The 21st Century Phenomenon



On 08/07/ 1998, at about 10:40 in the middle of an ordinary work day, a car bomb loaded with 600 kg military explosive T.N.T exploded near by the back entrance of USA embassy in the center of Nairobi, Kenya s’ capital. In that explosion 213 people were killed and about 4000 were wounded.

20 minutes later another similar car bomb exploded in the entrance to yet another US embassy in Dar el-Salaam, the capital of the neighbor country Tanzania. The US embassy in Dar el-Salaam was the well fortified Israeli embassy up to 1980. It is located outside the town in a relatively isolated area. In that explosion only 12 were killed and about 25 wounded. The two car bombs were driven by suicide bombers and almost all the casualties were innocent local people.   

The car bomb in Nairobi was driven by the suicide bomber known as Azzam. He was an Al Qaeda operative, a veteran of Kalden training camp in Afghanistan and the cousin of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri . Azzam(Azzam’s full name was, probably, Jihad Mohammad Ali al-Makkiarrived to Kenya four days before the attack on 08/02/1998. Azzam was accompanied by Mohamed al-Owhali that was equipped with a pistol and four stunt grenades and was in charge of overcoming the embassy guard, to divert the attention and to pave the way for the car bomb into the embassy yard. Mohamed al Owhali managed to escape, slightly wounded, and was arrested on 08/12/1998.  The grenade Mohamed al Owhali threw on the guard in US embassy made many of the employees in near by office buildings to rush to the windows to see what happened and when the explosion occurred many of them were seriously wounded. The Ofundi building near the fortified US embassy totally collapsed.

The investigation later reveled that the car used in the attack was bought by Ahmed Salim Swedan, an AL-Qaeda operative. The car was assembled as a car bomb in Runda Estate, a quiet farm near Nairobi, by Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Mohamed al-Owhali.

The car used in Dar el-Salaam attack was bought by Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. The car was assembled by Mustafa Mohammed Fadhil and with the help of Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. The suicide bomber of Dar el-Salaam attack was Hamden Allah Awad. The Dar el-Salaam cell was coordinated by Fahid Ally Msalam.

Summary ;

The double simultaneous attacks on USA embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 08/ 07/ 1998 were the first international well coordinated attack of AL-Qaeda against US. Eventually all senior activists of Al Qaeda were involved in carrying out that attack. After the 08/ 07/ 1998 AL-Qaeda was no longer treated as an ephemeral organization but a serious threat to US.

The degree of coordination, the ability to obtain more than a ton of military T.N.T explosive, all without being noticed by any intelligence service, demonstrates a professional behaviour that surprised all the countries involved. It was the attack on the embassies that finally convinced Khalid Shaik Mohammed to join AL-Qaeda.  

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