USIS Washington 

07 August 1998


(On the bombing of US Embassies in East Africa Aug. 7) (4890)

Washington -- The tandem attacks on the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya
and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania are unprecedented, according to Thomas
Pickering, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

"This, in terms of our quick recollection, is the only circumstance we
know of where there were coordinated attacks in different countries
against American embassies," he said at a late afternoon press
briefing at the State Department August 7.

There were no advance warnings or threats to either of the US
Embassies, Pickering said. He did note, however, that US Embassies
around the world get a total of some 30,000 threats per year, all of
which are considered seriously, he said.

Pickering declined to speculate on who was responsible for the
bombings, nor did he confirm press reports that the explosions were
the results of car bombs.

Americans casualties were limited to Nairobi. According to Susan Rice,
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, eight official
American personnel are confirmed dead, six are missing and unaccounted
for, and 14 are in hospitals.

In Dar-es-Salaam, five foreign nationals employed by the US Embassy
were killed, Pickering said.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)


Office of the Spokesman

August 7, 1998









Washington, D.C.

MR. FOLEY: Welcome to the State Department. You've seen, of course,
President Clinton's statement and Secretary Albright's statement here
and in Rome. I'd like to report to you that Secretary Albright is
currently en route back from overseas to the United States at this
moment. She's coming back to confer with the President, to meet with
the task force here in the State Department, to meet and confer with
her senior advisors and members of the President's national security
team. She's in communication, as she has been throughout the day, even
while on the airplane, here with Washington with relevant officials.

This is, of course, a very sad day for the State Department and
throughout the United States Government. We feel very deeply about the
loss of our colleagues, whose names will be added to the plaque of
foreign service officers and State Department employees and US
diplomats who have given their lives in the service of our country in
the 200-plus years of American diplomacy. We also feel deeply the loss
of our foreign service nationals in our two posts in East Africa, and
to the Kenyans and Tanzanians who lost their lives in these tragic

I would like to thank the media for their forbearance today. You have
a job to do and stories to write, but you've been very understanding
of the fact that we here in the State Department are dependent for
information on the very people who have been victims of these terrible
attacks and who are busy dealing with those attacks, dealing with the
human catastrophe, trying to relieve the suffering of the victims. Of
course, the State Department itself is very mobilized here dealing
with the manifold aspects of the crisis. So you've been very
understanding - also of the fact that, given the sensitive nature of
these events, that there are areas in the fields of intelligence and
security that we're not able to discuss publicly at this time.

Nevertheless, we have brought together a team of senior officials led
by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering,
who's going to lead this briefing for you. He will be ably assisted by
three assistant secretaries - Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary for
African Affairs; Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for
Administration; and Mary Ryan, our Assistant Secretary for Consular
Affairs -- who will assist Under Secretary Pickering as we entertain
your questions following his opening statement.

Ambassador Pickering.

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Thank you, Jim, very much. Ladies and
gentlemen, as President Clinton said just a little while earlier
today, the bomb attacks on our embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam
are abhorrent and inhumane. Our deep condolences go to the victims and
to their families, and particularly those of us who have served
together in the foreign service with the American and foreign service
nationals who have been lost or injured.

President Clinton and Secretary Albright both referred to the heroic
efforts of our embassy staff. Our immediate priority is to assist the
wounded and the families of the deceased. However, as President
Clinton stressed, we are determined to get the answers and to get

At approximately 10:40 a.m. local time, which was 3:40 a.m. Eastern
Daylight Time here in Washington, two explosions a few minutes apart
occurred immediately behind and in front of the US Embassy in Nairobi.
At the same time, an explosion occurred next to the US Embassy in
Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. Both embassy buildings were
extensively damaged. They are probably structurally unsound. Given the
great damage, casualty figures are necessarily still tentative.
However, at this time, we can confirm that eight American deaths in
Nairobi, as well as a number of Kenyans killed. Scores are wounded and
dozens are still unaccounted for, including possibly still some more
embassy employees.

