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20 Years After Embassy Attacks In Africa, U.S. Vows To Remain Vigilant

Aug 7, 2018
Originally published on August 8, 2018 2:07 am
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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The State Department held a memorial event to remember the victims. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not there, but he issued a written statement in which he vowed to remain vigilant. NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: On August 7, 1998, al-Qaida blew up the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing more than 250 people and injuring hundreds more. Prudence Bushnell was the ambassador to Kenya at the time.

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PRUDENCE BUSHNELL: This occurred three years before al-Qaida bombed our homeland. We are, in fact, a more dangerous place than we were. Our colleagues today face issues we didn't have to.

KELEMEN: She told this ceremony marking the anniversary that she had warned the State Department ahead of time that the embassy in Nairobi was vulnerable. But she says she was told that, as she put it, the richest nation in the world did not have the resources to fix it.

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BUSHNELL: Please take today and this moment to pledge to alter the trend of providing inadequate resources to the people who work in peace.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Pompeo, who - as a congressman - often spoke about diplomatic security in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attack, was not there to hear Bushnell's appeal. Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Pompeo had a, quote, "extremely packed schedule." But she was there along with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

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HEATHER NAUERT: Deputy Secretary Sullivan was standing there as she spoke, as was I. And he acknowledged that and said, we're - you know, we certainly pledge to provide the resources that we're able to provide that, we believe, will fully take care of our people. That's something we take very seriously.

KELEMEN: Nauert described it as a touching moment to have survivors and families of the victims at the State Department, many of whom traveled long distances to be there. Deputy Secretary Sullivan, who met with them privately, too, said the U.S. will honor the memories of those who died and remain vigilant to prevent further attacks. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.