The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network

How House Number 213 at Ilala Dar-es-Salaam was used to bomb U.S Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

It is now Twenty-five years since the horrid simultaneous bombings that shelled two American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

During her visit to Tanzania in 2023, U.S Vice President Kamala Harris paid homage and laid a wreath at a Dar-es-salaam memorial center commemorating the August 1998 bombing.

It is believed that the Al Qaeda terrorists were behind the simultaneous bombings in Dar and Nairobi.

On August 7, 1998, between 10:30 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. local time suicide bombers in trucks loaded with explosives parked outside the two American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Suddenly! And almost simultaneously they both detonated.

A total of 213 people were shelled to death in the Nairobi blast, while 11 other were killed in Dar es Salaam City

The dual bombing left an estimated 4,000 seriously injured victims in Nairobi while nearly 90 others were wounded in Dar es Salaam.

The bombs, as it was later discovered, to have been containing 2.7 and 15.4 metric tons of highly-explosive materials.

Essentially the bomb attacks were directed at the U.S. embassies, but as it turned out, most of the victims became innocent residents of Kenya and Tanzania, many of whom were just simply passing by the areas when disaster struck.

All the same, a total of 12 Americans were killed in the blasts; these include two Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) members of staff at the Nairobi embassy, Uttamilal Thomas Shah and Molly Huckaby Hardy.

Among the U.S dead victims were also a Marine, Sergeant Jesse Nathan Aliganga and a Marine Security Guard at the Nairobi embassy.

U.S. Army Sergeant Kenneth Ray Hobson II was also killed in the dual city blasts.

How it happened

It all started sometimes in May 1998, when one of the alleged bombers bought a house in Nairobi.

It was a secluded villa with an attached garage and the latter was to be used as the workshop for assembling the explosive materials.

Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan also procured two vehicles, a Toyota Dyna truck in Nairobi and a 1987 Nissan Atlas refrigeration truck in Dar es Salaam.

A special metallic cage was built at the back of the Nissan Atlas in Dar, which was to be the bomb’s stronghold.

Then in June 1998, Khalfan Khamis (KK) Mohamed rented a building in the Ilala district of Dar es Salaam.

House Number 213

The House Number 213 was located in Ilala, about 6 kilometers from the U.S. embassy in the City.

Once the rental building was acquired a small Suzuki vehicle followed.

It was reported that this white Suzuki Samurai car was used to haul the bomb components.

Those explosives were concealed inside bags of rice sacks, during their transportation to House Number 213.

Mohammed Odeh was the chief engineer behind the construction of the two giant destructive devices weighing around 900 kilograms.

Odeh was the mastermind of the two bombs used to blow both the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam embassies.

The Nairobi bomb was made of 400 to 500 cylinders of Trinitrotoluene (TNT).

That is almost the size of current drink cans.

They contained ammonium nitrate, aluminium powder, and detonating cord.

Some twenty, specially designed wooden crates were used to carry the explosives.

These consignments were sealed and then riveted onto the beds of the trucks.

Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah ran a wire from the bomb to a set of batteries in the back of the truck cab and then to a detonator switch beneath the dashboard.

Dar Bomb!

The bomb which exploded in Dar es Salaam was made from slightly different materials.

The TNT was attached to fifteen oxygen tanks and gas canisters that were cushioned with four sacks of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. They also added some sandbags to stuff and direct the blast.

Ali Mohamed, a 48 year old Egyptian native and former US Army sergeant, was the first person to plead guilty or be convicted of murder charges resulting from the embassy bombings in 2000.

Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, a Jordanian, was arrested trying to enter Pakistan with a fake Yemeni passport on the day of the East African Embassy bombings.

Odeh was interrogated by Pakistani officials, and he eventually admitted being part of the embassy bombing conspiracy.

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, the Tanzanian of was arrested in South Africa and extradited to the U.S. in October 1999. Prosecutors claim that his house was used as a bomb factory and a base of operations for the bombing conspiracy.

The Nairobi Meeting that Never ended

Prudence Bushnell, the American ambassador to Kenya when the 1998 Nairobi bomb attack happened. Quick –witted, reflective and intense, she shared her reflections of that fateful day and lessons life has taught her.

Twenty-four years ago, in Nairobi, on a seemingly beautiful day in August, Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, left her residence to go to work. She had an important meeting with the then Trade Minister Joseph Kamotho.

The Ambassador and the Minister shortly before the blast of August 1998

This was towards the end of her second year in Kenya and her first appointment as an ambassador; a role she was excited about and had taken up with vigour.

On the 7 day of August though, her first stop wasn’t her office in the US embassy in the heart of the city.

She was on her way to a meeting was at the Cooperative Bank Building, next to the embassy.

What she didn’t know as she stepped out of her official vehicle was that a lorry laden with explosives was making its way to her work station.

It was a machination of the Al-Qaeda terror group, one of the most powerful terrorist organisations founded by the late Osama Bin Laden.

What Prudence also didn’t know was that the meeting next door had taken her away from the epi-centre of an explosion leaving 46 of her co-workers dead.

212 Kenyans and 12 Americans died, with an additional 4,000 people injured in the attack.

Prudence, now 77, is retired and lives with her husband Richard Buckley in Washington DC.

She has documented her experience with the 1988 terror attack in the book, Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings.

The rumbles of the Nairobi bomb blast scene a day after the attack. On the front left is the Target house the American embassy in the middle is the remains of the Ufundi cooperative house which was shelled while behind it is the main Cooperative House.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath of the attacks, over 900 FBI agents alone—and many more FBI employees—travelled overseas to assist in the recovery of evidence and the identification of victims at the bomb sites and to track down the perpetrators.

These attacks were soon directly linked to al Qaeda

Extraordinary efforts from our federal and international partners led to the identification, arrest, and extradition to the United States of several members of the al Qaeda terrorist network for their role in the bombings.

Mohammed Sadeek Odeh and Mohammed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali were arrested in Kenya within 20 days of the bombings and rendered to the U.S. shortly thereafter.

Both were convicted for their roles in the bombing and sentenced to life in prison in October 2001.

In September 1998, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim was arrested in Germany.

He is currently serving a life sentence for stabbing a federal corrections officer in the eye while in prison after being charged in the embassy attacks.

Also in September 1998, Wadih el-Hage—a naturalized American citizen who had been living in Arlington, Texas—was arrested by the FBI for making false statements during questioning.

After being indicted for his role in the bombings, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2001.

On November 4, 1998, Osama Bin Laden and several members of his network, including his military commander Muhammad Atef, were named in an indictment based on the investigation. Both have since been killed.

All told, more than 20 people have been charged in connection with the bombings. Seven are serving life sentences in U.S. prison.

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