First Person: An Embassy Bombing – Dar Es Salaam, August 7, 1998

Posted:12:41 am ET

The following is an excerpt from a first person account of the 1998 bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania by FSO Dante Paradiso. He is a career Foreign Service Officer, a lawyer, and the author of the forthcoming book “The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy,” Beaufort Books (New York) available in October 2016.   Prior to joining the Foreign Service he served in the Peace Corps and was an intern at the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam in 1998.  Since joining the FS in 2002, he has served  in Monrovia, Beijing, Addis Ababa, Jalalabad, Libreville and Washington, D.C.

The piece is excerpted from the Small Wars Journal and includes the  standard disclaimer that “the views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.”  He is on Twitter at @paradisoDX.

The wall and guard booth are gone—just rubble and rusted ribs of rebar.  The motor pool fleet is crushed, pancaked, the frames of the cars and vans fused and welded together.  The chassis and tank of a blue water truck lie upside down and crumpled against the base of the chancery like a scarab beetle pinned on its back.  The community liaison office at the corner of the building is a black, smoldering cavern.  The other wing stands disfigured.  The sun louvers are cracked.  Above the cafeteria, blood is splattered across the wall like abstract art, rust-colored in the light.  The Economic Officer tells me, “Don’t enter through the side.”

“Why?”

“There’s a hand in the stairwell.”

Read in full here.

While you’re reading this, you might also want to check out Vella G. Mbenna’s account of the same bombing.  She served as a ­­­­­Support Communications Officer and recounts her experience during the attack in Dar es Salaam. She was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in 2016. Via ADST:

After leaving the center where I worked and passed the area around the corner where the Front Office was located, I heard a faint phone ringing. I stopped in my tracks, turned around and entered the communication center to find out that it was my phone.

I quickly went to the back of the center to my office to get it. It was Pretoria on the line and I was glad. I sat in my chair and said these words to them, “I am Vella from Dar es Salaam and I was wondering why our system’s staff …..”

Before I finished the sentence, the blast occurred because the wall I was facing came back in my face and slammed me into racks of equipment across the room.

I recall getting up, brushing myself off and proceeding to alert Washington via my equipment that something bad had happened and to close our circuits for now. Then I proceeded to check on colleagues in the communications suite and putting communication and IT stuff in a safe.
[…]
I walked on and opened the door to the Admin building side of the building….What I saw without even entering deep into the building was complete chaos. It was more of what I saw in the Executive Office, but to a greater extentIt was like a meteorite had hit the Embassy. Even worse was that the entire wall and windows facing the road was gone.

I started having a really bad feeling because most of all I saw or heard no one. Why was everyone gone except me? I backed out of the door and back onto the catwalk and started down the stairs.

As I started down the stairs I realized that something bad had happened, something really, really badI thought that maybe that if it wasn’t a meteorite, then a space ship came down and the aliens took up everyone except me.

I wanted to start screaming for help…Then I thought, no one would know exactly what happened to us all. So, I tip-toed down the rest of the stairs.

When I saw more devastation and how I appeared to blocked in, I had to scream. I started screaming for help, first a low scream…and then louder….

After about a minute and a half I heard a familiar voice calling out asking who was there. It was a Marine. I told him it was Vella, the communications officer from the 2nd floor. I wanted to be as clear as possible, even though I knew the voice. Once I told him exactly where I was, he told me to try to climb over the rubble and look for his hands. I told him I was going to throw up the INMARSAT first and I did.

Read in full here via ADST.

In related news — in Kenya, where over 200 hundred people were killed and more than 4,000 were injured in the embassy blast, victims are now reportedly accusing the Kenyan and US governments of neglecting them.

On July 25, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. See  U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings.

To-date, no one has been compensated and the victims are now seeking compensation through the International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

#

Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm

Posted: 3:25 am ET

Via State/DS:

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to the attack checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to Bamako’s Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Mali checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

 

U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel

Posted: 3:39 am ET

On July 10, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Bangladesh and announced the voluntary evacuation of family members of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully whether you need to travel to Bangladesh, in light of the latest attack in a series of extremist events.  Effective July 10, 2016, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka.  The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka remains open and will provide all routine consular services.  The U.S. government assesses that the terrorist threat is real and credible.

bg-map

On July 1, 2016, attackers killed more than 20 people in a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, including one U.S. citizen.  Other attacks continue to be carried out against religious minorities, bloggers, publishers, and security forces throughout the country.  Daesh (also referred to as ISIL, or ISIS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have publicly claimed credit for various attacks since September 2015.

