Update/Series of Reports; Bombings of Two U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa -10 Aug 98
Excerpted from: ERRI DAILY INTELLIGENCE REPORT-ERRI Risk Assessment Services-Monday, August 10, 1998 – Vol. 4 – 222
ERRI MORNING NEWS SUMMARY
DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA (EmergencyNet News) – U.S. pathologists are to start post-mortems Monday on the bodies of the ten people killed in Friday’s bombing at the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. U.S. investigators visited the morgue at the Muhimbili Medical Center for the first time on Sunday as they began the search for clues to the identity of the bombers. Officials say a security camera on top of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania may have recorded the sequence of events leading to the blast. A team of FBI agents, Marines and other counter-terrorism experts arrived in Dar es Salaam on Sunday. More are due in the city today to join the investigation.
NAIROBI (EmergencyNet News) – Investigators looking into the deadly bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies will be following some leads into Friday’s twin explosions but warned that it could take some time to identify the culprits. Recuers said that a Kenyan woman whom Israeli experts have been trying to free from the bombed rubble of a Nairobi office block for more than three days could still be alive. In Washington, national security officials warned the probe could be a long one but said the United States would not rest until the attackers were brought to justice. A previously unknown Islamic group on Sunday claimed responsibility for the twin bombings and vowed more attacks to drive American and Western troops from Muslim countries.
WASHINGTON (EmergencyNet News) – The vehicle that apparently contained a bomb that exploded Friday at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, first tried to pass through the main entrance. But The Washington Post reports guards refused to let the vehicle pass. Quoting a U.S. Embassy official it does not name, the newspaper says guards directed the vehicle to the rear of the building. The report says at the embassy’s rear entrance, at least one hand grenade was used to kill guards at a security gate. After the grenade attack, the main bomb exploded. The death toll from that bombing and a simultaneous explosion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is above 200. Twelve Americans were among those killed.
WHY DID THE EMBASSY BOMBERS PICK TARGETS IN AFRICA?
By Steve Macko, ERRI Risk Analyst
Many counterterrorism experts say that the bombers who attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Friday took advantage of what appeared to be an African blind spot in a global anti-terrorism watch mounted by the United States.
International terrorism expert Paul Wilkinson of St Andrew’s University in Scotland said, “These were clearly unexpected attacks for the American authorities. I do suspect a Middle Eastern connection because in the past major attacks against United States facilities and personnel abroad have very often been carried out by those groups and by state sponsors linked to those groups.”
But other experts and U.S. officials say that that in the absence of any credible claim of responsibility for the bombings, it is too early to point a finger at any one group.
Internal strife has been the main concern of U.S. State Department Travel Advisories and Public Announcements on Africa issued in the last year. Muggings and carjackings, not bombings, has been the watchword.
For example, a check of the U.S. Consular Information Sheet on Kenya warns: “During periods when police are occupied with civil unrest related to political tensions, there may be an increase in street crime and banditry.”
On Tanzania, the State Department Consular sheet warns of thieves on buses and trains may steal valuables from inattentive riders.
There’s no mention of the possibility of transnational terrorism. And there shouldn’t be because neither country has any past history of international terrorists striking there. Experts on global terrorism said the bombings were really like a bolt out of the blue in a region in which such attacks are rare. If anything, Friday’s bombings should serve as a reminder that terrorism can strike anywhere, at anytime.
One London-based analyst explained, “There has been a lot of violence, civil war and insurgencies but very little international terrorism in Africa. There certainly was no apparent reason for being concerned about Africa in general or these countries in particular.”
Wilkinson pointed to a possible regional connection in the attacks. He said, “Clearly a lot of planning went into them and I suspect that the groups concerned would have been linked to a state sponsor perhaps utilizing the safe haven they have in Sudan.”
A U.S. State Department Public Announcement issued on 12 June spoke of a possible threat against Americans in the Persian Gulf region. It said it was making the warning after exiled Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden, in a 26 May news conference, “implied that some type of terrorist action could be mounted within the next several weeks. The U.S. continues to receive information from other sources which indicates planning for an attack against Americans in the Persian Gulf. We take these threats seriously and the U.S. is increasing security at many U.S. governmental facilities in the Middle East and South Asia.”
