I was watching a programme on the government broadcast television station, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), when I felt the tremor. The rest of my family members also thought it was an earthquake. This was the notion among many Nairobi residents who didn't experience or witness firsthand, the terroristic bombing.
Several minutes after the blast, the programme I was watching was put on hold as 'Breaking News' flashed on the screen. It's apparent a terrorist group was behind the bombing attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. The target were Americans, and American interests.
On August 7, 1998, between 10.30 a.m. to 10.40 a.m., two suicide bombers drove their bomb-laden trucks in front of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The impact of the twin explosions resulted in more than 200 people dead, and more than 4,000 people injured. Among the dead were 12 Americans working in the Nairobi embassy.
The Nairobi embassy, the first to be attacked, was affected immensely than its neighbouring embassy. According to U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a 200 pound (91kg) of TNT loaded in a pickup truck was detonated at the rear gate of the Nairobi embassy.
Minutes before the explosion, the truck containing the explosives was driven to the main entrance of the embassy but was denied passage by the security guards manning it. Instead, it was directed to pass through the rear side that serves as a delivery entrance.
The security guards manning the rear entry denied the occupants (2) in the truck entrance into the building. The terrorists engaged the security force consisting of Kenyan security guards and U.S. Marines in a gun fight. One of the terrorists threw a handgrenade at them, killing some of the Kenyan guards; and fleeing the scene.
The truck driver detonated the explosives outside the entrance after their intention to enter was hampered. The impact of the bombs reverberated in the larger part of the capital city. The embassy was decimated, and a nearby four-story commercial building, Ufundi Cooperative Building was leveled down. Most of those killed in the explosion were students and staff of a secretarial college located in the building that was flattened.
A public bus including personal vehicles were set ablaze by the blast, incinerating the passengers in their seats. Scores of people were blinded or maimed by flying glass from shattered windows. The locals were first to respond in the rescue mission of saving those burried by the collapsed building and the injured. Later, specialized assistance from Kenya and abroad arrived which included iding the the mutilated dead bodies.
About nine minutes later, in the then neighbouring capital city of Tanzania, Dar-es-Salaam, the second suicide bomber detonated the highly explosive bomb. The deaths and injuries from the second blast were fewer - 11 killed, and 85 injured. The entrance to the embassy was destroyed, and a part of the wall was blown off. A German and French embassy that were near the American embassy were damaged by the explosion, but no one was injured.
The attacks on the two embassies were directly linked to al-Qaeda, and its financier, Osama bin Laden. According to U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the deaths and destruction of the buildings.
According to Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), 20 people were incriminated in connection with the bombings. "Several of these individuals - including Usama bin Laden - have been killed. Six are serving life sentences in U.S. prison, and a few others are awaiting trial," it states.
In relation to the investigations involving the bombings referred to as KENBOM and TANBOM, FBI remarks the deployment of FBI agents and employees was the largest in the Bureau history. "In the aftermath of the attacks, over 900 FBI agents alone - and many more FBI employees - traveled overseas to assist in the recovery of evidence and the identification of victims at the bomb sites and to track down the perpetrators," it states.
The FBI notes the investigation to the bombings is still ongoing, and three fugitives are still wanted for their roles in the attacks.
On August 20, 1998, in retaliation to the bombing attacks in the two embassies, the U.S. launched cruise missiles aimed at Osama bin Laden's six training camps in Afghanistan. The military strikes resulted in the death of 24 people. Osama bin Laden wasn't present at the camps during the ambush.
Other cruise missiles were targeted at a pharmaceutical company in Khartoum, Sudan - El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries. The U.S. believed the pharmaceutical company was closely linked to bin Laden in producing and distributing chemical weapons.
A memorial park was erected in the former Nairobi embassy, a reminder of the deadliest terrorist attack on Kenyan soil.
© 2020 Alianess Benny Njuguna