1998 United States embassy bombings

In the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings (August 7, 1998), hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous car bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capital cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The attacks, linked to local members of the al Qaeda terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden, brought bin Laden and al Qaeda to international attention for the first time, and resulted in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation placing bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted list.

Along with the Mohamed Elhajouji 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the 2000 attack on the "USS Cole" in Yemen, the Embassy Bombing is one of the major anti-American terrorist attacks that preceded the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Attacks and casualties

Car bombs in vehicles adjacent to the embassies were detonated almost simultaneously before 10:45 am local time (3:45 am Washington time). [cite web | url=http://usinfo.state.gov/is/international_security/terrorism/embassy_bombings.html | title=U.S. Embassy Bombings | publisher=U.S. Department of State website | accessdate=2007-08-04] In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed, and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.cite web | url=http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/embassy_bombing/map.html | title=Online NewsHour - African Embassy Bombings | publisher=PBS.org | accessdate=2007-08-04]

In May 1998 a villa in Nairobi was purchased by one of the bombers for the purpose of accommodating bomb building in the garage. A beige coloured Toyota Dyna Cargo truck was then purchased as the bomb vehicle. In June 1998, KK Mohamed rented House 213 in the Illala district of Dar es Salaam, about four miles from the U.S. Embassy. A white Suzuki Samurai was used to haul bomb components hidden in rice sacks, from House 213. A 1987 Nissan Atlas refrigeration truck was then purchased as the bomb delivery vehicle. KK Mohamed employed a welder to build a seat for batteries and install six metal bars in the bed of the truck, to better accommodate the bomb.

In both Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Mohammed Odeh supervised construction of two massive, 2,000-pound destructive devices made of 400 to 500 cylinders of TNT (about the size of soda cans),aluminum nitrate, aluminum powder and detonating cord. The explosives were packed into some twenty specially designed wooden crates that were sealed and then placed in the bed of the trucks. Abdel Rahman ran a wire from the bomb to a set of batteries in the back of the truck cab and then to a detonator switch beneath the dashboard. The Dar es Salaam bomb used a slightly different construction: the TNT was attached to fifteen oxygen tanks and gas canisters, and was surrounded with four bags of fertilizer and some sand bags. [http://books.google.ca/books?id=VkAdEJZou64C&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66&dq=500+cylinders+of+TNT+(about+the+size+of+soda+cans)&source=web&ots=yKfSME9Lbc&sig=thDQJDrEXYosUBC7ovKXbXQOhMk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result]

Motivation

According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the Nairobi operation was named after the Holy Kaaba in Mecca; the Dar es Salaam bombing was called Operation al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, but "neither had an obvious connection to the American embassies in Africa. Bin Laden initially said that the sites had been targeted because of the "invasion" of Somalia; then he described an American plan to partition Sudan, which he said was hatched in the embassy in Nairobi. He also told his followers that the genocide in Rwanda had been planned inside the two American embassies."

Wright concludes that none of these claims made sense, and that bin Laden's actual goal was "to lure the United States into Afghanistan, which was already being called 'The Graveyard of Empires.'" [Wright, Lawrence, "Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," by Lawrence Wright, NY, Knopf, 2006, p.272] According to a 1998 memo authored by Mohammed Atef and seized by the FBI, around the time of the attacks, al-Qaeda had both an interest in and specific knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the American-led gas pipeline consortium CentGas. [cite web| first = Jean-Charles| last = Brisard| title = Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations with Taliban over oil pipeline| publisher = Salon.com| date = 2002-06-05 | url = http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2002/06/05/memo/| accessdate = 2008-05-09 ] The bombings also happened at an symbolic date: "August 7th, 1998, was the eighth anniversary of the arrival of American troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990", an issue of Osama bin Laden's greatest concern (Rohan Gunaratna 2002: Inside Al Qaeda, page 46).

Aftermath and international response

In response to the bombings, U.S. President Bill Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise missile strikes on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan on August 20 1998, announcing the planned strike in a primetime address on American television.

In Sudan, the missiles destroyed the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant, where 50% of Sudan's medications for both people and animals were manufactured. The Clinton Administration claimed that there was ample evidence to prove that the plant produced chemical weapons, but a thorough investigation after the missile strikes revealed that the intelligence was unreliable [Barletta, Michael. “Chemical Weapons in the Sudan: Allegations and Evidence.” Nonproliferation Review. Monterey Institute of International Studies 6:1 (1998): 5-48. .] .

Investigations into the embassy bombings were conducted by the FBI and Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities. A list of suspects was drawn up and several men were charged for their involvement in the bombings.

The embassies were heavily damaged, and one had to be rebuilt.

In Afghanistan, then under the control of the Taliban, a court declared on November 20, 1998 that Osama bin Laden was "a man without a sin" in regard to the bombing.Fact|date=December 2007 A few months after the attacks and subsequent American missile strikes in Afghanistan, the American energy company Unocal withdrew its plans for a gas pipeline through Afghanistan. [cite web| title = Business Digest | publisher = New York Times| date = 1998-12-05| url = hhttp://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E3DD1E3BF936A35751C1A96E958260&sec=&spon=&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink| accessdate = 2008-05-09 ]

The indictment

The current indictment [http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/reports/pdfs/binladen/indict.pdf Copy of indictment] USA v. Usama bin Laden et al., Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies] charges the following twenty-one people for various alleged roles in this crime.

Latest Developments

On June 1, 2007, the USS "Chafee" fired its deck guns at suspected hideouts of an Al-Qaeda suspect by the name of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah who is one of the listed as responsible for the bombings, in the Puntland region of Somalia. It has not been reported if the shelling was successful or not. [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18989827/ From MSNBC.com] ]

ee also

* National Geographic "Seconds From Disaster" episodes

References

External links

* [http://www.rewardsforjustice.net Rewards for Justice - Most Wanted Terrorists]
* [http://usinfo.state.gov/is/international_security/terrorism/embassy_bombings.html US State Department website about attacks]
* [http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/binladen/usbinldn101801.pdf Transcripts of Sentencing Phase of Embassy Bombers Trial]
* [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/embassy_bombing/ Primer on the attacks]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBmCtdmgX5c Documentary of the Plan]


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