Thursday, August 7, 2008

Kenya marks 10 years since US Embassy bombing - Thurs 8/7/2008

East Africa marks terror attacks

Kenya and Tanzania are marking the 10th anniversary of the US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.
More than 220 people were killed and 5,000 injured in the first major attack by al-Qaeda on US targets.

Relatives and survivors have gathered at the site of the attack in Nairobi, which is now a memorial garden.

The ceremonies come days after Kenyan police narrowly failed to arrest the suspected mastermind of the bombings, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Nairobi says many of those survivors and the families of the victims there will gather at the memorial garden on the site where the US embassy used to stand.

My eyes were destroyed on the spot by the glass
Catherine Bwire

At about 1030 local time on 7 August 1998, a suicide bomber threw a grenade at the guardhouse outside the US embassy in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, and tried to ram his way through the barricades.

He then detonated the explosives packed inside the vehicle, severely damaging the embassy and bringing down a seven-story building near by, killing 218 people and wounding 500.

A simultaneous attack on the embassy in Dar-es-Salaam killed 11 people, and wounded 72.

The bombings were al-Qaeda's first major strike in its conflict with the United States, and they fundamentally changed both the US and Kenya.

Among those who remember the day in Nairobi is Catherine Bwire, who was a 24-year-old accounts clerk at the time.

Like so many, she heard a small explosion - a grenade - go off outside the embassy just by her office.

She went to the window to see what the trouble was and as she watched, the attackers detonated their main charge which shattered surrounding windows.

The glass tore out Catherine's eyes, blinding her instantly, it was a tragically common injury.

Our correspondent says the blast changed the lives of so many victims, but it also created a kind of bond among them.

It did much the same for Kenya and the United States.

The two countries are now firm allies in the fight against terrorism, both countries still struggling to come to terms with its consequences.

But the botched operation on Sunday has raised questions in Kenya about whether the government is doing enough to protect its citizens from the threat of terrorism.

The police have intensified their manhunt for the fugitive in the coastal city of Mombasa, and security along the country's borders has been tightened.

The country's sizeable Muslim community also says the "war on terror" is being used to victimise Muslims.

At least 17 Kenyan Muslims are being held in Ethiopia on suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

The survivors and families of those who died in the attacks have called for compensation from the US and Kenyan governments to help them cope with the effects of the blasts.

Will you attend the ceremonies? Were you injured in the blasts? Did you witness the attacks?

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Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/08/07 09:44:10 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Blog editor's note: The following report from the Standard claims to be an "exclusive" story and is not confirmed by any major news outlet.

Terror: Shocking CIA report on blast

Published on 07/08/2008
By Otsieno Namwaya Investigation Editor

Ten years to the day a massive al-Qaeda bomb exploded in Nairobi, fresh details show that previously undetected, complex planning by terrorists who had plotted to use a device twice as big as the one that exploded.

Confidential documents from American intelligence service, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), obtained by The Standard also show that terror suspect Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is being hunted for the Nairobi and Kikambala bombings, was not even the one initially picked by terror kingpin Osama bin Laden for the operation.

Osama had picked a terrorist said to have been deadlier than Fazul to carry out the bombings, but he died in mysterious circumstances in Kenya before executing the plan.

A new group had to be constituted afresh by al-Qaeda to launch a second attack. Details also show that the terrorists who bombed American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam had plotted to explode the devices a year earlier.
Unknown to Kenyans, the al-Qaeda cell that would finally blow up the embassies had operated undetected in Nairobi and other towns for five years from 1993.

The CIA dossier in our possession, which was used in prosecuting the suspects in the US, details how the terror group had set up base and businesses in Kenya in 1993 with the intention of launching the attack earlier than 1998.

The plan for an earlier attack was, however, derailed when the al-Qaeda military commander in Kenya, who had operated stealthily — Abu Obadiah — drowned in a boat accident on Lake Victoria as he attempted to cross to Uganda to meet contacts in 1996.

In CIA’s thinking, had Obadiah not drowned in 1996, the attack on American installations in Kenya would probably have taken place either in November, 1996 or February, 1997.

The brief from Osama for Obadiah was to use a load of explosives twice as big as the one that Fazul’s team ended up using on August 7, 1998.

Police did not know
But Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe says Kenya had no information that Fazul’s predecessor had drowned in Lake Victoria in 1996 as he tried to cross over to Uganda.

