We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Al Qaeda Declares War

The African Embassy Bombings and America’s Search for Justice

Tod Hoffman

Publication Year: 2014

Three years before the events of 9/11, Osama bin Laden sent al Qaeda suicide bombers on a coordinated attack to destroy the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. That day, August 7, 1998, more than two hundred people were killed and thousands were wounded. Responding immediately, the FBI launched the largest international investigation in its history. Within months, suspects were arrested in six countries. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted twenty-two individuals, including the elusive bin Laden. In February 2001 a landmark trial of four of the accused was held in Manhattan in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Al Qaeda Declares War: The African Embassy Bombings and America’s Search for Justice explores the step-by-step procedures the United States employed in analyzing these attacks, identifying the suspects, tracking down and apprehending them, building a case, and prosecuting them. It is this case that established the legal basis for hunting down bin Laden, and the trial makes for a gripping courtroom drama, in which the robust principles of American justice confront the fanaticism of true believers. Tod Hoffman argues forcefully that the process after the 1998 incident stands in marked contrast to the illegal detention, torture, and abrogation of rights that followed 9/11. Indeed, reverberations from the African embassy bombings continue in the ongoing hunt for perpetrators still at large, and in targeted killings by drones. Al Qaeda Declares War dramatically recounts the terror and bloodshed of that day in Africa and shows that America’s search for justice afterward offers important lessons for today.

Published by: University Press of New England

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Quote

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.3 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (317.4 KB)
pp. ix-x

read more

[1] Dark Day in Africa

pdf iconDownload PDF (314.1 KB)
pp. 1-11

No ominous music rises up. No shadow passes across the flawless blue sky. The man who has been preparing himself to kill and to die doesn’t smell of sulfur, nor do his eyes glint red. He could scrape right by you without raising a goose bump. ...

read more

[2] Osama’s War

pdf iconDownload PDF (359.0 KB)
pp. 12-19

Joe Billy, an ASAC in the National Security Division at the FBI’s New York Field Office, was in his Federal Plaza office in lower Manhattan watching the first reports of the carnage as they were broadcast on CNN. His boss, John O’Neill, poked his head in and stated, simply, “It’s bin Laden.”1 ...

read more

[3] The East Africa Cell

pdf iconDownload PDF (338.5 KB)
pp. 20-30

It was 1992 when al Qaeda began assembling the East Africa cell that would carry out the plot against the American embassies. Osama sent his number three, Abu Ubaydah al Banshiri, chair of the military council, to Kenya to run it. ...

read more

[4] Fatwa

pdf iconDownload PDF (361.5 KB)
pp. 31-43

In May 1996, Osama left Sudan, returning to Afghanistan. The circumstances surrounding his departure remain murky, but he was evidently embittered to have, once again, been exiled, and he suspected that Sudan had succumbed to U.S. pressure. ...

read more

[5] The Deployment

pdf iconDownload PDF (373.1 KB)
pp. 44-59

John O’Neill was convinced that the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center was but a first blow in what was intended as a prolonged campaign. Indeed, he was certain that the destruction of the twin towers remained al Qaeda’s prime objective. ...

read more

[6] Mohamed Saddiq Odeh

pdf iconDownload PDF (379.1 KB)
pp. 60-66

On August 6, the day before the embassies were bombed, Mohamed Saddiq Odeh and Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam boarded Pakistan International Airways flight 746 in Nairobi bound for Karachi. Odeh was traveling on a fake Yemeni passport under a false name. ...

read more

[7] The Retaliation

pdf iconDownload PDF (346.5 KB)
pp. 67-75

The first claim of responsibility for the attack was received by the newspaper Al Hayat from the previously unheard-of Liberation Army of the Islamic Sanctuaries. It said the Dar bombing had been carried out by Egyptian members of the Abdallah Azzam Battalion. ...

read more

[8] Khalfan Khamis Mohamed

pdf iconDownload PDF (341.8 KB)
pp. 76-81

While all the other al Qaeda operatives scrambled to get out of Dar es Salaam before the bomb was detonated, K. K. Mohamed was abandoned to his fate. On August 8, all by himself, he slunk out of Dar on a bus for Mozambique. From there, he continued down to South Africa. ...

read more

[9] The Defectors

pdf iconDownload PDF (327.1 KB)
pp. 82-99

Those who generalize about people deny themselves the capacity to appreciate and exploit the particularities and peculiarities of an individual’s character or situation. To wit, a terrorist is not some generic beast. The label terrorist does not convey a self-explanatory prescription for how to relate to such a person. ...

