Kenyan Victims Welcome Embassy Bombing Verdicts
NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan victims of the U.S. embassy bombing said Wednesday that while they were happy with the convictions handed down in New York against four of the conspirators, they live in fear that terrorists may strike again.
Grace Biegon, her body covered with scars she suffered in the Aug. 7, 1998 blast, said she hasn't recovered from the nightmare.
"My suggestion is that they should be held for some time and they should give us more information about other terrorists, because we can be bombed again any minute," the 37-year-old office worker said of the convicted men.
"I think it could happen again. I have trouble sleeping at night and breathing, it is very scary," she said.
More than 5,000 people were injured in the blast in downtown Nairobi. The near simultaneous bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, left 224 people dead, all but 12 of them Africans. About 85 people were injured in Dar es Salaam.
A federal jury in New York found Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia; Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, of Tanzania; Wadih El-Hage, 40, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen; and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan, guilty of conspiring to kill Americans in the bombings. Six other defendants charged in the conspiracy are in custody.
A dozen others — including Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who the Untied States accuses of masterminding the blast — are being sought.
"I am very happy, justice has been done," said Charles Abiud, who was in a building that collapsed when the bomb exploded at the embassy next door. "These people should not be let go without severe punishment, so that their movement will be eradicated. If they are left in society, they will multiply."
Kenyan victims had mixed feelings about what penalty those found guilty in the bombing conspiracy should face. Two defendants were convicted Tuesday of counts that could carry the death penalty.
"Those people should be shot or hanged. After all, we are innocent people. Me, I was cut in the head and I suffer," said Jane Waithiar, an office worker who still has nightmares about being caught in the rubble of the collapsed Kenya Cooperative Bank building, located next to the embassy.
Some, however, said forgiveness would have better results.
"I oppose the death penalty. If these people are held, then they can be rehabilitated and they can give more information about their group and they can be stopped," said Bernard Kihima, a 40-year-old postal worker injured in the blast.
Biegon was working on the sixth floor of a building across the street from the embassy, when the blast sent glass and debris through her window, peppering her with wounds.
"I had injures on my face, my legs and my breast and neck from the flying glass," Biegon said. "Since that time my life has really changed. I have lost friends and no one seems to love me any more and I am always stressed." She said she has trouble remembering things.
While the U.S. government offered humanitarian assistance to help rebuild buildings and treat immediate injuries, the program is wrapping up this year without any long-term care for bombing victims.
The U.S. government has supplied $37.8 million in aid, but victims say much more is needed.
They have filed a lawsuit against the United States, claiming the government did not heed warnings of an attack and did not take reasonable precautions to prevent the bombing. The case is being heard in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The Kenyan government has not offered any assistance to the victims of the bombing.