He said the police also did not know that the 1998 terror attack on the US embassy would have happened earlier had the Al Qaeda leader, Abu Obadiah, not drowned in the boat accident.

"But we have an operation and there is a lot of information coming through. If you allow me some time, I will be able to verify that information. The US government had not shared it with us," he said.

Following the unexpected death of Obadiah, al-Qaeda quickly reviewed its plans as arrangements were made for Abdi Karim, alias Fazul Mohammed, to take over as the military commander-cum-head of the East African cell.

Fazul took over as head of the group’s entire operations, including military training and business, including fish trade, along the East African coast and Lake Victoria.

Prior to establishing base in Kenya, Obadiah, together with his senior colleague in the al-Qaeda hierarchy, Atef Al Banshiri, had initially only paid occasional visits to the Kenyan cell from their base in Afghanistan, the founding home of al-Qaeda in the early 1980s.

Deliberations on the attack on the US embassy in Nairobi began in October, 1993, mainly in retaliation for US participation in what was then called ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in Somalia.

Ali Mohammed, a US citizen and a confessed al-Qaeda member, surveyed the US embassy for a possible terror attack. He took photographs and made sketches, which he gave to Osama Bin Laden, who had then shifted base from Afghanistan to Sudan.

Preparations for the attack on the US embassy in Nairobi moved to a different level when in June, 1998 two members of al-Qaeda — Fahid Mohammed Ali Msalam and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan — bought a Toyota pick up and embarked on modifying its body for the mission.

Final meeting
The final meeting that fine-tuned details of the attack was held in 43 New Runda Estate in Nairobi on August 2, 1998 and was attended by, among others, Mohammed Odeh, Mohammed Rashed Daoud Al’Owali, Fahid Mohammed Ali, Sheikh Ahmed Swedan and a Mr Assam, a Saudi national.

It was decided at the meeting that once everything was in place, members of the group should leave the country by August 6. Two members, Assam and Al’Owali, had offered themselves as the suicide bombers who would drive the truck, fitted with a bomb and other explosives, to the basement parking of the US embassy.

Al’Owali had been taken to Afghanistan for specialised training as part of the preparation for the Nairobi attack. He travelled from Afghanistan to Nairobi using a false Yemeni passport just a few days to the mission.

On his arrival, he linked up with his two colleagues whose names are given only as Haroun and Assam, who was the man behind the wheel of the truck that carried the bomb that brought down the US embassy on August 7, a Friday.

Another key al-Qaeda operative, Mohammed Odeh, an American who had worked for Osama in Sudan for several years and later deployed to Mombasa to set up a fishing business whose proceeds would support the group’s activities in the region, received an emergency order that all al-Qaeda members should leave the country by August 6.
He travelled overnight by bus from Mombasa to Nairobi, leaving his home and family at the Coast. Odeh joined colleagues, including the masterminds of the attack like Fazul, at a hotel in downtown Nairobi’s River Road where they spent three days – August 4, 5 and 6.

Odeh and a few other members who were not going to be part of the direct action on August 7 left the country on August 6 using a false passport.

He had shaved his beard to camouflage his appearance.

On the material day, Assam drove the truck carrying the bomb at the back to the US embassy, with Al’Owali as his co-driver with whom they had resolved to die in the attack.

As the truck approached the embassy, Al’Owali got out to request the security guard to open the gate, with the apparent intention that he would quickly return to the truck before it exploded.

But the guard asked many questions and Al’Owali got impatient and hurled a stun grenade at the American marine.

That allowed Assam to quickly drive the truck behind the embassy, get out and detonate the bomb, demolishing a multi-storey secretarial college and damaging the embassy building and the bell-bottomed Co-operative Bank house.

Escaped unhurt
The explosion claimed the lives of 213 people and injured about 5,000 others.

Assam was also killed in the attack, but his colleague, Al’Owali, who had gotten out to persuade the guard to give way, escaped unhurt.

But Al’Owali had not expected to survive and thus had neither a plan B nor money or passport to get him out of Nairobi or Kenya.

After a few days in hiding within the city, he called a telephone number in Yemen to request for money to be sent to him in Kenya. Just minutes after he called, Osama also called the same line and in a short while arrangements were being made for him to get out of Kenya.

When Osama called the terrorist in Nairobi, he was very furious because the suicide bomber had evaded death by running from the scene. Osama reportedly screamed at him: "What are you doing alive! Have you forgotten you are a martyr?"

