Kenya has 2 suspects in bombing Details are sketchy about first arrests, pair of non-Kenyans

Rescue effort ends

Pentagon, U.S. envoy sought safer embassy but were turned down

August 13, 1998|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF The New York Times News Service also contributed to this article.

NAIROBI, Kenya -- President Daniel arap Moi last night announced the first arrests in the U.S. Embassy bombing here as the rescue and body recovery phase of the aftermath ended formally and emotionally in front of a deliberately ugly monument to an evil deed.

No details of the arrests were released, but they came six days after the blast that claimed 5,097 victims, killing 247, including 12 Americans.

"A number of persons have been detained in relation to this incident and are providing useful leads into the circumstances surrounding the blast," a statement from Moi's office said.

In Washington, a U.S. law enforcement official told the Associated Press that two people had been detained as suspects. Neither was Kenyan.

The U.S. response differed from a more cautious approach taken earlier this week after police in Tanzania announced detentions that later appeared unpromising.

The FBI, which has been sifting through the rubble for clues since Friday's twin attacks here and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is to hold its first briefing here today with interest focused on the identities of those arrested, the vehicle in which the bomb was detonated, and the origins of the explosives.

The State Department acknowledged last night that Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, and the Defense Department were soalarmed about threats to the embassy in Kenya that they requested a safer building, but were rejected for budgetary reasons.

Prompted by requests from news organizations, the State Department revealed details of the security warnings issued to the department over the last nine months by the ambassador, and the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military interests in East Africa.

No specific threat

Senior State Department officials said they did not believe that Bushnell had cited any particular terrorist threat in her two requests for a new embassy -- the first made in a cable in December, the second in April in a message sent directly to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

"She indicated that resource constraints were endangering embassy personnel," said Patrick Kennedy, assistant secretary for administration, who choked with emotion as he described the warnings that the ambassador had made. "Unfortunately, we simply lack the money to respond immediately to all the needs of embassy construction -- it's just like a family with limited resources," he said at a news conference.

"She expressed her concerns on the vulnerability of the embassy and requested a security assessment," Kennedy said. "Her desire was to have a new building. The department expressed its agreement and shared its understanding." He described the tone of the memo as "concerned."

To mark the end of the Nairobi search and rescue mission, wreaths were laid at a small pile of shattered blocks, reinforcing rods protruding from their rough edges, beside the windowless and scorched wall of the U.S. Embassy.

Attending the brief ceremony were representatives of the four nations involved in the rescue -- Kenya, the United States, Israel and France.

Bushnell, who escaped the bombing with minor injuries, scattered a dozen roses over the 4-foot-high mound of rubble, choking back tears.

Shortly before the ceremony Bushnell recorded an interview with Kenyan TV in which she sought to answer local criticism of U.S. Marines for securing the embassy building and those inside it immediately after the blast rather than helping look for Kenyan victims outside.

"We were rescuing people [at the embassy]," she said. "There was no determination as to race, religion, ethnic group. We were trying to get as many people out as we possibly could."

At the site, the focus changed from a search for victims to a search for clues. FBI agents scoured the area looking for the tiniest useful fragments as well as uncovering a flattened wreck of a vehicle against the embassy wall, perhaps the vehicle that carried the explosives.

Final body

The search for survivors and the recovery of victims was declared over at dawn as the 95th and final body was pulled

from the collapsed five-story Ufundi bank building next to the embassy.

One of the last bodies recovered was that of Rose Wanjuki, a bank messenger and mother of three, who for the first four days of the crisis was communicating with the Israeli rescue team leading the recovery operation.

When found yesterday, she had been dead for at least 24 hours, according to Avi Shahar, the Israeli team commander who had been her main contact during her entrapment in a concrete tomb next to the bank's ground floor vault.

The safe prevented the ceiling from falling in on her and gave her enough room to move around, but it also narrowed the approaches the rescuers could take to get to her.

"There was no way to reach her," said Shahar, who found her body lying on a table in the cavern. She had no visible injuries. Stress, he said, might have caused her death.

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