NAIROBI, Kenya – A marching band played a solemn tune as survivors, relatives and friends of the 219 people killed in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy five years ago remembered their loved ones Thursday at a memorial park where the mission had stood.
Before the start of the ceremony, several people prayed at a black granite wall inscribed with the names of the dead, including 12 Americans.
Sarah Namai, a 28-year-old Kenyan whose husband, Moses, was killed, welcomed a brief appearance by the sun on a cloudy day.
"Perhaps the sunshine is a sign that God and Moses are watching over all of us," she said.
Hundreds of people gathered later to pray, lay flowers and listen to speeches by politicians and survivors at the former site of the four-story embassy, which was destroyed in the explosion.
The new U.S. Embassy, which is in a heavily fortified compound in a leafy residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Nairobi, held a private memorial service Thursday, as did the new embassy in Dar es Salaam (search), Tanzania.
Just after 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 7, 1998, explosives hidden in a pickup truck wrecked the Nairobi (search) embassy — as another bomb shattered the U.S. mission in Dar es Salaam. The near simultaneous attacks killed 231 people.
Four men with ties to Al Qaeda were convicted by a U.S. federal court for their role in the attacks and are serving life sentences. Several of the men had set up businesses and lived in Kenya.
The bombings were the first major Al Qaeda attack, launching a terror campaign that has continued unabated. The latest attack came Tuesday in Jakarta (search), Indonesia, when a car bomb at a Marriott Hotel killed at least 10 people. A group linked to Al Qaeda is thought to be behind that attack.
"We need these people to stop killing all of us — in Kenya and everywhere," said a teary-eyed Namai.
Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the Nov. 28 car bombing of a beachfront hotel near the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, an attack that killed three Israelis and at least 10 Kenyans.
In May, the United States and Britain warned their citizens to stay away from Kenya, and British Airways temporarily stopped flying to the country, citing an "imminent" terrorist threat.
But the attack has not materialized. On Thursday, William Brencick, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, praised Kenya's anti-terrorism efforts.
Kenya has "shown courageous leadership in tackling this problem and getting at the roots of terrorism, which have unfortunately established themselves in Kenya," said Brencick, who made a brief appearance at the downtown park with the new U.S. ambassador, Mark Bellamy.
Five Kenyan men have been charged with murder in connection with the November bombing.
The suspects pleaded innocent Thursday at a hearing in the Nairobi High Court. Judge Tom Mbaluto ordered them held until Sept. 18, when a trial date will be set.