Counterterrorism experts said the coordination and sophistication inherent in Friday’s bombings suggested it was the work of an extremist organization with an international reach.
One expert asked, “The biggest question is it something Islamic or other terrorists using Africa as a staging ground? Or is it some type of reaction to U.S. policy in Africa?”
Wilkinson said the bombings meant the United States would have to look more closely at its security procedures in places where it had felt relatively safe before. He said, “I think what it shows is that the American authorities and security personnel and families and all those who are potential targets must be vigilant wherever they are based. Any country could be an arena for this type of ghastly attack.”
LATEST SITREP ON U.S. EMBASSY BOMBINGS IN AFRICA
From the ERRI Watch Center
NAIROBI (EmergencyNet News) – Investigators on Monday were focusing on finding some answers at a crime scene guarded by armed U.S. Marines and hidden from public view by black fabric. The nearly simultaneous blasts at the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the were said to be sophisticated attacks and suspicion has turned to the usual suspects: Islamic terrorists.
The death toll is about the same as was reported on Sunday, at least 200 dead in Nairobi and nearly 5,000 injured; at least ten dead in Dar es Salaam and 74 injured.
Israeli media was reporting on Monday that investigators suspect the bombers used the Czech-manufactured Semtex, which is much more powerful than more traditional explosives such as TNT. The investigators, who were not identified, said use of the plastic explosive, which is favored by the Irish Republican Army, implies a big organization, or even a state, plotted the attack because Semtex is not readily available. But since the downfall of the Soviet bloc, Semtex has been easier to acquire on the international arms market. Experts say the vehicle bomb probably contained as much as 600 pounds of explosives.
In Nairobi, rescue teams were working to clear debris from the badly damaged but still intact ground floor of the Ufundi Cooperative building adjacent to the embassy, hoping to reach buried survivors. There were reports that two women in that area, Rose and Jane, were still alive. A Red Cross spokesman said, “Rose last spoke at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Since then, we’ve heard nothing. … She may be asleep. She may be unconscious. So you live in hope. Jane hasn’t been heard of for much, much longer.”
Using a 150-ton crane, drills and blowtorches, an Israeli team was trying to free the women from the rubble in the collapsed Ufundi Cooperative building. On Sunday, Israeli rescuers found a mother and son in a building near the Nairobi embassy. They were alive and well. But the rescuers also brought out a dead woman.
The United States is a favorite target of militant Islamic fundamentalists, such as the exiled Saudi financier Osama bin Laden, one potential suspect. Another favorite target — Israel — on Sunday offered the help of Mossad and other intelligence agencies to find who was responsible for the bombings. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said early signs were that the attacks were the work of “international terrorism centered on Islamic fundamentalism.”
The Washington Post was reporting on Monday that an unidentified U.S. Embassy official was saying the vehicle apparently containing the bomb first drove to the embassy’s main entrance but was sent by guards to the rear, where the bomb exploded. The Post also reported that at least one hand grenade was used to kill guards at the rear entrance. The main bomb exploded after that attack.
A Nairobi newspaper quoted a man who works for the Kenyan environment ministry as saying he saw two men drive a yellow pickup truck to the back of the embassy and jump out brandishing machine guns. The witness said, “One man ran back into the vehicle as the other sprayed bullets into the American Embassy.”
The Sunday Times of London, meanwhile, quoted Kenyan police superintendent Mike Harries as saying witnesses saw a suicide bomber drive a pickup truck into the car park behind the embassy and sit there quietly until the blast.
A security camera placed on top of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania may have filmed the sequence of events leading up to the blast. Attention would also focus on a blue, water-delivery tanker, possibly carrying the bomb, which drew up to the embassy gates in Dar es Salaam just before the explosion.
A U.S. diplomat said the water tanker was thrown through, or over, the embassy gates by the blast and up against the front wall of the building. Both the driver and his assistant were killed in the explosion. One survivor said late on Sunday that the embassy had its own supply of water and would deliver water from a storage tank inside the compound to embassy residences around the capital.
By the end of Sunday around 100 U.S. personnel from the FBI, the Marines and other counterterrorism experts arrived in the Tanzanian capital. More were due to arrive on Monday.
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