The State Department is coordinating the US Government response
through a Department task force which has dispatched already two
special teams headed for Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. A US military
C-141 has departed Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany with members of
an interagency disaster response team which will provide medical
assistance. A second Air Force C-141 departed from Andrews Air Force
Base at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time carrying additional medical
supplies and US personnel to assist in recovery operations. A number
of other flights are departing the United States and South Africa
bringing medical supplies and personnel and additional disaster
response team members who will provide for embassy security and begin
evidence recovery efforts. There is a special flight coming from the
Middle East to provide additional security to the embassies concerned.

Our immediate priority is to assist the casualties and their families,
and at the same time we are taking steps to insure embassy security.
We are committed to bring to justice those responsible, as the
President has said and as I said in my opening remarks. We're now
ready to take your questions.

Q: Islamic Ji'had issued a statement as recently as Wednesday
threatening to avenge the arrests of a number of their people. They
say the US was responsible for these arrests, three of which occurred
- or took place in Albania over the past several weeks. Do you have
any comment on that view? Do you suspect a link between that and what
happened today; or do you have any comment at all on who might be

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I want to say two things, George, in
response to that. One is that we get some 30,000 threats a year of one
form or another. We take them all seriously; we look at them all in
depth; and clearly, we treat them all as extremely important.
Secondly, this is now a matter, as Jim has told you, for law
enforcement investigation. Law enforcement investigation and
intelligence items, as you know, are the kinds of subjects that we
don't talk about and can't talk about from this podium until, in fact,
we have a conclusion or something that is brought to conclusion to
tell you. We'll have to be guided by those rules as my colleagues, who
have also been talking to you today, have similarly been guided by
those rules.

Q: But we don't know, Mr. Pickering, the people who did the bombing at
Khobar Towers, so how confident are you that we will find the people
who are responsible?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: That, too, remains under investigation; and
I have to tell you we will be relentless and persevering. For those of
you who have been around as long as I have, you know that we have a
long series of cases - some many years old - which I'm happy to say
have been brought to fruition in recent years. So I don't believe that
anyone should assume that the US Government will ever give up on these
cases or that, in fact, the failure to make immediate progress in some
is an indication somehow that we are not going to bring the
appropriate result and bring people to justice wherever they may be
and under whatever circumstances they may have tried to kill or maim
or injure Americans and others who are associated with us.

Q: Can you say which explosion happened first - the one in Nairobi or
the one in Dar-es-Salaam?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I'll have to turn to Pat. Do you know, Pat?
Pat, come on up here.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: We think there was about a three or four
minute separation, with the first one in Dar at approximately 3:40 and
the second one in Nairobi at 3:45 local time.

Q:  Did you receive any warnings for either of these bombings?

ASSISTANT SECRTARY KENNEDY: There was no - in other words, there was
no telephone call to the embassy minutes before saying anything was
going to happen, no.

Q: Have you received any other warnings for embassies in Africa?
Sources close to us have said that the embassy in Uganda has received
a warning in Kampala. I'm wondering what you have to say about that.

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I was going to say in response to that, I
said we received 30,000 a year. There is a kind of copy-cat pattern
which sets in. I'm not going to confirm whether specific embassies
received specific warnings. But I am telling you we take every one of
them seriously. We have adopted a very tight security posture with
respect to our embassies. As you know, we have issued a caution notice
to Americans traveling.

Q: What is happening now with the embassies? I know you can't go into
too much detail, but how would you describe the sort of steeping up of
security now? What is happening in embassies in Africa and abroad?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Again, without tipping our hand, perhaps
Pat might want to talk about some of the kind of typical things that
we do either on a regular basis or on an extraordinary basis.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: The State Department, as many of you
know, maintains Marine security guard detachments, regional security
officers, local guard forces and does liaison with local police at all
our 260 facilities around the world. We're always, in effect, in a
state of alert. Obviously, when something like this terrible tragedy
happens, we immediately contact all embassies, all our security
personnel to make sure they're aware of it, and to, even if you can
take something that is almost always at heightened state of alert and
carry it to a state even beyond that. That is what we've done in a
situation like this.

I'm not going to go into any details about what specific measures we
may or may not take, because there are people that watch you that I
wouldn't want to hear that.

Q: Can you give us any more detail on how this actually happened? You
said there were two bombs in Nairobi - one in the front, one in the
back. Can you provide any more detail on what actually happened?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Steve, if I were able to, I would. It is
part of the ongoing effort to try to determine it. Our first priority
has been human life and safety, dealing with the injured and trying to
rescue people. We remain in that phase in Nairobi. So as we sort this
out, I think we will be able to give you a better response to those
questions. But I can't carry it beyond that now.

