2 Bombed Embassies Had No Chance as Built: FBI Says Africa Probes Will Take Weeks

By Sieff, Martin | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

2 Bombed Embassies Had No Chance as Built: FBI Says Africa Probes Will Take Weeks


Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi would have had to be rebuilt to create the security conditions that would have prevented the terrorist bombing there a week ago that took 257 lives, a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya says.

In order to survive the blast of a major truck bomb, the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, would have had to be set back from the city streets by at least 100 feet, Smith Hempstone, who served during the Bush administration, said in a telephone interview.

"They could not have moved the entire embassy buildings," he said. "The only secure defense against that kind of attack would be to have a defensive perimeter at least 100 feet out from the embassy building itself on every side."

To thwart further attacks, the State Department said yesterday it temporarily closed the U.S. Embassy in Albania and ordered all nonessential personnel and the families of employees to return to the United States, citing an Islamic terrorist threat. It also issued a warning to all U.S. citizens on the dangers of traveling in Albania.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Albania's capital, Tirana, said, "Given recent declarations by Islamic extremists against the United States and its citizens and press reports alleging U.S. government participation in the recent apprehension and detention of several Islamic extremists, it is possible that U.S. Embassy facilities in Tirana, Albania, could be among the targets of a terrorist attack."

Four Islamists were arrested in Albania and extradited to Egypt last month in operations widely reported by the Tirana press to have been conducted with the assistance of the CIA.

The State Department has also suspended consular operations at its embassy in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of the rebellion against the government. Washington has withdrawn three of its 23 diplomats from the embassy and renewed warnings to U.S. travelers to leave the country, a State Department official said.

Meanwhile, the FBI agent spearheading the investigation into the twin bombings said it would take at least a month of intensive work before the bureau could follow up its main leads.

"It will take at least four more weeks to complete examination of both bomb sites and witness interviews, and from that we will develop leads," said FBI Assistant Director Thomas Pickard. There were 700 interviews to conduct in Nairobi and 200 in Dar es Salaam, he said.

Mr. Pickard, who is supervising the investigation from Washington, said the FBI does not "have any plans now to charge anyone" with a crime stemming from the bombings. He said 215 FBI agents, lab examiners, evidence technicians, computer specialists, photographers and translators were now in the two East African cities. …

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