Al’Owali and Odeh were later arrested by the US government and charged with the Nairobi attack. With two other convicted terrorists, they are serving life terms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Administrative Maximum Facility, a super-maximum ‘prison within a prison’ in Florence, Colorado, US.

Kenya remembers bombing, urges Mideast peace

Thu Aug 7, 2008 1:53pm EDT
By Daniel Wallis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The world must solve crises in the Middle East and Somalia or they will spawn more of the extremism that led to bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa a decade ago, Kenya's prime minister warned on Thursday.

Raila Odinga was speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of explosions that tore through Washington's missions in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and killed more than 200 people, mostly local Africans.

The attacks were blamed on al Qaeda -- the first time Osama bin Laden's group had burst onto the world stage.

"The scale of this atrocity shocked our nation to the core," Odinga said after laying a wreath at the site of Nairobi blast.

"We must leave no stone unturned in fighting the scourge of terrorism. But at the same time, unless we provide just solutions to political crises such as those in the Middle East, new extremists will continue to be created," he added.

At a commemoration ceremony at the U.S. State Department in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid tribute to "innocent people stolen from us in a moment of terror."

Rice said the embassy bombings were seen in a new light following al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the bombing of the USS Cole warship off the coast of Yemen in 2000 and other incidents.

"We see them (the embassy bombings) as they were, as the opening of a new twilight struggle between hope and fear, peace and hatred, freedom and tyranny -- a struggle that has now finally fully been joined," said Rice.

Rice is mediating slow-paced peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians and Odinga called for the swift creation of an independent Palestinian state with secure borders for Israel.

Odinga also urged the U.N. Security Council to end violence and suffering that has plagued Kenya's chaotic neighbor Somalia.

"We must do not only because it is our humanitarian duty. A lawless Somalia threatens Kenya's security," he said.
The United States says several al Qaeda operatives suspected of being behind the 1998 bombings have sought refuge in Somalia.

This weekend, police on the Kenyan coast said they narrowly missed catching one of them, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, after he slipped back over the border for medical treatment in Malindi.

Odinga vowed his government would never let down its guard.

"The stark revelations of the last few days have reminded us yet again that we have terrorists in our midst still planning awful deeds," Odinga said in his speech.

Dudley Simms, a U.S. diplomat who survived the embassy bombing in Tanzania, said in Washington that those responsible for such attacks would be caught and brought to justice.

"We are better off than those evil-doers who have to look over their shoulders, cover their backs and hide in their holes, day and night," he told fellow diplomats. "They are the ones who are running and we will catch them all," he said to applause.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming in Washington; Editing by Xavier Briand)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:
© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 7, 2008
US News & World Report

A Grim 10-Year Anniversary of the U.S. Embassy Bombings in Africa

With the attacks, al Qaeda emerged as the pre-eminent terrorist threat to the United States
Kevin Whitelaw
Posted August 7, 2008

It was 10 years ago today that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network scored its first direct hit against the United States with the bombing of two U.S. Embassies in Africa.

Twin explosions in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, at 10:40 a.m. on Aug. 7, 1998, left more than 220 people dead and some 5,000 injured. As in many subsequent al Qaeda attacks, the bulk of the dead were locals, who just happened to pass by the U.S. Embassy at the wrong time. Twelve Americans were killed in the Nairobi blast.

The attack was notable not only for its brutality but also for al Qaeda's meticulous planning and its ability to pull off the difficult feat of staging nearly simultaneous bombings in two separate countries.

U.S. News chronicled the FBI's exhaustive investigation into the deadly attack, a probe that lost precious hours early on because of mechanical problems with the FBI's plane but eventually involved some 375 agents and crime experts. Many of the operatives were later rounded up and put on trial.

In the wake of the Africa bombings, President Clinton fired more than 70 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Afghanistan to target a suspected al Qaeda training camp. He missed bin Laden, but an unknown number of al Qaeda followers were killed. He also sent six Tomahawks to destroy what U.S. officials insisted at the time was a chemical weapons plant in Sudan. It later appeared to be a more innocent pharmaceutical factory.

The bombings heralded the emergence of al Qaeda as a serious international threat capable of projecting violence across the globe. Two years later, al Qaeda operatives blasted a hole in the side of a U.S. Navy ship docked in a Yemeni port, killing 17 sailors. And bin Laden struck America directly on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tags: Africa terrorism al Qaeda

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