Q: There's a report out of Nairobi that one person who is reported to
be an Arab-speaking person was taken into custody there. Are you
knowledgeable about that? Can you have any comment on that?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I'm aware of the report, I think, from the
same source that you are. I don't have any comment to offer. We don't
know anything further about it. I guess if the report said they were
taken into local custody, that would be an appropriate place to look.

Q: Tom, you say the death toll now in Nairobi is eight. How many
remain unaccounted for?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I can't give you an exact figure; but I can
tell you that we have a number perhaps slightly smaller than that that
we believe remain unaccounted for and we're trying to clear that up as
soon as we can, Jim.

Q:  Were these car bombs?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I can't even confirm that at this stage.
Our investigation goes on; we are still trying to deal with the
aftermath of the tragedy. There are some people who have said that,
but we haven't been able to confirm it. There are some indications
that that may be the case, but I can't tell you. I've just recently
talked to our charge in Dar-es-Salaam. We are trying to confirm what
they were but we are not able to do that yet.

Q: Two bombs in the same building almost simultaneously suggests some
form of organization - this is more than just a couple of guys with a
grudge. Would you agree with that assumption?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I think this the first time that we have
had two such coordinated explosions; and I would agree with your
assumption that it obviously required planning, and we're looking at
that as part of our investigative efforts.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE: The latest information we have with respect
to casualty figures in addition to the eight dead in Nairobi are six
missing and unaccounted for and 14 in hospital. Pat, do you want to --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: One of the questions - Under Secretary
Pickering talked about two bombs. It wasn't two bombs in Nairobi; it
was two bombs - one in Nairobi, one in Dar-es-Salaam, not --

Q: He said earlier, "in front of and behind" the facility in Nairobi -
I think that's what may have led to the impression.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: It's two entrances - side entrance and a
main entrance, and so it was either the front the embassy or the side
of the embassy. He was trying to be geographically specific.

Q:  So one bomb in Nairobi, to be absolutely clear?


Q:  Okay.

Q: Were these embassies modified or fortified at all in response to
the 1986 Diplomatic Security Act or for any other reason?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Both of these embassies were constructed -
one was constructed by us, Nairobi, the other is leased by us -- long
before the Inman Act took place. We have taken steps during that
period to strengthen the perimeter of the facility, but in terms of
totally tearing the building down and rebuilding it according to the
hardened standards --

Q: You mean the standards you would have if you were building an
embassy now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: These buildings -- one was constructed in
1980, the other was constructed many years before that.

Q: On the casualties, there's been a report that one was an adolescent
dependent of someone that worked at the embassy; is that true? And
when do you expect the names of the victims to be released?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I can't confirm either the nature - if I
could put it that way - it's indelicate - but the character of the
victims yet or the names. As soon as we're able to do that - and that
requires notification processes we have to go through - we'll be able
to do that for you.

Q: Ambassador, was there any advance notification or any advance
warning that these bombings might take place? And were these embassies
bomb-proofed or are all embassies bomb-proofed?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Let me first say that Pat has answered the
first question by saying we had no telephone ringing before that
happened; but we're not going to go into further detail on that
because of the law enforcement aspects.

Pat, I think, also answered the second question by saying that these
were embassies that would not meet today's current security standards.

Q: What about other embassies around the world? Are they bomb-proof?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: We have a large number that have more
resistance. Bomb-proof is a relative term - tell me what size bomb,
and I'll tell you what the proof is. Having dealt with this in many
places, obviously, a bigger bomb makes a bigger problem, and smaller
bombs are less of a problem; so that's a relative thing.

We have a set of standards which we believe deals with most of the
difficulties, if not all, that we could expect to face. It is clear
that these two buildings would not meet our current building

Q: From what I understand, the embassy in Dar-es-Salaam is in a
somewhat residential area in a mansion which could, if someone were to
drive up with a bomb or come near it, they could be identified or
spotted because it's not as crowded as the embassy in Nairobi. Can you
comment on that?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Yes, I have served in Dar-es-Salaam. That
embassy was not our building at my time, but I know it very well
because it existed at the time I was there. It was the embassy of
another country at that time. That is in a residential area. The fact
that six people were killed and 74 injured would indicate that there
were people within range of that bomb. But at the moment, we haven't
been able, in our look, to determine any more details. We will be
looking at that through the investigative process. But I had asked
that question myself, and we haven't got yet an answer. The folks have
been busy, of course, doing a lot of other things.

