A horrific terror attack targeting two U.S. embassies. Twenty years later, Kenya and Tanzania are still dealing with the scars. Terror group Al Qaida was behind the 1998 bombings, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.
CGTN’s Robert Nagila filed this story from one of the survivors.
Stella Mwikali was in her office, in a building adjacent to the U.S. embassy in downtown Nairobi, on the morning of August 7, 1998.
“I remember around 10:30 am, I heard a loud blast, because I had no heard the sound of a hand grenade before, I told people, bomb, American Embassy. They said no, no and stood up. I continued sitting,” Mwikali said.
“Within a fraction of a second, the real thing came, glass broke all over the building, the building shook, partitions came down crushing and electrical wires were all over like cobwebs”
Terror group Al Qaida had just detonated a powerful, truck bomb in the basement packing of the U.S. embassy. The U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam was also targeted.
“I was just an innocent bystander, who was caught in the crossfire,” Mwikali explained.
Chaos ensued as a rescue effort commenced. The first responders were civilians.
“Everybody was running, It was each one for himself, God for all of us,” she recalled. “I kept falling until two men saw me and lifted me by my shoulders and pulled me like a sack of potatoes to the front of national bank and told me here you will get help.”
She never saw those two men again, but is grateful for their help. By the time the dust had settled, more than 200 people were dead, and thousands were injured.
Mwikali refused to talk about her injuries. The memories are still too vivid. Two years later, in 2000, her employer let her go. It’s been an uphill struggle since then. Attempts to seek compensation from the U.S. government have borne no fruit. However, against all odds, she went back to university and earned a degree.
“I have never healed from the trauma, because every time there is a terror attack anywhere, here or outside like 9/11, Garissa attack, Westgate or Mombasa, I relive my experience,” Mwikali said.
Though the physical wounds may have healed, it’s the emotional wounds that survivors of the bombing have to live with. While they may have forgiven those responsible for the heinous crime, they say it’s hard to forget.
Peter Vincent talks global security 20-years after US Embassy bombings in Africa
It’s been 20-years since the horrific 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in Africa. Two decades later, Kenya and Tanzania are still dealing with the scars. Peter Vincent is a global security exprt and previously served as a counter-terrorism official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He spoke with CGTN’s Mike Walter about global security and the terror attack that brought Osama bin Laden and Al-Qeada to the attention of the world.