U.S. citizens should take stringent security measures, remain vigilant, and be alert to local security developments.  Be aware that U.S. government officials and their families currently are not permitted to:

  • visit public establishments or places in Bangladesh
  • travel on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, or other uncovered means on public thoroughfares and sidewalks in Bangladesh
  • attend large gatherings in Bangladesh

Read the full announcement here.

 

Related posts:

 

#

Suicide Bomber Detonates Self Near the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah

Posted: 3:01 am ET
Updated: 9:37 am PT
Updated: 4:09 pm PT

A suicide bomber apparently blew himself up near the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The bomber killed himself, and injured two security guards but it does not look like there are other casualties at this time.  BBC reported that the security personnel became suspicious of a man in the car park of the Dr. Suleiman Faqeeh hospital around 02:15 (23:15 GMT Sunday), interior ministry spokesman Maj-Gen Mansour al-Turki said in a statement.  The hospital is opposite the US consulate. As the guards approached the man, “he blew himself up with a suicide belt inside the hospital parking,” the statement said.  @OSACState told us that explosion was approximately 20 meters from the Consulate wall.

The American Mission in Saudi Arabia consists of the embassy in Riyadh and the consulates in Dhahran and Jeddah. The Mission to Saudi Arabia started as a legation in Jeddah in 1942. Full diplomatic relations were established in 1949 and the U.S Mission, located in a traditional house in the old city center, became an Embassy. According to the consulate’s website, the Embassy moved in 1952 to the current Consulate General location, which “at the time was an isolated, beach-front property far to the north of the city limits.” The Embassy was moved to Riyadh in 1984 along with all other foreign missions in the country.  The former Embassy compound in Jeddah is now the Consulate General.

Post provides quite a sad example of just how slow the bureaucracy moves despite plenty of promises/recommendations following a terrorist attack.

On December 6, 2004 (video), a terrorist attack on Consulate Jeddah killed four locally employed staff members and injured nine others working outside the consulate building. An Accountability Review Board (ARB) had apparently determined that the consulate employees were killed or injured because the general services annex building did not have a safe area to which the employees could retreat. The Department concurred with the ARB recommendation to construct safe areas throughout compounds at posts worldwide.

In September 2013, State/OIG made two recommendations to the State Department during its Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability:

OIG recommended that the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) provide compound emergency sanctuaries for employees who work in the buildings that do not have an approved safe haven or safe area.

OIG recommended that OBO request an increase in funding for the Compound Security Upgrade Program to reflect this additional require- ment for compound emergency sanctuaries.

A compound emergency sanctuary is a protected building or room, within or adjacent to an on-compound, unprotected functional area, that is used as a temporary shelter during an attack or other crisis for personnel unable to reach or find accommodations in a safe haven, safe area, or 15-minute FEfBR- protected building. It provides 15-minute FEfBR protection for walls, windows, and doors, emergency power, ventilation, telephone, connectivity to the emergency notification system, and where feasible and reasonable, an emergency escape. (12 FAH-5 H-040, Glossary).

The two 2013 recommendations are listed as “Significant Resolved Office of Evaluations and Special Projects Recommendations Pending Final Department of State Action for More Than 12 Months” in State/OIG’s latest report to the Congress.  “Resolved” means an  agreement on the recommendation and proposed corrective action (remains open) but implementation has not been completed.

The  Jeddah terrorist attack occurred in 2004, the State/OIG recommendations were issued in 2013 and in the 2016 OIG report to Congress (PDF), we’re still seeing this as unfinished business? If there’s an excellent reason for this, we’d like to hear about it. Other previous posts:

 

Here are some news clips from this latest attack:

Updated 4;09 pm PT

#

 

Suicide Attack at Istanbul Airport Kills 36, Wounds Many More

Posted: 2:04 am ET

The State Department has created a Crisis in Istanbul page to provide updates to American citizens for the terrorist attack at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. Excerpt below:

Turkish media is reporting that possibly two or more explosive devices detonated at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at approximately 10:15pm local time June 28, 2016. Police and anti-terror teams are currently at the scene and there is no official announcement on the reason of the explosion(s) or the exact number of wounded.  Entrance to and exit ‎from the Airport have been prohibited.  Flights have been suspended.  All direct flights from Istanbul to the United States had departed prior to the attack at the airport.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the area around the airport and to avoid any police action that may be taking place throughout the city.  Please check local media for the latest updates.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens in Turkey to directly contact concerned family members in the United States to advise them of your safety.