Q: When you mentioned that this was the first time we've had two
coordinated bombings, do you mean that this is the first time two
American targets have been bombed simultaneously? I'm trying to figure
out if you see a difference between double-bombings in the past, like
in Beirut or in Kuwait, when one American target and another target
that was not an American target --

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: No, I was talking about two American
targets in separated cities. Again, I put a caveat on that - someone
may turn up an instance and certainly I don't mean this to be totally
dispositive at this point. This, in terms of our quick recollection,
is the only circumstance that we know of where coordinated attacks in
different countries against American embassies - apparently
coordinated attacks.

Q: What was the US role in extraditing Albanian terrorists, which has
come up in discussion of who's to blame for this?

MR. FOLEY: That's not something that we can discuss in a public forum.
It falls under the rubric that I discussed earlier, and so we'll have
to leave it at that; I'm sorry.

Q: I wanted to go back, for Mr. Pickering or you, to the - is the
United States worried that this may be the ripplings of some terrorist
attacks at home domestically; that this might penetrate the United
States and is the beginnings of something over here? What have you
done on the domestic level in light of these bombings in Africa?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: We're concerned, obviously, about any
terrorist incidents and the fact that they may lead to other terrorist
incidents. We have taken the whole series of steps. This Department's
responsibilities extend outside the United States, and so we have
described and talked about some of those, including, as Assistant
Secretary Kennedy said, putting our embassies on alert; cautioning
Americans; issuing specific notices with respect to Kenya and Tanzania
in the light of these events.

I know that the domestic agencies have also been involved in examining
this incident. But I think you will have to turn to them for their
assessment and the steps that they're taking with respect to domestic
United States activities.

Q: Do you have any reports to confirm the early media reports of a
fire fight in Nairobi that preceded the bomb?


Q: Can I get a clarification, if I might? Pat, earlier you said that
the first bomb went off in Dar-es-Salaam. That contradicts almost all
of the reporting that we've seen so far today. Is all of that

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: What we have is notifications to our
operations center. We got a call from Dar, talking about an incident
at 3:40, and a call from Nairobi saying it happened at 3:45. Since the
embassy communications were damaged and these calls were coming in
from alternate locations that the embassy personnel was using, it is
entirely possible that someone's watch was plus or minus three or four
minutes. They were almost simultaneous. We logged in the reports as I
indicated - 3:40 a.m. our time for Dar and 3:45 a.m. for Nairobi;
literally almost simultaneously.

Q:  That's when the calls were received here, but not necessarily -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: No, no, they said at - the calls were
logged in a few minutes after that. They said at 3:40 and at 3:45.

Q: Mr. Ambassador, considering that US relations with the Kenyan
Government and with the Tanzanian Government are considerably good for
the African continent, why do you think these two embassies were

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I really believe that speculation about why
terrorists choose particular American embassies is totally in that
realm. If we can find them, we'll ask them. But I don't believe, at
this stage, we are reading anything special into the choice of these
until we get further down the investigative process, examine all the
intelligence and assess where we are. We're not there yet; we're only
beginning, obviously, because of the time we've had to do it, to go
through that process.

So I don't have an answer. Terrorists tend to want to be
unpredictable. There may be some of that in this.

Q: Mr. Pickering, the lack of a firm and credible claim of
responsibility is interesting; and it was true of Khobar Towers, too.
Are there other similarities that you see here? I mean, is this some
new phase of terrorism; and why would it be sensible for a group not
to take responsibility?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Steve, we have to take into account -- or
Mr. Erlanger, I'm sorry -- we have to take into account all of these
particular issues. The lack of a bona fide claimant up until now, at
least picking up on your question, where there may be in another case
doesn't mean all cases are linked or put together. I'd be cautious
about reasoning from that kind of an analogy. I fall back on my
mantra: we're looking at it; it is a law enforcement investigation; it
will involve all of the resources we can bring to bear on it. We are
not there yet; we are earnestly and ardently pursuing that. And
obviously if and when we get to the bottom of this - and I hope that
will be soon - we'll be filling you in on where we are.

