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Gary Younge
Carnage at the East African embassies

US vows to bring bombers to justice after scores die in East Africa attacks

President Clinton yesterday launched an international hunt for the perpetrators of two murderously effective car-bomb attacks on United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"These acts of terrorist violence are abhorrent, they are inhuman," he said in Washington, vowing: "We will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice no matter what or how long it takes."

There was no warning and no group claimed responsibility for the attacks. But there was speculation that Middle Eastern Islamic extremists were involved. The majority of the 81 who died as well as the 1,700 who were injured were local people.

In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, there were still dead and living in the debris of the US embassy and an adjacent building. An Arabic-speaking man was reported to have been taken into custody by police in connection with the bombing.

At least eight Americans were among the 74 dead in Kenya and six were missing. The US ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, was found covered in blood after the blast – one of more than 1,600 wounded – but helped direct the rescue after being treated. In the Tanzanian city of Dar-es-Salaam, the other soft target to be hit, about two-thirds of the American embassy was destroyed by a car bomb that exploded in the embassy's car park, in a residential area north of the city centre near the Indian Ocean. Police said that, as well as the seven known dead – five of whom were local embassy employees – 72 people were injured.

Appearing on national television to extend his sympathies to the families of the victims, the Kenyan president, Daniel arap Moi, expressed disbelief that such terrorist acts had happened in Kenya. "Kenya is not at war with any other country and we don't deserve this kind of tragedy." Kenya is heavily dependent on tourism earnings, which the explosion is bound to hit.

Suspicions were focused on the Egyptian fundamentalist movement, Islamic Jihad, which earlier this week issued a threat against the US for what the group claimed was the CIA's role in helping extradite four of its activists from Albania to Cairo.

Another possible perpetrator was Osama bin Laden, the exiled scion of an enormously wealthy Saudi merchant family. Until recently at least, he was based in Afghanistan.

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