kubwa, Aboud Rogo Mohammed and Mohamed Ali Saleh Nabhan is expected to open later this month. (Signed)
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