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Bombs rip 2 U.S. embassies

Published: Friday, Aug. 7 1998 12:00 a.m. MDT

Terrorist bombs exploded minutes apart outside the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Friday, turning buildings into mountains of shattered concrete and leaving burning hulks of buses and cars. More than 67 people were killed and 1,100 injured, officials said.

At least eight Americans were among the dead in Kenya and seven more were missing, U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Scharf said. In Washington, a State Department official could confirm only six dead, but said there may be more.There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

In the Kenyan capital, crowds crawled over the twisted and broken concrete and metal from a collapsed building looking for victims, calling out and waving their arms for help to free trapped people or pull bodies from the wreckage.

"Once the rubble is cleared further we expect to find more," said Red Cross spokeswoman Nina Galbe.

More than 60 people were killed and 1,100 injured in Nairobi alone, Galbe said. Officials said at least seven people were killed and 72 hurt when a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Embassy in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam.

In Washington, President Clinton said, "These acts of terrorist violence are abhorrent, they are inhumane" and pledged to track down those responsible. He ordered American flags flown at half staff at U.S. installations around the world.

"There was no warning and there has been no claim of responsibility," said State Department spokesman Lee McClenny.

The Islamic Jihad, a successor to the group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, vowed last week to strike American interests because some of its members were arrested in Albania and handed over to Egypt, according to a report Thursday in Al-Hayat, an Arabic-language newspaper in London.

Police in Nairobi were seen taking an Arabic-speaking man into custody, but authorities made no comment.

The blast in Nairobi at 10:35 a.m. (1:35 a.m. MDT) toppled the four-story Ufundi Cooperative building toward the embassy, which was badly damaged. Cooperative Bank House, with government and private offices, also was damaged. Windows were shattered as far as 10 blocks away.

Bodies were draped out of the windows of a charred bus, and shattered cars were left smoldering on the street amid the debris. Dazed and bloody survivors lay on the ground until they were led away.

Passers-by helped rescuers and ferried the injured to hospitals in their own cars. At least 54 people were being treated at Nairobi Hospital.

P.J. Crowley, spokesman for the National Security Council, said U.S. officials are identifying the dead Americans and notifying relatives.

The Air Force has requested that a C-141 transport leave Ramstein Air Base in Germany for Nairobi. It will carry a surgical team, medical supplies and a small security detail.

An Air Force C-9 medical transport will be sent separately to Tanzania, said Pentagon spokeswoman Col. Nancy Burt. She said a 40-strong Marine Corps anti-terrorism security team was on its way to Africa.

Because U.S. law provides criminal penalties for terrorist attacks on Americans abroad, the FBI was preparing to send whatever resources were necessary to investigate, the Justice Department said.

In Dar es Salaam, the car bomb went off in the U.S. Embassy parking lot. The State Department said the blasts occurred within five minutes of each other in the capitals, roughly 450 miles apart.

Smoke rose from the damaged buildings in Dar es Salaam and nearly two-thirds of the embassy was destroyed. Cranes were hurried to the site to tear apart wreckage in the search for survivors.

U.S. Marines in camouflage uniforms tried to maintain order among the crowds. Fire crews turned hoses on burning cars and trucks. The wounded were passed on stretchers over a high metal fence.

Neither country has a history as a site of international terrorist attacks. Both embassies were considered low risk, perhaps making them more attractive targets.

Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, was hurt by flying debris but returned to the embassy after treatment for what were minor injuries.

Bushnell was posted to Nairobi in 1996 after a 15-year career in the Foreign Service, including assignments in Senegal and India.

Charles R. Stith, the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, was out of the country on vacation.

Security was immediately tightened at other U.S. embassies, including in Kampala, Uganda, where vehicles were cleared away.

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