Q: Ambassador Pickering, does the embassy in Nairobi still serve a
dual function of also being the headquarters of the embassy staff for
Khartoum; and is that in any way significant? And a second question if
I could - do you fault intelligence gathering at all in these

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Let me go ahead and do the first one - no,
I don't. We have, I think, an absolutely top-class intelligence
community that works extremely hard, that examines a huge amount of
information. But that doesn't mean that you catch every incident or
every event, particularly when people work very hard to keep you from
finding out what's going on. So I would not, in this case, believe
that we are subjects of intelligence failure, which I think is where
your question was taking this particular issue; but we will certainly
look very, very carefully into all aspects of this. I can't give you
anything more at this stage.

Q:  How about the other question?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE: While we maintain embassy operations in
Khartoum, American personnel were moved a couple of years ago on a
continuous basis and then removed and based in Nairobi. So the charge
and the staff of Embassy Khartoum are based in Nairobi; they travel
regularly to Khartoum and try to maintain a more less continuous
presence overlapping in Khartoum.

Q:  Could that possibly be of any significance here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:   No reason to believe it so at this time.

Q: Could I ask about the family or consular aspects - about
notification and when - how many families have been notified and when
the public will be made aware of those who are victims?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN: All the casualties are official US
Government personnel, and we are in the process of notifying the
families who were not - next of kin who were not in Nairobi. There
have been no private American citizens, to our knowledge, hurt or
killed in either place. So consular notification, which my bureau
would do, of course we're not doing because we have no information
about private Americans.

MR. FOLEY:  We'll take one or two more questions.

Q: Would you describe if there was anything significant about today;
or if there wasn't anything significant about today's date, describe
what was going on at these two embassies at ten or so in the morning -
what was going on when these bombs went off?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: We'll have to get that reconstructed for
you. My knowledge of embassy work is fairly deep, and I don't think
that the time of the day necessarily determines any particular set of
activities. I'm not aware of any particular importance of today's

Q:  Were there any events going on, any gatherings?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Nothing that I know of in the countries

Q: You alluded earlier to some recent successes in closing old
investigative files. Could you spell those out?

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: I think that I would like to have Jim put
together a list, which is now something which we're working with the
Justice Department on, and we'll try to get that to you as soon as
it's ready. Jim may want to talk about some of them.

MR. FOLEY: Yes. I could just add that P.J. Crowley at the White House
addressed some of those specifically in his briefing a few hours ago.
He mentioned the terrorist attack at the CIA a few years ago in which
the suspect was apprehended and tried here in this country --

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING:   Some of the World Trade suspects --

MR. FOLEY: -- and the World Trade Tower bombing suspects also were
brought back and brought to justice, and we can put together that
information for you. But as I said, it was addressed earlier. We'll
take one more question.

Q: Is it correct that when President Clinton went to Africa, the
reason he did not go to Kenya and Tanzania had nothing to do with
security concerns?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  Nothing to do with security concerns.

MR. FOLEY: Just before closing, I'd just like to say that some of you
are interested in Secretary Albright's arrival. It's going to be in
the wee hours of the morning; I can't give you an exact time of
arrival at Andrews Air Force Base. I believe that those of you who
want to cover her arrival by camera, in any event, will have an
opportunity to do so. We can verify for you a little later in the
Press Office when that will be. It's my understanding that it is her
intention, even though it will be in the middle of the night, to
proceed directly to the State Department to pay a visit to the task
force that we have up on the seventh floor - the people working
directly on this crisis and to confer with them before heading home.

Thank you very much.

UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING: Jim, I had one correction of one item.
Susan tells me that we have more recent information from
Dar-es-Salaam, and instead of the six killed that I had given you
earlier, the number is now five.

Q: Did the Secretary - that seems to be a long time in the air. Does
she have an intermediate stop?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, yes, I believe she's either refueling or changing
airplanes - I'm not sure - in Iceland en route home. We'll give you
the exact time in the Press Office.

Thank you.

(end transcript)