read more

[10] Wadih el Hage

pdf iconDownload PDF (384.3 KB)
pp. 100-107

Wadih el Hage presented the biggest challenge for prosecutors because, no one contested, he’d left Kenya a year before the bombings and, therefore, did not stand accused of any murders. He was charged only for his participation in the conspiracy to kill Americans, as well as with twenty-two counts of perjury for giving false statements to a federal grand jury. ...

read more

[11] The Day in Court

pdf iconDownload PDF (335.7 KB)
pp. 108-117

The trial of al-’Owhali, Odeh, K. K. Mohamed, and el Hage opened on a blustery February 5, 2001, in the Southern District of New York, courtroom 318 of the Old Federal Courthouse, Foley Square, Manhattan. The building’s architecture conveys the grandeur and stolidity of the law. ...

read more

[12] Life and Death

pdf iconDownload PDF (342.0 KB)
pp. 118-141

One day after the verdicts were delivered, the parties returned to court to consider the fate of the death-eligible defendants, al-’Owhali and Mohamed. There is no exact formula for balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors contributing to a crime, nor is there a mechanism to define who deserves to die. ...

read more

[13] Salim

pdf iconDownload PDF (390.2 KB)
pp. 142-144

Mamdouh Mahmud Salim was forty years old when he was arrested by German police, acting on a request from the FBI and CIA, on September 16, 1998, near Munich. Though he denied any association with bin Laden, Bavaria’s Interior Ministry was prepared to extradite him.1 ...

read more

[14] Supermax

pdf iconDownload PDF (320.2 KB)
pp. 145-147

After observing the accused on a daily basis over several months, Judge Sand offered, “I have no doubts about the sincerity of the defendants. I don’t know of any motivation other than their beliefs.” He paused thoughtfully before adding, “That makes them more dangerous.”1 ...

read more

[15] Harun

pdf iconDownload PDF (319.9 KB)
pp. 148-156

We know a great deal about Harun, one of the leaders of the East Africa cell and a key logistician for the embassy bombings, because of the diary he kept between 1998 and January 2009. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was aware he was writing it and encouraged him to turn it into a book. ...

read more

[16] The Myth of Hindsight

pdf iconDownload PDF (621.4 KB)
pp. 157-166

It is impossible to reflect on the embassy bombings without feeling the onrushing doom of 9/11. Naturally enough, when looking back, you try to elicit predictors. Only because you know the outcome, you find them. But imagine you can’t foresee what is to come. What, then, is predictable? ...

read more

[17] Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani

pdf iconDownload PDF (347.0 KB)
pp. 167-182

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani left Dar es Salaam for Nairobi on August 1, 1998. He checked into the Hilltop Hotel, where he stayed until August 6, when he joined the exodus of al Qaeda operatives. He departed on Kenya Airways flight 310, along with Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, a leading organizer, for Karachi. ...

read more

[18] Anwar al-Awlaki

pdf iconDownload PDF (380.8 KB)
pp. 183-189

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike on September 30, 2011, in Marib province, Yemen. No incident more clearly illustrates the normative shift between America’s pre- and post-9/11 approach to terrorism than the decision to target him with lethal force, despite his being a U.S. citizen, despite his residing in a country against which the United States was not at war, ...

read more

[19] The Death of Osama bin Laden

pdf iconDownload PDF (334.3 KB)
pp. 190-204

Those videos of a disheveled Osama bin Laden hunkered down in his windowless bunker in Abbottabad, Pakistan, brought to mind the quip made by Defense Secretary Harold Brown about Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis, when U.S. officials feared Khomeini was prepared to martyr himself for his faith: ...

read more

[20] Africa

pdf iconDownload PDF (378.6 KB)
pp. 205-209

When Africa is not neglected, it is most frequently exploited. It is a land where men without scruples have always gotten away with murder. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (336.6 KB)
pp. 210-216

The effects of an act of terrorism are not measured by the immediate body count. The full misery lies in the malign trauma hanging in its aftermath, the corrosive mushroom cloud of collective fear that blooms up thickly and wafts far beyond the explosion. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (347.6 KB)
pp. 217-218

This book was a very long time in the writing. During the course of my research, I was privileged to interview many of the participants in this case. I want to sincerely thank all of those who shared their knowledge and insights: Anthony Barkow, Joe Billy, Jean-Louis Brugière, Jack Cloonan, Frederick Cohn, Gregory Cooper, Pat D’Amuro, ...

Appendix: The Twenty-Two Suspects Indicted for the Bombing of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

pdf iconDownload PDF (144.0 KB)
pp. 219-222


pdf iconDownload PDF (334.3 KB)
pp. 223-246

Further Reading

pdf iconDownload PDF (379.5 KB)
pp. 247-248


pdf iconDownload PDF (316.2 KB)
pp. 249-252

E-ISBN-13: 9781611685657
E-ISBN-10: 1611685656
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611685466

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2014