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East African Embassies Bombing Essay

Executive Summary

On August 8, 1998, The New York Times reported the incident happened late Friday morning targeting two embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing approx. eighty people including eight Americans. In Nairobi, a huge blast ripped through Haile Selassie Avenue at about 10:35 a.m., turning the busy downtown into the sight of destruction and carnage that left nearly sixteen hundred people wounded and many still missing after nightfall. The explosion not only leveled three-story secretarial school building and half of the next door U.S. embassy but also incinerated people passing on foot and sitting in three nearby buses. Only moments ago, a bomb embedded in a gasoline truck blast near the front door of the U.S. embassy situated in Tanzania. The strike destroyed front side of the embassy and killed seven people, no American. This was the initial reporting of the incident on the following day, however, the number of casualties are much higher than claimed (Jr., 2018).

According to the FBI, on August 7, 1988, Al Qaeda, an Islamic militant group including several individuals such as Usama Bin Laden, Abdullah Ahmed, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Saif Al-Adel carry out a deadly attack in front of American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam. The killing was disastrous. A massive 2,000-pound truck bomb struck the embassies and killed two hundred and twenty-four people, counting twelve Americans. More than four thousand people were injured in the attack. After the incident, over nine hundred FBI agents and employees traveled to the affected countries and begun the investigation. Numerous main suspects of the East Africa bombing have been killed together with Usama Bin Laden, few waiting for trial and six offenders are serving life sentences in U.S prison. The case is still not close as Abdullah Ahmed, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Saif Al-Adel are fugitive and wanted by FBI for their alleged role in the bombing (“East African Embassy Bombings”, 2018).

This attack not only shook western security services but also impressed Islamist militant movement. It also strengthens Usama bin Laden, considered the leader of al-Qaida, and has taken more seriously by security services and Islamist militant groups. Before this, Usama was taken as a Saudi born rich young lad who had never experienced cells, safe houses and first-hand day-to-day combat in streets. But African bombing made a lot of people to take him seriously. It was al-Qaeda’s primary main terrorist attack internationally and a turning point for the group in the history of terrorism. These incidents showed how tough and bold al-Qaeda had become in its conflict with the American nation. The group pulled off spectacular, well-calculated, mass casualty attacks on two embassies. Bin Laden was anti-west after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. He helped anti-Soviet battles as a financier by collecting funds from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. In 1989, the invasion ended in Afghanistan and bin Laden returned Saudi Arabia after traveling to the front lines of the wars. He strictly condemns welcoming hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops during Persian Gulf War in Saudi Arabia (Alexander & Swetnam, 2001). The embassies bombing incident happened on the 8th anniversary of the placement of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and widely believed a revenge for American contribution in the arrest and torture of four individuals of EIJ (Egyptian Islamic Jihad), arrested in Albania for murders in Egypt.

As the reaction, the American government launched cruise missiles. Clinton administration opens these attacks on poorly selected targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. These attacks made Taliban, Who had been firstly cautious of the extremist Arabs existing in the land they had just occupied, more convinced of Usama bin Laden’s global agenda of attacking American citizens wherever they could be found. This development led to more lethal terrorist attacks. The Yemen strikes by guided-missiles which destroyed USS Cole off in 2000, allowed Usama bin Laden to entitle control of the broke militant association. His group became a benchmark for other Islamic world military groups who need guidance with attacks of their own. This placed the foundation for the networking and affiliations between extremist and are still so significant today. The American Embassies attacks in East Africa also promoted the new beginning of a conflict with no regional boundaries (Shinn, 2004).

After fourteen years, on Jan 22, 2015, the third hearing in that occurrence began in Manhattan. A federal prosecutor, Nicholas J. Lewin, portrayed the defendant, Khaled al-Fawwaz as a trusted and loyal operative of al-Qaeda and had run training base camp in Afghanistan, also led a terror cell in Kenya, Nairobi, broadcasting al-Qaeda messages worldwide. According to CNN fact sheet, twenty people were convicted of the U.S. bombing, eight are currently serving prison. Few are dead including bin Laden, who has been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan (Beard, 2001).


To minimize the damage in case of such horrible attacks, the employees must be prepared and trained to handle the immediate situations. In Kenyan attack, employees went to the windows to see what is happening when they heard the gunshots and were shot dead or severely injured. Another major factor is the distance of the embassy from other buildings and road. When Kenyan attack took place, the majority of the casualties happened because of the collapse and broken glass from nearby buildings as the embassy was located at the two busiest streets in the Nairobi. Embassy buildings should have enough space from the street and other buildings. Outside fences and bars can help prevent the attackers to get close to the actual building and carry out the attack. Intelligence authorities did not warn embassies in East Africa before the attacks despite the several alleged threats received by intelligence authorities against U.S. diplomats. There should be a prior warning given to the embassies by the authorities to be prepared for any emergency situation (Kagwanja, 2006).


East African Embassy Bombings. (2018). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from


Alexander, Y., & Swetnam, M. S. (2001). Usama bin Laden’s al-Qaida: Profile of a Terrorist Network (Vol. 117). Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publishers.

Shinn, D. (2004). Fighting terrorism in East Africa and the Horn. Foreign Service Journal81(9), 40.

Beard, J. M. (2001). America’s New War on Terror: The Case for Self-Defense under International Law. Harv. JL & Pub. Pol’y25, 559.

Kagwanja, P. (2006). Counter-terrorism in the Horn of Africa: New security frontiers, old strategies. African Security Studies15(3), 72-86.



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