Report of the Accountability Review Boards

Bombings of the US Embassies in
Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
on August 7, 1998

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[* Note: Passages here and elsewhere in this document marked with an asterisk (*) indicate more details can be found in the classified version of the report.]


According to physical evidence and reports from persons on the scene just prior to the bombing, on the morning of Friday, August 7, 1998, a truck laden with explosives drove up Laibon Road to one of the two vehicular gates of the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam. Apparently unable to penetrate the perimeter because it was blocked by an embassy water tanker, the suicide bomber detonated his charge at 10:39 a.m. at a distance of about 35 feet from the outer wall of the chancery. The type and quantity of explosives are still under investigation.

The bomb attack killed eleven people; one other is missing and presumed dead. Another 85 people were injured. No Americans were among the fatalities, but many were injured, two of them seriously. The chancery suffered major structural damage and was rendered unusable, but it did not collapse. No one inside the chancery was killed, in part due to the strength of the structure and in part to simple luck. A number of third-country diplomatic facilities and residences in the immediate vicinity were severely damaged, and several American Embassy residences were destroyed, as were dozens of vehicles. The American Ambassador's residence, a thousand yards distant and vacant at the time, suffered roof damage and collapsed ceilings.

At the time of the attack, two contract local guards were on duty inside a perimeter guard booth, while two others were in the pedestrian entrance screening area behind the booth and another was in the open area behind the water truck. All five were killed in the blast. The force of the blast propelled the filled water tanker over three stories into the air. It came to rest against the chancery building, having absorbed some of the shock wave that otherwise would have hit the chancery with even greater force. The driver of the water tanker was killed, but his assistant, seen in the area shortly before the explosion, is missing without trace and presumed dead.

The US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam moved into the former Israeli Embassy compound in May, 1980. The embassy was located at 36 Laibon Road and consisted of a three-story Chancery, originally built as the Israeli Chancery in the early 1970's, and a four-story Annex, added in 1980. Both buildings were located in an enclosed compound. The construction of both the Chancery and Annex was of reinforced concrete beam and post configuration. The floors and ceilings were of concrete slab design and the exterior and partition wall areas of concrete block. Ground floor windows in the Chancery were minimal, possibly designed to limit potential bomb damage.

The Chancery and Annex were surrounded by a perimeter wall which provided a 10-12 meter setback between the embassy and adjacent streets and properties. The base of the wall was a combination of concrete block and reinforced concrete onto which tubular metal picket fencing alternated with concrete pilasters. Hardened guard booths were located at each of the entryways to the compound.

Pedestrian visitor and vehicle screening was conducted at the perimeter, primarily at the Laibon Road entryway nearest the Consulate/Admin Annex - where the bomber apparently intended to force access. Two vehicle entry gates allowed access to the compound and both were manually operated double-swing gates constructed of a tubular steel framework. "Delta barriers" provided additional access controls. Both of these were inoperative at the time of the bombings and one had been out of repair for over two years, despite attempts to make it operational. All visitors and approved-for-access vehicles were screened prior to entry. Vehicles were screened outside the gates by local guards with Diplomatic Security (DS)-provided inspection mirrors. The MSGs monitored local guard actions via Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) from the MSG booth, Post #1. Unfortunately, there was no video recording capability associated with the CCTV that might have provided information helpful to the post-blast investigation, nor were there special duress alarms at embassy perimeter guard posts which could have been used to warn of vehicle bomb threats.

A MSG detachment was assigned to the Embassy under the command of a Gunnery Sergeant. Unarmed local guards provided by a local security firm, ULTIMATE SECURITY, were employed in support of embassy security operations. There were no armed police provided by the host government. The ULTIMATE SECURITY guards were thorough in inspecting all vehicles prior to allowing them access to the compound. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant and MSG detachment frequently tested the guards in detection of bombs placed in vehicles.

Regional Security Officer (RSO) John DiCarlo arrived at post on 22 July 1998 and, following his own observations of vehicles being inspected by local guards, changed procedures to insure that vehicles were screened outside the compound before being allowed to enter. The RSO also reviewed all local guard and MSG emergency procedures upon his arrival. RSO-required briefings on evacuation procedures and emergency drills were held on a regular basis throughout the year. "Selectone" alarm drills to identify contingencies, such as package bombs, were held on a weekly basis and such a drill had been completed 30 minutes before the bombing. There were no drills, however, specifically designed to contend with vehicular bombs.

ecause the political violence threat (which includes terrorism) in Dar Es Salaam was considered "low," there was no priority attached to providing a greater setback than existed. A security survey conducted by the Department of State's Office of Security Oversight within the Office of the Inspector General in early 1993 noted that "the chancery's setback of from 25 to 75 feet from the roadway is considered adequate, given the terrorist threat level." The Compliance Follow-up Review, dated March 1994, seemed to agree, noting in paragraph three that "while some Middle Eastern governments and organizations with ties to terrorism are present in Dar Es Salaam, they have not been active in targeting American interests in Tanzania. The low (threat) rating appears reasonable." It was noted, however, that "dense traffic on the (Laibon) side street could pose a problem if the threat from terrorism were to increase."

