Terrorism strikes anywhere Bombings: Attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa appear to come from elsewhere.

August 08, 1998

CAR BOMBS targeting U.S. embassies simultaneously, 450 miles apart, are out of character for the East African countries where they exploded. Kenya and Tanzania lack such traditions and are victims.

The atrocities resemble the truck bomb in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen in 1996. That remains unsolved. Under U.S. law, these bombings call for U.S. investigations and prosecutions, though the countries where they occur have sovereign jurisdiction.

The United States received poor cooperation after the 1996 bombing from ally Saudi Arabia, which never allowed the FBI to interview jailed suspects. Perhaps in the interest of improving Saudi-Iranian relations, the Saudi interior minister said that no "foreign hands," only Saudis, were responsible. U.S. authorities are not so sure.

Washington should receive better cooperation from Kenya and Tanzania, even though relations with Kenya's dictator, Daniel arap Moi, have been chilly. National life in both countries halted when these bombings in their capitals disrupted satellite communications and killed their citizens.

In the absence of knowledge or credible claims, the usual suspects in Middle Eastern terrorist organizations come to mind. But that is not evidence. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 destroyed assumptions about who does these things.

The bombings show that vigilance at U.S. installations anywhere remains necessary. They are reminders that a superpower standing for something in the world collects enemies, even without a Cold War. It is a price paid for being the United States at the end of the 20th century.

Every effort must be made to bring the perpetrators to justice. No retaliation must be taken without certainty of guilt. The goal must be to defeat the terrorists, not to help them by punching back at innocents.

The clues, if not the killers, are in Kenya and Tanzania.

Pub Date: 8/08/98

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