Compensating the Victims of the August 7, 1998 Embassy Bombings Would Set a Precedent? Goddammit, So What?

Fourteen years ago today, between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time (3:30–3:40 am Washington time), suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and almost simultaneously detonated themselves. In Nairobi, approximately 218 people were killed, and an estimated 5,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 (including 7 FSNs) and wounded 72.  Twelve Americans were killed. (see our post R E M E M B E R – August 7, 1998; also Courting Remembrance).

August 1998: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Eleven Tanzanians, including 7 Foreign Service Nationals, died in the blast, and 72 others were wounded. The same day, al-Qaida suicide bombers launched another near-simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 218 and wounded nearly 5,000 others. (Source:Diplomatic Security)

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that the victims of the August 1998 bomb blast at the American embassy in Nairobi are still demanding compensation saying the US government has turned a deaf ear to their suffering.

The victims also claimed that Kenya’s leadership has not shown commitment in ensuring that they lead a normal life fourteen years after the explosion that claimed over 200 lives.

Led by the 1998 bomb blast association chair Ali Mwadame, the victims said they will present a memorandum to parliament and the office of the Prime Minister.

Speaking to KBC on phone on Tuesday, Mwadame said a majority of victims who were maimed during the tragedy have died while others cannot even afford medication.

Back here at home, the families of 12 Americans killed in the attack are still fighting for federal compensation that has been granted to other terrorism victims — a struggle that has left many feeling betrayed and forgotten.

The Baltimore Sun reported back in June that the families have turned to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, for help.

The effort by the families, including two from Maryland, has raised difficult questions about who is entitled to federal support when relatives are killed by an act of terrorism directed at the United States, and how much money is fair. Congress has been unwilling to answer those questions.
[…]
“Because it happened to our embassy, many people don’t think about it as American soil, but that is American property,” said Edith Bartley, a Prince George’s County resident whose father and brother were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. “Those families, that embassy, our nation were targeted in Kenya. It was the same as 9/11.”

Past legislation would have set aside nearly $1 million for each family. Mikulski’s approach is less direct: Rather than specifying an amount of money, the proposal would require the State Department to develop policies for how to compensate survivors when employees are killed at work. Supporters hope the back-door approach will lead to the same result.

The amendment was added to a bill to fund the State Department. That spending legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 29-1 vote May 24.

Families of Foreign Service workers killed in the line of duty receive up to $10,000 in death gratuity and one year’s salary.
[…]
Those who lost kin in the Nairobi bombing say the comparison to the Oklahoma City attack is not analogous; the link to al-Qaida, they say, makes the East Africa bombings more similar to the Sept. 11 attacks. They say the State Department’s current policy unfairly treats Foreign Service workers killed in a car accident, for example, the same as those who died in a major terrorist attack.
[…]
That argument has won bipartisan support among some lawmakers. Language similar to Mikulski’s is being carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Florida Rep. Allen West, who is among the more conservative Republicans in Congress.
[..]
Mikulski said objections by the State Department have stymied past efforts.

This is certainly not the first time that somebody in Congress waded in on this issue.  Roy Blunt, the chief deputy Republican whip in the House in 2001 introduced legislation to make the families of the Americans killed or injured in two American Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 eligible for the federal compensation fund set up for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Since we’re still talking about this, nothing obviously happened to that effort eleven years ago.  At that time, Mr. Blunt in the NYT also said:

”The State Department had been reluctant to approve compensation in any way that involved establishing blame or proving negligence,” he explained. But the new federal fund, he added, is a no-fault fund that does not require any finding of blame.

This is where it does not/not get better. Again. Because who do you think is blocking this effort? More from the Baltimore Sun:

“What we get is not a compassionate response but a lawyer response that if we do this, we’re going to set a precedent,” Mikulski said of her efforts to negotiate with department officials. “But we’re establishing a precedent by not doing anything, even though these people died on American soil, died at their duty stations.”