Changes in physical security procedures such as those instituted by the new RSO in July 1998 and the previous addition of 4mm Mylar film on all windows were not required for "low" threat posts but were made anyway because of the recognition that "vulnerability" is a better criterion than "threat potential" in determining which security measures should be put in place at any given post.

The Dar Es Salaam Emergency Action Plan prepared by the RSO in May 1998, like other EAP's submitted in accordance with requirements specified by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, did not specifically mention vulnerability to vehicular bomb attack, but did describe emergency routes of evacuation and assembly points in the event of a package bomb threat.

The MSG detachment at Dar Es Salaam regularly performed react drills and embassy fire drills. React drills involve only the MSG personnel. Fire drills involved the entire embassy. Specifically, fire drills were conducted in March and June of 1998. Two package bomb react drills were conducted in April and June 1998 and four other drills were conducted during the March-June time frame. The MSG detachment was not only ready but also, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, performed efficiently, as well.

When the bomb went off, four Marines were in their quarters not far from the embassy. They mobilized quickly and headed for the embassy. Had they had specific kinds of emergency react gear at their quarters, they believe they could have been more effective in responding to the evolving emergency.*

The FEST personnel from Washington were delayed 24 hours in taking off because of the late decision to add a second aircraft (the regular FEST aircraft was designated to Nairobi) and the subsequent problems in identifying a suitable plane. Because of the nature of the bombing in Dar Es Salaam and the quick response of the embassy staff and the Tanzanian government, the delay did not affect materially the management of the Dar Es Salaam crisis. When the FEST personnel did arrive, they did a professional job. Particularly helpful were the FBO engineers who shored up the chancery structurally so that the investigation and security surveys could proceed. The post was unanimous in noting that what they needed most, but did not get, was help in the form of supplementary foreign service personnel who could assist the post in secretarial, political and public affairs responsibilities.

The handling of the press and public affairs in Dar Es Salaam was textbook quality. Post Public Affairs Officer (PAO), Dudley Sims, quickly established contact with the Department of State's Operations Center to coordinate public affairs strategy. The press was kept away from the bomb site for security reasons and no on-camera interviews were permitted. Care was taken to avoid any speculation on the origin of size of the bomb. Nevertheless, stand-up press conferences were held and human interest interviews with embassy survivors of the blast were arranged. The PAO ensured that local press groups were included in all briefings in addition to the international press corps which arrived on the scene quickly and in large numbers. So heavy were the demands from the press that the post suggested including a Public Affairs specialist on future FEST teams to help with this important element of crisis management.


As required by statute, the Board makes these findings:

1. The August 7 vehicular bombing of the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, which occurred almost simultaneously with the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was a terrorist attack intended to cause loss of lives, serious injuries, and destruction of the embassy. Under the provisions of P.L. 99-399, this incident was therefore security related.

2. With the notable exception of failing to meet the Department's standard for a 100 ft. setback/standoff zone, the security systems and security procedures at the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam prior to and on August 7, 1998 were in accord with, and in some ways exceeded, Department of State standards for overseas posts assessed as having a "low" threat rating for political violence and terrorism.

3. The security systems and security procedures in force at the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam prior to and on August 7 were, so far as the Board could determine, properly implemented.

4. There was no information or intelligence to warn of the actual attack. A report about a year prior to the attack alleged that the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam would "have to be attacked" after the US Embassy in Nairobi was bombed. This report was fully disseminated but discredited because of serious doubts about the source. It did, however, have the impact of reminding officials that attacks can occur anywhere, reinforcing the security procedures and training implemented at Embassy Dar Es Salaam.*

5. The Board finds that no employee of the US Government or member of the uniformed services, as defined by Section 303(a) (1)(B) of the Act, breached his or her duty. To the contrary, the post and all of its personnel are to be commended for the professionalism with which they undertook their responsibilities prior to the attack and for their personal courage in the aftermath.

6. The Marine Security personnel at the Marine quarters at the time of the bombing did not have react gear to respond to the emergency.* While in this case, the lack of such equipment did not impede their arrival at the embassy, other more dire scenarios in the future dictate consideration of having additional gear stored at Marine quarters for emergency use.

7. The arrival of the FEST personnel from Washington was delayed because of the late decision to add a second aircraft and the difficulty in locating an available plane. The delayed arrival had no adverse impact on managing the crisis. The FEST team was staffed with appropriate expertise but additional foreign service personnel to supplement the beleaguered embassy staff would have been helpful.

[End of Document]

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