7, 1998, two car bombs exploded at the American Embassies in Nairobi,
Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people and wounding
more than 5,000 others. Twelve Americans were killed in the Nairobi
claims of responsibility for the bombings were received by several
media outlets from an unknown group called the Islamic Army for
the Liberation of the Holy Places. Its communiqué called
for "the withdrawal of U.S. and western forces from Moslem countries
in general and from the Arabian Peninsula in particular."
international terrorist Osama bin Laden became a suspect in the
bombings. Born to a wealthy Saudi family in the construction business,
Osama bin Laden, 41, is considered the world's leading terrorist
financier. He has assembled a wide coalition of anti-American
forces in numerous Arab and Muslim countries. In the 1980s, bin
Laden is believed to have trained, financed and led Arab fighters
in the war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. In 1991, he went
to the Sudan where it is believed he established at least three
terrorist training camps. He was stripped of his Saudi citizenship
in 1994, and was expelled from Sudan in 1996. He now lives in
the remote mountains of Afghanistan.
has been preoccupied with forcing American troops to leave Saudi
Arabia and other Muslim lands and has repeatedly vowed to strike
at American targets. According to U.S. Government documents, bin
Laden is the head of an international terrorist network called
al Qaida ("the base"), founded in 1988 and known to be operating
in 20 countries, including the United States. Al Qaida has reportedly
funded extremist movements and trained and recruited Islamic extremists
all over the world. Its chief objective, according to U.S. officials,
is the killing of Americans, including civilians, anywhere in
the world. Al Qaida is suspected of involvement in the 1995 assassination
plot against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, of having attacked
American soldiers in Yemen and Somalia, and of links to the World
Trade Center bombing.
is believed to command a force of 3,000 militants who have fought
over the years in Somalia, Eritrea, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Bosnia,
Tajikistan and Yemen. Bin Laden claimed responsibility for an
attempted December 1992 bombing of 100 U.S. servicemen in Yemen;
the attack failed but two Australian tourists were killed. He
has publicly said that his soldiers fought U.S. troops during
Operation Restore Hope in 1993 in Somalia, where U.S. officials
believe he supplied weapons that shot down American helicopters
and where 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat.
remains Washington's leading suspect in the June 1996 Dhahran,
Saudi Arabia, bombing attack in which 19 U.S. servicemen were
killed. In May 1996, four Saudis were beheaded for the November
1995 Riyadh bombing in which five Americans and two Indians were
killed. The four had said in televised confessions that they were
influenced by bin Laden and other Saudi dissidents.
has denied involvement in the two Saudi bombings but he has said
that they were warnings to the U.S. to withdraw its forces from
Saudi Arabia. According to a July 1998 report of the Emergency
Response and Research Institute, a Chicago-based terrorism research
institute, bin Laden reportedly told an Arabic newspaper,
thought that the Riyadh and Khobar blasts were a sufficient signal
to sensible U.S. decision-makers to avert a real battle between
the Islamic nation and U.S. forces, but it seems that they did
not understand the signal."
1998, Osama bin Laden created the International Islamic Front
for Holy War Against Jews and Crusaders. At the time, the umbrella
group issued a religious edict calling for attacks against American
military and civilian targets around the world:
ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilians and military,
is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country
in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate Al Aksa
Mosque and the Holy Mosque from their grip and in order for their
armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable
to threaten any Muslim. This is in accordance with the words of
Almighty God, 'and fight the pagans all together as they fight
you all together,' and 'fight them until there is no more tumult
or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God'. .
signatories to the February statement were Ayman al-Zawahri, leader
of Egypt's Jihad group, Rifai Taha, head of Egypt's Gama'a al-Islamiya,
Mir Hamza, secretary general of Pakistan's Ulema Society, Fadl
al-Rahman Khalil, chief of Harkat-ul-Ansar in Pakistan, and Abdel
Salam Mohammed, head of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.
other religious rulings and in numerous media interviews, bin
Laden has called on Muslims to kill Americans and has threatened
Americans all over the globe. In an ABC News interview in June
1998, bin Laden said,
that the biggest thieves in the world are Americans and the biggest
terrorists on earth are the Americans. The only way for us to
defend against these assaults is by using similar means. We do
not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and
civilians. They're all targets in this fatwah. You will leave
when the bodies of American soldiers and civilians are sent in
the wooden boxes and coffins. That is when you will leave."
the August 1998 embassy bombings, bin Laden and his International
Islamic Front renewed their threats against American citizens.
