Kenya remembers Bomb blast survivors 20 years down

The plaque with the names of those who died in the 1998 attack. PHOTO COURTESY

Nairobi, KENYA: On a day like this, 20 years ago, at around 10:30 am, two loud successive explosions were heard in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The explosions were followed by a silence then screams and wailing.

A 900kg bomb had gone off just under the US Embassy, bringing down the building and shattering windows of the neighboring Cooperative house.

The attack which was masterminded by Fazul Mohammed, who was killed in 2011 by the Somalia forces in Somalia, claimed more than 200 lives leaving 5,000 injured.

Kenyans commemorated the day by celebrating the survivors and remembering those who perished with a memorial service at the Memorial Park in Nairobi.

During the memorial, Director of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Martin Kimani, said that the government had spent huge resources in countering terrorist activities and urged everyone to support the effort.

“Today the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the 7th August 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. As Kenyans, we remember and honor those who were killed during the attack and the thousands who were injured.”

“We have since partnered with allies and friends. The will of Kenyans has manifested in increased resources and training to counter terrorists. It is evident that the robust mechanisms the government has put in place to detect such criminal activities have seen their number reduce,” he added.

Also at the memorial was US ambassador Robert Godec who commended Kenyans on their heroism during the attack that was meant to instill fear and bring about disunity between Kenya and USA.

“While the terrorists sought to sow fear and division, they failed; instead we have risen with a stronger determination to stand together for freedom justice and peace,” said Robert.

“In the moments and days that followed the blast, your heroism stands in tribute to compassion and all that is best in humanity,” added Godec.

In memory of those who suffered and died in the attack, a plaque was erected at a memorial park which was built where the US embassy that was bombed stood.

The US embassy, which was the target of the attack, was moved to Gigiri and the new offices opened in 2003.
Those who survived the attack said the day left them with physical and psychological scars.

“When I discovered that I was blind, I was very bitter, very much enraged. I imagined that if I had met the men behind the bombing, I would have skinned them alive,” said one of the survivors.

Some victims say, 20 years down the line, they are yet to be compensated.

Kenya has suffered quite a number of terror attacks with the first major one being in 1980.

Here’s a list of the attacks in chronological order.

1980 – Attack on Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi on New Year’s Eve, killing 20 people &injuring 80. An Arab group claimed responsibility, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya allowing Israeli troops to refuel in the capital en route to rescue 100 hostages in Entebbe.

1998 – August 7, suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside United States embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and almost simultaneously detonated their bombs.

2002 – Nov 28, there was a missile attack on an Israeli plane shortly after it took off from Mombasa airport, but missed. At the same time, a car carrying explosives smashed through a barrier the Paradise Hotel in the city as it received 60 Israeli tourists checking in.

Ten Kenyans died in the attack and three Israelis, two of them children. Militant groups linked to al-Qaeda were blamed for the attacks.

Oct 24, 2011, a grenade was hurled into a Nairobi bar, killing one person and injuring more than 20. The same day, a grenade was thrown from a moving vehicle into the city’s Machakos bus terminal, killing five people.

A second attack on the bus station in March 2012 left six people dead and over 60 injured. In May 2012, a small shopping complex on Moi Avenue was blown up, 30 wounded. In June, a popular bar in Mombasa was hit by a grenade attack, leaving one person dead.

In July 2012, masked gunmen stormed two churches in Garissa, south of the Somali border, killing seventeen people including two policemen whose guns they took.

There were several grenade and bomb attacks that claimed lives in the Eastleigh.

Sept 14, 2013 – Kenyan police claimed to have disrupted a major terrorist attack in its final stages of planning, arresting two people with suicide vests packed with ball bearings, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

2013: Westgate Mall attack.

2015: Garissa attack In April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University killing almost 150 people and wounding several.

The Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility and indicated that they were retaliating over non-Muslims occupying Muslim territory.

The terror group has also been blamed over several IED attacks in Lamu, Tana River, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera counties.