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Survivors of 1998 bomb blast to wait longer

Hundreds of Kenyans seeking compensation for the 1998 bombing won’t share in a US judge’s recent $957 million (Sh81 billion) award to blast victims as none of them were working at the US embassy, their attorney said on Friday.

Washington lawyer Philip Musolino, who represents some 500 Kenyans affected by the attack, explained that none of his clients are covered by a law that was the basis for a US judge’s ruling on March 28 that 23 Tanzanians and Americans be compensated.

A 2008 amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allows non-US nationals employed by the US government to sue a state sponsor of terrorism.

US federal court Judge John Bates thus ruled that Tanzanians working in the Dar es Salaam embassy at the time of the August 7, 1998, bombing should be awarded a total of $420 million in damages.

The money would come from the governments of Sudan and Iran in the form of assets that may eventually be seized by the US government.

Judge Bates had earlier found Sudan and Iran liable for the twin attacks on the embassies in Nairobi and Dar that killed 200 Kenyans, 12 Americans and 10 Tanzanians.

Sudan and Iran had given assistance to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, which carried out the bombings, the judge decided in 2011.

Judge Bates also ruled last month that 12 US citizens and their families victimised by the attacks should be given a total of $488 million in compensation.

Two other injured Americans and their families can receive $49 million, the judge found in a separate decision.

Mr Musolino said he welcomed the ruling, even though his Kenyan clients are not directly affected by it.

“I’m pleased by the decision. It may simplify things for us,” he said.

Mr Musolino has been seeking a much smaller award — between $10 million and $20 million — under a different US law that, he has argued, entitles his clients to reparation.

The money, in this case, would come from al-Qaeda assets that have been seized by the US government.

But a favourable outcome remains elusive more than a dozen years after the start of the proceedings.

“Our clients are very frustrated,” Mr Musolino said. “It’s hard to explain to them why this has taken so long.”

Mr Musolino added that comments made by Judge Bates in announcing awards approaching $1 billion apply to the Kenyans he represents.

“The 1998 embassy bombings shattered the lives of all plaintiffs in this case,” Judge Bates wrote.

“Reviewing their personal stories reveals that, even more than 15 years later, they each still feel the horrific effects of that awful day.”

Thomas Fortune Fay, the attorney representing the Tanzanians and Americans in Judge Bates’ court, said he is confident that sizable sums can be recovered from Iran and Sudan as payments to his clients.

“Iran has a massive economy based on oil. It has to do business with people outside Iran, meaning its assets can be seized,” said Mr Fay.