On August 19, the Front said the embassy bombings were to avenge
"the injustice meted out by the American government to all Muslim
nations" and "The coming days will, God willing, see that America
meets a black fate similar to what happened to the Soviet Union.
There will be more attacks. More and more Islamic groups will
appear that will all fight against American interests."
August, American officials revealed that a Federal Grand Jury
in New York had handed up a sealed indictment against Osama bin
Laden for terrorist acts against the United States several weeks
before the African embassy bombings. The indictment would provide
the basis for bin Laden's capture and removal to the United States
to stand trial.
Missile Strikes and Their Aftermath
20, the United States launched missile attacks on paramilitary
training camps in eastern Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden and
on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that U.S. officials suspected
of involvement in the manufacture of chemical weapons. The Afghanistan
missile attack was timed to coincide with a conference of radical
leaders bin Laden had scheduled. Since 1993, Sudan has been on
Washington's list of states sponsoring terrorism.
22, President Clinton froze U.S. assets owned by Osama bin Laden,
two of his senior lieutenants and their Islamic Army organization
and prohibited all financial transactions between U.S. companies
and bin Laden.
the missile strikes, anti-American demonstrations erupted throughout
the Islamic world. In front of the American Embassy in Pakistan,
Islamic militants claiming to be graduates of a camp run by an
Islamic group called Jamaat-I-Islami in Khost, Afghanistan, burned
an effigy of President Clinton and called for the destruction
of the United States. The Jamaat-I-Islami camp was one of three
camps in Afghanistan that U.S. officials say is linked to bin
Laden and used to train terrorists. Some of the militants reportedly
said they were given religious and "basic combat" training at
the camp and said they were taught how to assemble and fire weapons.
militant group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, whose training camp was
destroyed by U.S. missiles, threatened retaliation in a statement
faxed to the Reuters news agency:
Americans and Jews should now prepare for their destruction. .
. America has challenged the honor of the entire Moslem world.
The self-respecting Moslems of the world, particularly the Mujahideen
of Islam, have announced they will wage a holy war against America.
And they will teach the Americans and their puppets, the Israeli
Jews, a lesson they will remember forever."
known as Harkat-ul-Ansar, the group has been labeled by the U.S.
as a foreign terrorist organization, making it illegal to provide
them with funds and denying their members or representatives U.S.
about a dozen American embassies were temporarily shut down or
reduced their normal activities because of reported threats and
security vulnerabilities. Following the August 1998 embassy bombings,
American officials received tips on plans to bomb the American
Consulate in Hamburg, Germany. Security at the Consulate was increased
and the threat was never fulfilled.
Laden's Links With Egyptian
telephone message relayed by his ally, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the
fugitive leader of Egypt's Jihad organization, Osama bin Laden
warned: "The war has just started and the Americans should wait
for an answer. Tell the Americans that we aren't afraid of bombardment,
threats and acts of aggression. We suffered and survived Soviet
bombings for 10 years in Afghanistan and we are ready for more
the bombings in East Africa, American officials uncovered evidence
of plans to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania. The plot
appeared to be related to the June and July 1998 arrests in Albania
and extradition to Egypt of four Egyptians in connection with
the 1997 Luxor massacre (in which 58 foreign tourists and four
Egyptians were gunned down by Islamic extremists), the 1993 attempted
assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Sedki and the 1990
assassination of Rifaat el-Mahgoub, the Speaker of the Egyptian
parliament. One of the four was Ahmed Ibrahim al-Naggar, the alleged
propaganda chief of Jihad, who was sentenced to death by an Egyptian
military court in October 1997 for plotting to kill government
officials and was convicted of sending money to Egypt to revive
the Jihad organization.
the extradition and several days before the U.S. Embassy bombings,
the Jihad organization warned:
the Americans. . . of preparations for a response which we hope
they read with care, because we will write it, with God's help,
in a language they will understand."
between the Egyptian Jihad and Osama bin Laden are believed to
be close. Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a signatory to bin Laden's
February fatwa is believed to be residing near bin Laden in Afghanistan.
after the embassy bombings, several suspects were apprehended
and extradited to the United States. On the day of the bombings,
Pakistani officials arrested Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, 34, as he arrived
in Karachi on a flight from Nairobi. Arrested for attempting to
enter Pakistan on a forged Yemeni passport and for trying to bribe
officials to release him, Mr. Odeh willingly confessed to Pakistani
authorities that he was involved in the bombings by providing
technical, engineering and logistical support. He also reportedly
claimed to be working for Osama bin Laden and said of him, "He
is my leader, and I obey his orders." Odeh was flown back to Kenya,
where he retracted his confession.
