August 7 marks the 10th anniversary of near-simultaneous bombings at
the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. They killed more than 200 people. Analysts say the attacks marked the first time the U.S.
government recognized al-Qaida as a serious threat. The attacks also
showed that African civilians were vulnerable to international
terrorism. Some victims of the bombings believe the United States needs
to do more to compensate them for their losses. Leta Hong Fincher has
Car bombs exploded outside the U.S. embassies in
Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the morning of August 7,
1998. The attacks killed more than 200 people and injured around 5,000,
mostly African civilians.
Among those killed at the Nairobi
embassy was U.S. foreign service officer Prabhi Kavaler. Her husband,
Howard, survived the attack and describes searching for his wife
through the wreckage.
"I headed out for that part of the
embassy, and I just couldn't find her. It was pretty awful. I came
over, I discovered a number of bodies, people were killed, I heard
people [who] were severely injured, and I could just never find, I
couldn't find my wife's body. And then I went back out again, and she
wasn't there. At that point I realized what had happened," he said.
had happened was the first major attack by al-Qaida on American targets
and the worst international terrorist incident on African soil.
Afterwards, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation placed al-Qaida
leader Osama bin Laden on its list of most wanted fugitives.
a lot of ways it was al-Qaida's coming out party. Here, they were able
to carry out devastating, near-simultaneous attacks on two U.S.
embassies in Africa. And that represented just a huge improvement in
their capabilities," said William Rosenau is with the RAND Corporation
research group in Washington.
Mark Bellamy, U.S. ambassador to
Kenya from 2003 to 2006, says the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were
struck because they were vulnerable targets. But he says many Kenyans
believe they were attacked because of their country's close ties to the
United States. And some view the compensation as inadequate.
of them felt that more needed to be done by the United States. In the
Kenyan case, we spent, I think, about upwards of $42 million
over several years to provide medical care and rehabilitative care to
the victims, to the survivors, and to their families, to rebuild
businesses, to help reestablish livelihoods," he said.
the American victims of the 1998 bombings believe the U.S. government
has forgotten about them and focused more on the September 11, 2001
"Whenever the president and Secretary Rice refer to
al-Qaida and terrorism, they never seem to refer to what happened on
8/7/98, it's always 9/11/2001 and I think in so doing, they're not
being historically honest," said Kavaler.
After his wife's
death, Kavaler raised their two daughters alone in a Virginia suburb.
He says the only compensation his family received was one year of his
wife's salary and payment for her unused vacation time.
The State Department declined to comment on compensation for the U.S. victims.
says the United States should reassess its compensation for the African
"I think it's fair to say the U.S. government could have done
a lot more to compensate and support the Kenyan and Tanzanian victims
of those attacks. The U.S. did make compensation, I think it was
probably too little. I think we needed to do, and we probably still
need to do more to reach out to support those people who suffered," he
Ten years after the bombings, many of those involved in the attacks are in custody. But others are still at large.