Kenyan survivors of U.S. Embassy bombing seed compensation

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Pius Maina was headed for work on that chilly, overcast August morning four years ago when his bus stopped for the traffic light next to the U.S. Embassy.

Seconds later, a car bomb driven by terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network blew up the embassy and destroyed the building next to it. Millions of glass shards from shattered windows rained down, blinding Maina and killing many.

The Aug. 7, 1998, blast in Nairobi killed 219 people -- including 12 Americans -- and wounded 5,000. A nearly simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Tanzania killed 12 people and injured more than 80.

Since then, the U.S. government has allocated more than $40 million to rescue and heal injured Kenyans, bury the dead, educate their children and revive damaged businesses and property. But the United States will not make monetary compensation to Kenyans because Washington says it is not responsible.

A federal judge in Washington has thrown out two lawsuits by attorneys for more than 3,000 Kenyans and Tanzanians, ruling they failed to demonstrate sufficiently why the U.S. government should be held liable for deaths and injuries in the terrorist attacks.

Maina and fellow victim Esther Githagui belong to the Nairobi Bomb Blast Survivors Group, which is seeking restitution from al-Qaida funds frozen by the U.S. government following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Last Oct. 18, when U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand sentenced the four men convicted for the African embassy bombings to life in prison without parole, he also ordered them to pay $7 million to the victims' families and $26 million to the U.S. government.

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