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  Rescue Search Ends; Suspects Questioned in Kenya

Breaking News
Kenyan and U.S. investigators said today that five people were being questioned about the embassy bombing in Nairobi.
By Stephen Buckley and Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 13, 1998; Page A25

NAIROBI, Aug. 12—As rescue crews ended their search for survivors of last Friday's bombing at the U.S. Embassy here, Kenyan police and American investigators said today they have detained at least one person, and perhaps more, in connection with the attack.

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi said police were detaining "a number of persons" in connection with the bombing, which authorities have described as a terrorist attack. In a statement, Moi said those detained "are providing useful leads into the circumstances surrounding the bomb blast."

Officials with the FBI and the Kenyan national police's Criminal Investigations Department confirmed that investigators were questioning at least one Iranian detained shortly after Friday's blast.

Sources said tonight that the questioning of those detained in Nairobi did not necessarily mean that investigators had discovered firm leads or solid suspects.

The Nairobi blast, the deadliest attack on an American embassy, killed at least 247 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 5,000. A near-simultaneous bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania resulted in 10 dead and more than 75 injured.

Police in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, said Tuesday that they were holding 14 people for questioning in connection with the bombing there; one was released today.

In addition, Tanzanian authorities said they were seeking the assistant to the driver of the water truck believed to have carried the bomb to the embassy. Both driver and assistant had been presumed dead, but Tanzania's home minister said the assistant's remains have not been found. [Story, Page A27]

The end of the multinational rescue effort in Nairobi this morning means investigators now have full access to the bombing site. Investigators huddled today around hulks of burned, twisted steel that once were vehicles sitting near the back of the U.S. Embassy.

The campaign to find survivors -- led by a team of 120 members of the Israeli armed forces -- ended after workers spent more than four days using pneumatic drills, pickaxes and bare hands on a mass of rubble -- most of which had been the five-story Ufundi Cooperative Building next door to the embassy.

In the end, the rescue effort yielded more bodies than survivors. Only three people emerged alive after the blast, including one man who was rescued late Saturday night after being trapped for 36 hours. Rescue workers had said from the outset that the chances of finding many people who had survived the blast were slim.

Rescuers had nevertheless been especially hopeful about a woman named Rose Wanjika. Although her voice was last heard Sunday from beneath the rubble of Ufundi House, as the building is known locally, some members of the rescue team thought they heard her tapping on Monday afternoon. But given the noise at the site, one Israeli official said, it was ultimately impossible to tell whether it was she.

Wanjika's body was the last one pulled from the remains of Ufundi House, at 3 a.m. today. In all, said Col. Udi Ben Uri of the Israeli army, "we pulled out 95 bodies."

As they have since Friday, hundreds of Kenyans gathered near the bombing site to watch the rescue efforts. This afternoon, a solemn crowd watched rescue officials and U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell lay wreaths against a pile of broken concrete in front of Ufundi House.

The rescuers found an array of victims' belongings: wallets, broken eyeglasses, shoes, Kenyan identification cards. The cards in particular may prove helpful as hundreds of Kenyans now turn to the grim -- and in some cases, nearly impossible -- task of identifying the dead.

"That will be very important in order to come to terms with what has happened here," said Nina Galbe, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is trying to help Kenyans find and identify loved ones. "It's very important for people to be able to bury a body."


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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