Blinded in blast, tears shed at US Embassy site

AP News
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Posted: May 02, 2011 12:25 PM
Blinded in blast, tears shed at US Embassy site

A Kenyan blinded in al-Qaida's 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi sobbed at a memorial site for the victims, and said that Monday was a day to remember those who have died in terror attacks around the world.

The announcement of Osama bin Laden's death reverberated with survivors of explosions that left U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and nearby buildings smoldering ruins. The twin bombings killed 224 people, mostly Kenyans. Twelve Americans also died.

"This is a day of great honor to the survivors and victims of terrorism in the world," Douglas Sidialo told AP Television News during a visit to the memorial where his fingers traced victims' names carved into the granite. "A day to remember those whose lives were changed forever. A day of great relief to us victims and survivors to see that bin Laden has been killed."

Some 5,000 people were wounded when a pickup truck rigged as a bomb exploded outside the four-story U.S. Embassy building. Within minutes, another bomb shattered the U.S. mission in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

Sidialo told AP in 2008 that he was devastated to find out he was blinded in the attack. His thoughts turned to revenge against bin Laden. "I could have skinned him alive," Sidialo said almost three years ago.

The bin Laden deputy believed to be behind the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings _ Fazul Abdullah Mohammed _ has been on the run for years. Presumed to be in Somalia, Mohammed still has a $5 million bounty on his head.

Members of Somalia's most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. An al-Shabab spokesman on Monday threatened revenge attacks for bin Laden's death. Al-Shabab's members include veterans of the Iraq and Pakistan conflicts.

"The Americans have previously killed other Islamist leaders," said spokesman Mohamed Osman Arus. "Their students will continue the jihad and we shall retaliate against the Americans, Israel (and) Europe, and Christians in Somalia with destructive explosions."

Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed welcomed the news of bin Laden's death, calling him "the brainchild of al-Shabab."

Al-Shabab carried out its first international attack last July in Uganda during the World Cup final, killing 76 people in bomb explosions. The group has long been on America's radar, and its leaders have faced the kind of covert attacks that killed bin Laden.

One of al-Shabab's first top leaders, Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2008. In September 2009, a U.S. commando raid in Somalia killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted for the 2002 car bombing of a Kenyan beach resort and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli plane.

In Nairobi, the closest commercial center to al-Shabab territory, frequent alerts warn of possible terror threats.

The U.S. Embassy in Kenya said it is "important to remember" that hundreds of Kenyans as well as Americans were killed during the 1998 attacks. "Many innocent people of many nationalities and faiths have been killed by al-Qaida under the direction of Osama Bin Laden," it said.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki commended all those involved in tracking down and killing bin Laden.

"His killing is an act of justice to those Kenyans who lost their lives and the many more who suffered injuries," Kibaki said.

Major TV stations in Kenya simulcast live coverage of bin Laden's death from CNN and BBC. The news surprised some who felt the U.S. would never get bin Laden.

"It is good news for all Kenyans and for me in particular," said Beatrice Wairimu, a beautician in Nairobi. "One of my cousins was injured in al-Qaida's 1998 attack. I never expected that he will be killed."

Charles Muriuki, who lost his mother in the Nairobi blast, also visited the memorial wall Monday in downtown Nairobi.

"When I heard the news I felt very excited and justice has been served," he said. "It's been 12 years but finally justice has been served."

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Associated Press writer Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.

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Online:

FBI's most-wanted terrorists list: http://tinyurl.com/hjexx