By TOM ODULA
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyans and Tanzanians on Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in their countries that killed more than 250 people, with hundreds of local survivors calling on the U.S. government for compensation. The explosions on Aug. 7, 1998, were the first major al-Qaida attack on U.S. targets. Nearly 5,000 people were injured. The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, said the extremists wanted to cause a rift between Kenyans and Americans but failed.
“Their immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind. They sought to divide us, to divide friends … to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilization itself and to replace it with a nightmare of oppression,” Godec said. In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “our partnership with our African allies remains stronger than ever.” One survivor of the Nairobi attack said hundreds of Kenyans were still pursuing compensation from the U.S., while U.S. citizens working in the embassy had been compensated.
Douglas Sidialo, spokesman with the Kenyan victims’ association, was blinded in the attack.
“You have to ask, do they care about the dreams and aspirations of the survivors? The unity the ambassador is talking about is a fallacy,” Sidialo said. The push to aid Kenyan victims is now focused on the U.S. Congress, Washington-based attorney Philip Musolino, who is representing 538 victims with compensation claims, was quoted in Kenya’s leading newspaper The Daily Nation on Tuesday as saying. The embassy bombings brought al-Qaida to the attention of the U.S. public and the world three years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.
Kenya has remained under threat from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group based in neighboring Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, that killed 67 people and the 2015 Garissa University attack that killed 147 people, mostly students. Al-Shabab more recently has been targeting Kenyan security forces, with nearly 100 police officers killed since May 2017 in bombings and ambushes.