Africa,  Al-Qaeda,  Terrorism

Friday 7th August, 1998

Guest post by Sackcloth and Ashes

Fifteen years ago today al-Qaeda conducted two truck bombings against the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. 223 people were murdered (200 Kenyans, 12 Americans, and 11 Tanzanians), and over 4,000 were wounded.

The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam are Osama bin Laden’s forgotten atrocities – Peter Taylor’s Age of Terror documentary series, broadcast in February/March 2008, was one of the few exceptions in which the victims of these attacks were commemorated, and the survivors given a voice.

Our amnesia over the East Africa embassy bombings may be due to the fact that they were overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks three years later, but it is also clear that these acts of terrorism do not fit in with the narrative pushed by apologists for Islamist extremism and their useful idiots.

Readers may recall, for example, that shortly after 9/11 the likes of Seumas Milne and Mary Beard gloated over the attacks on New York and Washington DC, stating that Americans were paying the price for their country’s foreign policies. Following this twisted argument, Beard, Milne, et al would no doubt argue that someone like Ellen Bomer deserved to be blinded for life when the Nairobi embassy was blown up, because she worked for a government that helped the Israelis oppress the Palestinians, starved Iraqi babies with sanctions, supported oppressive and corrupt regimes [insert grievance (fictional, actual or embellished) here]…

But what will one say to the relatives of the Kenyans and Tanzanians killed in the blasts, or those who suffered injuries as horrific and as life-changing as those experienced by Ms Bomer?

Al Qaeda’s targets may have been US diplomatic offices and their staff, but the vast majority of the victims were Africans. The Nairobi bombing did its worst damage to an office block next door to the embassy which housed a secretarial college. Most of those killed in the attack died in that building.

The dead and maimed of 7/8 have been forgotten by us– just like the thousands slaughtered by the GIA or the GSPC in the Algerian civil war, the victims of Taliban war crimes in Afghanistan both before and after the US-led intervention, and the Shiites murdered in sectarian terrorist attacks in Pakistan. They should remind us that the ‘war on terror’ is not some colossal con-trick played on the gullible masses by neo-cons and the military-industrial complex, and that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are not some ‘anti-imperialist’ reaction to the world’s hegemon. The Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings were a warning of the true nature of Islamist terrorism, and it is one we should have paid heed to a lot sooner.