Earlier —

 

#

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#OrlandoSolidarity: Flowers, Vigils, Condolences From Around the World

Posted: 1:46 am ET

 

The deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 occurred on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting which happened inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, is also the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history to date. The casualties include 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The perpetrator, born and raised in New York to Afghan parents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980’s was killed in a shootout with the police . Below are some expressions of solidarity with Orlando, and the United States from around the world.

US Embassy Paris, France

US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

US Embassy Moscow, Russia

US Embassy London, United Kingdom

US Embassy Warsaw, Poland

US Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Vilnius, Lithuania

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

US Embassy Madrid, Spain

Islamabad, Pakistan

US Embassy New Delhi, India

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

Meanwhile —

In Moscow, two men who left flowers at the US Embassy in Moscow in memory of the Orlando victims were reportedly detained.

And in Jamaica–

Back in DC —

 

#

#DefeatingDaesh News Front: Social Media as “Transformational” Tool, Covert Propaganda

Posted: 12:04  am ET

 

Meanwhile, across the pond —

#

Suicide Attack in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Kills 70, Injures 250 in Pakistan

Posted: 1:08 am ET

 

USCG Lahore released a emergency message on March 27 informing U.S. citizens that a suicide bomber killed at least 60 people outside of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore’s Iqbal Town neighborhood in the evening hours of Sunday. It urged U.S. citizens to avoid this area and if aware of any U.S. citizens injured in this attack, to please call the American Embassy in Islamabad at 051 201 4000. Media reports say at least 70 people have now been confirmed dead and about 250 people have been wounded.

 

 

#

 

 

@StateDept’s Comment on American Casualties During #BrusselsAttacks

Posted: 4:29 pm EDT

 

Meanwhile in Belgium, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels issued a message that says the security situation remains at level 4. It urge individuals to exercise caution and to avoid large gatherings. “A period of mourning is underway and will end on Thursday. Many public events have been cancelled. Public transportation has been disrupted. Zaventem airport remains closed.”

 

#

@StateDept Issues Europe-Wide Travel Alert; Still UNK Number of American Casualties Following #BrusselsAttacks

Posted: 1:36 am EDT

 

On March 22, the State Department issued a Europe-wide travel alert for “potential risks to travel to and throughout Europe” following the multiple attacks in Brussels:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to potential risks of travel to and throughout Europe following several terrorist attacks, including the March 22 attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIL.  Terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation.  This Travel Alert expires on June 20, 2016.

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events.

U.S. citizens should also: :

  • Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency.
  • Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
  • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
  • Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

European governments continue to guard against terrorist attacks and conduct raids to disrupt plots. We work closely with our allies and will continue to share information with our European partners that will help identify and counter terrorist threats.

The State Department spokesperson has been unable to give a report on American casualties following the Brussels attacks and said in part:

Our embassy in Brussels continues to make every effort to account for the welfare of U.S. citizens in the city, including all government personnel. That work is ongoing. We know that a number of U.S. citizens were injured in the attacks, but we do not have an accurate figure right now. We do not know of any U.S. deaths at this point. I would note that it is still early on and that the situation is, understandably, still fluid and still uncertain. When we have more information that we can speak to, we will.

Pressed for preliminary numbers during the Daily Press Briefing, Mr. Kirby refused to give a specific number, or confirmed that members of the Mormon Church were injured in the attack. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has already publicly acknowledged that four of its missionaries were injured in the airport attack. Mr. Kirby was also asked if the State Department has been able to account for all chief-of-mission personnel, U.S. personnel to international organizations in the city.  Mr. Kirby replied that “the work of accounting for U.S. citizens in the city, including government personnel, is ongoing. So as far as I know, that effort has not been completed.” 

Is this the first time that the AP’s Matt Lee has actually walked out of the Daily Press Briefing in frustration?

Video below via YouTube/FreeBeacon:

 

#