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Mikulski’s effort or negotiations. Asked about the issue during a House subcommittee hearing last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who was the first lady at the time of the East Africa attacks — was noncommittal.

“I can’t make any promises,” Clinton told Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat. “But I will certainly work with you on that.”

Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot! So what if it sets a precedent, goddammit! They were KIA in the service of their country! Excuse me for sounding mad, I am growwwling 😡

Now — since Secretary Clinton has been trying to win a world record as the most -traveled Secretary of State ever, when does she get time to work with him on that? And now that Representative Jackson Jr., is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for depression and gastrointestinal issues, and she’s sailing out the doors of Foggy Bottom, they obviously will have lots of time to work on this before long.

There is certainly a precedent to this taking care of your people business in the State Department. In May this year, the NYT reported that the Supreme Court rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.  A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department (not/not Iran), previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims.

Yes, yes, go ahead and stop at the vomitorium, there are tons of buckets there.

Domani Spero

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Courting Remembrance

The first moment of the day we court forgetfulness. Even when we are fully awake, a century can Go by in the space of a single heartbeat.

from Courting Forgetfulness Robert Bly The New Yorker, July 21, 2008

Ten years ago today, beginning at approximately 9:30 a.m. local time, FAZUL ABDULLAH MOHAMMED drove a pick-up truck from the villa located at 43 New Runda Estates to the vicinity of the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, while MOHAMED RASHED DAOUD AL-‘OWHALI rode in the Nairobi Bomb Truck driven by “Azzam” (a Saudi national) containing a large bomb to the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. MOHAMED RASHED DAOUD AL-‘OWHALI possessed four stun-grenade type devices, a 9 millimeter Beretta handgun, bullets, and keys to the padlocks on the Nairobi Bomb Truck.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., MOHAMED RASHED DAOUD AL-‘OWHALI got out of the Nairobi Bomb Truck as it approached the rear of the Embassy building and brandished a stun grenade before throwing it in the direction of a security guard and then seeking to flee. At approximately 10:30 a.m., “Azzam” drove the Nairobi Bomb Truck to the rear of the Embassy building and fired a handgun at the windows of the Embassy building.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., “Azzam” detonated the explosive device contained in the Nairobi Bomb Truck at a location near the rear of the Embassy building, demolishing a multi-story secretarial college and severely damaging the United States Embassy building and the Cooperative Bank Building, causing a total of more than 213 deaths, as well as injuries to more than 4,500 people, including citizens of Kenya and the United States.

On or about August 7, 1998, KHALFAN KHAMIS MOHAMED accompanied Ahmed Abdullah also known as “Ahmed the German,” because of his fair hair (Wright, p.307), an Egyptian national (named as a co-conspirator but not as a defendant in USA vs. UBL), in the Dar es Salaam Bomb Truck during a portion of the ride to the United States Embassy. According to Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer Prize writer of The Looming Tower, “the bombings were scheduled at ten thirty on a Friday morning, a time when observant Muslims were supposed to be in the mosque.”

At approximately 10:40 a.m., “Ahmed the German” detonated an explosive device contained, along with oxygen and acetylene tanks and truck batteries, in the Dar es Salaam Bomb Truck in the vicinity of the United States Embassy building located in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, severely damaging the United States Embassy building and causing the deaths of at least 11 persons, including Tanzanian citizens, on the Embassy property, as well as injuries to at least 85 people.

What happened to the 21 individuals indicted in 2001 for their roles in the 1998 twin embassy bombings in East Africa?

2 reportedly killed in Afghanistan

4 serving life without parole since 2001

3 held in the UK since 1998/99

2 held in Gitmo

8 at large (See the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists) one of those still at large escaped a raid in Kenya, as recently as this past weekend

2 welfare and whereabouts unknown (in secret prison, hiding in Iran????)