to notes obtained by The Washington Post, upon questioning
by Pakistani intelligence officials, Odeh reportedly gave details
of a global paramilitary network aimed at U.S. interests abroad
and orchestrated by Osama bin Laden that includes 4,000-5,000
militants from a number of countries and a large arsenal of surface-to-air
missiles, mortars, rockets and tanks that are stored all over
Afghanistan. Odeh claimed to be one of seven operatives in Nairobi
sent by bin Laden. He also reportedly confessed to his involvement
in other bin Laden-supported operations; U.S. prosecutors allege
that prior to his moving to Kenya, Odeh trained Islamic militants
to fight the U.N. humanitarian mission in Somalia. He has been
charged in the U.S. with murder.
charged with murder is Mohamed Rashed Daoud Owhali (a.k.a. Khalid
Salim Saleh Bin Rashed) who was apprehended in a Kenyan hospital
while recovering from injuries from the Nairobi bombing. He reportedly
told the FBI that he threw a grenade at a guard at the Nairobi
Embassy while riding the bomb-laden truck that blew apart the
Embassy. He also said the attack was "planned and carried out
by members of al Qaida as part of al Qaida's overall terrorist
indictments, Wahid el Hage, 38, an American-educated urban planner
living in Texas and believed to be a leader in the Kenyan branch
of the al Qaida terrorist organization, was indicted in September
on multiple counts of lying to a Grand Jury about his relationship
to members of the bin Laden organization and knowledge of their
activities. According to the Federal complaint, el Hage, the first
American citizen to be charged with being part of bin Laden's
terrorist network, became bin Laden's personal secretary in Sudan
in 1993 and in Kenya, one of el Hage's top aides, Haroun Fazil,
wrote reports directly to bin Laden while living with him. Federal
prosecutors have asserted that el Hage bought firearms for a defendant
convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and also had
links to El Sayyid Nosair, convicted on Federal charges in the
death of Rabbi Meir Kahane and convicted in 1995 of conspiracy
to blow up New York City landmarks.
Federal prosecutors also issued a criminal complaint against Mamdouh
Mahmud Salim, 40, a top bin Laden aide, who has been detained
in Germany on terrorism charges of conspiracy to commit murder
and use weapons of mass destruction. The complaint alleges that
Salim helped finance, train and arm members of the terrorist network
al Qaida, which he helped bin Laden, establish. He is suspected
of conducting business on behalf of al Qaida in Sudan, Afghanistan,
Malaysia and the Philippines, obtaining communications equipment
and electronic items necessary for the detonation of explosives
for the organization, and trying to obtain materials that could
be used to develop nuclear weapons. Salim has also been linked
with Iran and Sudan and is charged with meeting Iranian officials
in Teheran and Khartoum to arrange for bin Laden militants to
receive explosives training in Lebanon from Hezbollah.
Egyptian Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed and Tanzanian Rashid Saleh
Hemed were each charged with 11 counts of murder in the Dar es
Salaam blast. In Britain, authorities have arrested seven alleged
bin Laden associates, including the suspected leader of the bin
Laden organization in Britain, Khalid al Fawwaz, and Adel Abdul-Mageed
Abdul-Bari, an Egyptian who was sentenced to death in absentia
for conspiring to blow up a Cairo marketplace in 1995,
most serious threat to an American institution abroad since the
East African Embassy bombings, the CIA foiled a plot to blow up
the U.S. Embassy in Kampala and Ugandan police have arrested 20
suspects on suspicion of involvement in the plot. In the Philippines,
security forces have arrested two men suspected of belonging to
bin Laden's al Qaida network and of being involved in a plot to
blow up the American Embassy in Manila. In early September, a
handwritten note was found in the bathroom of a plane that arrived
in Kuwait from Dubai that said: "The American Embassy in the Philippines
will be bombed on September 4, 1998."
writing, a Federal warrant has been issued for Islamic extremist
and explosives expert, Haroun Fazil, believed to have played a
key role in constructing and transporting the Nairobi bomb and
who eluded Federal authorities when they came to his home in the
island nation of Comoros. The State Department is offering $2
million for information leading to his arrest.