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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
How the US became a target
Nairobi bomb victims 1988
The Nairobi bomb ripped through the embassy and nearby office block
By BBC News Online's Lucy Walker

At 1040 on Friday 7 August 1998 a massive car bomb went off outside the United States embassy in Nairobi, blasting a hole in the building and ripping the front off a seven-story office block next door.

At about the same time another bomb, this one slightly smaller, exploded next to the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.

There was blood everywhere, on the banister, and I could feel the person behind me bleeding on my hair and down my back

Prudence Bushnell, former US Ambassador Nairobi

The final death toll was 214 dead in Kenya, including 12 US nationals, and almost 5,000 injured, nearly all of them Kenyan. In Dar es Salaam 10 Tanzanians died and 72 were injured.

The US insists that both attacks were masterminded by the Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden from his base in Afghanistan as part of a wider international plot to murder Americans and attack US assets.


Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador in Kenya, was meeting the Kenyan Trade Minister on the top floor of the Cooperative Bank Building alongside the embassy that Friday morning.

"We heard a very loud explosion", she told the US District Court in Manhattan hearing the case of four men charged with the bombing.

The prosecution says the blast was a stun grenade, thrown at an embassy security guard.

Going to the window to see what the noise was, she was thrown off her feet by the full force of the blast and knocked unconscious.

She told the court how, when she came to, she followed a procession of the bank employees filing calmly down the emergency staircase: "A huge procession of people who were bleeding all over each other."

Once outside, she described how she saw the burning van and charred bodies. "I saw the back of the building totally ripped off. I saw utter destruction," she said.

The embassy building survived the attack, but an office building and secretarial college next door were razed by the force of the blast. The minister, Joseph Kamotho, escaped with light injuries.

Osama bin Laden

A previously unknown group calling itself the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places immediately claimed responsibility for both bombings and vowed more attacks to drive US citizens from Muslim countries.

Osama bin Laden
Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden
They demanded the release from jail of Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing which killed six people and injured more than 200.

The US remains convinced the group is part of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organisation, which it blames for a number of attacks on US citizens and assets over the past decade.

The four men tried in Manhattan are among a group of 22 men indicted on 319 charges related both to the bombings and to a broader conspiracy to kill US troops and civilians.


General security concerns had been raised two years earlier following a truck bomb attack on Khobar Towers, a residential complex for US and other military personnel in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

US under attack
1983 Beirut: US embassy bomb kills 63 including 17 US nationals.
1993: New York World Trade Centre bomb kills six.
1993 Beirut: Airport compound bomb kills 241 US marines.
1993 Mogadishu: US military helicopter shot down.
1995 Saudi Arabia: Car bomb kills five Americans and two Indians at a US-run military training camp.
1996 Dhahran: Khobar Towers car bomb kills 19 airmen; 250 others are injured.
1998 East Africa: Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania bombed, killing 224 people and injuring around 5,000.
2000 Aden: Suicide bomber attacks USS Cole, killing 17 sailors and injuring more than 30.

The explosion on 25 June 1996 killed 19 US airmen and injured about 250 other people, most of them other US troops.

Al Qaeda did not claim responsibility for that attack. But it says it did shoot down a US military helicopter in Somalia in 1993.

More recently the US says the group was behind last year's suicide bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, which killed 17 US troops and injured more than 30 others.

Washington had warned American citizens and staff of US embassies and businesses to be extra vigilant after the 1995 conviction of Sheikh Omar and others on terrorism charges.

Security was stepped up the following year after Osama bin Laden issued a general threat to kill US military personnel.

A former aide to Mr Bin Laden told a court he warned US officials that its missions might come under attack, two years before the embassy bombings.

Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl said he told US officials that the Saudi dissident's group was trying to "make war" against the United States and would make bombs against "some embassy".

Mr al-Fadl told the New York court he decided to alert US officials after he was kicked out of Mr Bin Laden's organisation for stealing.

Despite the danger, Ambassador Bushnell said repeated requests for increased security two years before the bombing were not acted upon.


Within two weeks of the bombings the US had struck back.

Cruise missiles were fired at what US officials said were three training camps linked to Mr Bin Laden in Afghanistan and a chemical weapons facility near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The US embassy Dar Es Salaam 1998
The embassy in Tanzania
"We have taken these actions to reduce the ability of these terrorist organisations to train and equip their misguided followers'', the then efence Secretary William Cohen, announced.

The Taleban denied the existence of any training camps and the Sudanese government said the plant was a pharmaceuticals factory.

President Clinton also moved to add Mr Bin Laden and his associates to an official list of terrorists, freezing their assets in the US including property and bank accounts and making it an offence to supply money to them.

The attacks drew international criticism, but the US ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, insisted they amounted to legitimate self defence and had been planned weeks earlier.

Washington has been trying without success to exert pressure on the Taleban to hand over Mr Bin Laden.

In February this year, the Taleban's office in New York was closed in response to a tightening of UN sanctions against the government in Kabul.

Mr Bin Laden remains on the FBI's 10 most wanted list despite a $5m reward for his capture.

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03 Jan 01 | Americas
Embassy bombings trial begins
09 Aug 98 | Africa
Bomb survivor pulled from rubble
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