Below is a list of both American and Foreign Service National employees who were victims of the twin bombings. AFSA maintains a Memorial Plaque (names are online here) at Main State honoring Americans who lost their lives in the line of duty (or under heroic or inspirational circumstances) but there is none honoring our local employees who perished under similar circumstances while serving the United States and the American people overseas.

I would like to see a similar plaque, but given the money troubles spread all around these days, I am not very optimistic this would happen at all. Besides, the plaque may cover an entire wall given how many locals we’ve lost and not just in East Africa.

If you’re interested, the records from the Accountability Review Board convened after the embassy bombings are archived here. I am posting the names of the victims here because the archived records are not terribly user-friendly even to the best search engines. I admit that this is a poor substitute to a real plaque, but I would like to court remembrance for them, even if only online.

Nairobi, Kenya:

U.S. Citizens Killed

Jesse Nathan Aliganga Jr. (Marine Corps)

 Jean Rose Dalizu (Defense)

Molly Huckaby Hardy (State)

 Kenneth Ray Hobson (Army)

Prabhi Guptara Kavaler (State)

Arlene Kirk (Defense)

Mary Louise Martin (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Ann Michelle O’Connor (State)

Sherry Lynn Olds (Air Force)

Uttamlal T. Shah (State)

Nairobi, Kenya:

Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) Killed

(All State FSNs unless noted otherwise)

Chrispin W. Bonyo

Lawrence A. Gitau

Hindu O. Idi

Tony Irungu

Geoffrey Kalio

G. Joel Kamau

Lucy N. Karigi

Francis M. Kibe

Joe Kiongo

Dominic Kithuva

Peter K. Macharia

Francis W. Maina

Cecelia Mamboleo

Lydia M. Mayaka

Francis Mbugua Ndungu

Kimeu N. Nganga

Francis Mbogo Njunge

Vincent Nyoike

Francis Olewe Ochilo

Maurice Okach

Edwin A.O. Omori

Lucy G. Onono

Evans K. Onsongo (Dept. of Agriculture)

Eric Onyango

Sellah Caroline Opati

Rachel M. Pussy (USIS)

Farhat M. Sheikh

Phaedra Vrontamitis

Adams T. Wamai (Dept. of Commerce)

Frederick M. Yafes

Moses Namayi (Dept. of Commerce/Contractor)

Josiah Odero Owuor (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Contractor)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Foreign Service Nationals Killed

Yusuf Shamte Ndange

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Foreign Service Nationals (Contractors) Killed

Abdalla Mohamed

Abbas William Mwila

Bakari Nyumhu

Mtendeje Rajabu

Mohamed Mahundi Ramadani

Doto Lukua Ramadhani

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Foreign Service National Missing

Saidi Rogath

Nairobi, Kenya: U.S. Citizens Injured

Ellen Bomer (warning: graphic photos)

Dan Briehl

Carol Hawley

Clyde Hirn

Gary Lunnquist

Frank Pressley

Carolyn Riley

David Robertson

Lydia Sparks

Gary Spiers

Nairobi, Kenya: Contractors Injured

Pauline Abdallah (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Joshua O’ Kindo (Guard)

Nairobi, Kenya: Foreign Service Nationals Injured

Caroline W. Gichuru

Michael Kiari Ikonye

Moses M. Kinyua (Foreign Agriculture Service)

Livingstone Madahana

Grace N. Marangu

Gideon Maritim

Lydia N. Mbithi (Foreign Agriculture Service)

Margaret Ndungu

Josiah O. Obat (Voice of America)

Tobias O. Otieno (Foreign Commercial Service)

Mary Ofisi

Jael Adhiambo Oyoo

Josephat K. Wachira (Library of Congress)

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: U.S. Citizens Injured

Cynthia Kimble

Elizabeth Slater

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:Foreign Service Nationals Injured

Eddieson Kepesa

Henry Kessy

Evitta Kwimbere

Nafisa Malik

Hosiana Mmbaga