1998 U.S. embassy bombingsOn August 7, 1998, the United States embassies in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya were severely damaged in nearly simultaneous truck bomb attacks. The bombings killed 213 people in Nairobi and a dozen in Dar es Salaam. An estimated 4000 were injured in the Kenyan capital and 85 in Dar es Salaam.
The attacks were linked to the al Qaeda terrorist group, headed by Osama bin Laden. While the attacks were aimed at Americans, the vast majority of the victims were Africans: twelve Americans (in Nairobi) and 32 Kenyan and eight Tanzanian Embassy employees were killed. The remainder of the dead were visitors, passers-by or people in neighbouring buildings: the Nairobi embassy lay in a busy downtown location, although that in Dar es Salaam was remoter from the city centre.
In response to these bombings, on August 20 1998, U.S. President Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The Sudan missile strikes targeted the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which was accused of producing materials for chemical weapons. Despite the Sudanese government's earlier hospitality to bin Laden, the al-Shifa factory is widely thought to have been unconnected with weapons-related activity: it was, however, Sudan's principal source of anti-malaria drugs, and its destruction is alleged to have caused thousands of otherwise preventible deaths during the malaria epidemic which hit the country in 1999. Damage to al-Qaeda's infrastructure in Afghanistan is thought to have been minor. The strikes were derided by many as an attempt by the President to deflect attention from an ongoing domestic scandal.
Investigations into the embassy bombings were conducted by the FBI and Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities. A list of suspects was drawn up and several men were charged with complicity in the bombings.
- Osama bin Laden: indicted on November 4, 1998 for his role in ordering the attacks.
- Muhammad Atef: indicted on November 4, 1998 for his role in orchestrating the attacks. He was later reported killed by U.S. bombs during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
- Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, Mohammed Odeh, Wadih el Hage, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed: convicted in New York City for the Nairobi bombing, and sentenced in June 2001 to life without the possibility of parole.
- Ibrahim Hussein Abdel Hadi Eidarous and Adel Mohanned Abdul Almagid Bary: Egyptian citizens arrested in London in 1999 by Scotland Yard by request of the U.S. Their fingerprints were allegedly found on the letters claiming responsibility for the bombings. They were extradicted to the U.S.
- Khalid al Fawwaz, a Saudi dissident living in London since 1994, was accused by the U.S. of helping bin Laden to coordinate the attacks. He denied the charges but was ordered to be extradicted to the U.S. He remains in custody in London pending an appeal.