Al-Qaeda targeted Kenya and Tanzania well before 9/11: its terrorists left 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured when they bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1998. Apart from the embassy bombings, Al-Qaeda was also responsible, in 2002, for two simultaneous terrorist attacks on Israeli targets in the Kenyan coastal resort of Mombasa.
The death of Bin Laden awoke emotional feelings among Kenyans and Tanzanians who had lost friends and relatives in these terrorist attacks. As a 25-year-old Kenyan man told the British daily, The Guardian: "Osama's death has come late but I feel that justice has finally been done. The man deprived me of a mother's care and there is nothing that can bring her back, but our family is happy that at least the man who caused us anguish is dead." Macharia Gaitho, known columnist for the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, writes that Bin Laden's departure was "very welcome" in Kenya, and his death sends new hopes there that "Al-Qaeda and its various offshoots, including our very own [Somalia-based] Al-Shabaab, is in its death throes."
The Kenyan media outlet Simple Motion also reports that the "good" news of Bin Laden's death was received with a sense of "jubilation and retribution" by part of the Kenyan population. This reaction also was confirmed by Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, who said that the killing of bin Laden is an "act of justice" for the victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. "On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Kenya I commend all those people behind the successful tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden," he said. President Kibaki adding that [Bin Laden's] killing is an act of justice to those Kenyans who lost their lives, and the many more who suffered injuries".
Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, stressed in a separate statement that Kenyans welcome the killing of bin Laden. Odinga echoed Kibaki in saying that bin Laden's death is "some kind of justice." However, he warned that the killing of Osama does not mean the end of Islamist threat. "We cannot relax... in the battle against terrorism," said Odinga, stressing that, "Bin Laden spread his ideology not by word but by acts of violence, and we must be vigilant against propaganda strikes by the lieutenants he trained and left behind." Kenya remains one of the main targets of an Al-Qaeda inspired Islamist militia: the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab movement.
Tanzania likewise hit in the 1998 bombing, also hailed Bin Laden's death. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, like his Kenyan counterpart, described the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda as a relief for the families' victims of the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: "In the 1998 attack at the U. S. Embassy here in Dar es Salaam, 11 Tanzanians lost their lives. Investigations revealed that members of Al-Qaeda were behind the attack," he said. "The death of bin Laden may be a relief to families who lost their loved ones."
The leading Tanzanian daily, The Citizen, welcomed the news, but warned to keep vigilant as Islamist terrorists are destabilizing the African continent. The Citizen reports that according to Western intelligence sources, an East African is in line to succeed Osama bin Laden as the leader of the global terror network, al-Qaeda. "While Bin Laden's long-time Number 2, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is the favorite to step into the shoes of the terror mastermind killed last week […], several other operatives are being mentioned as possible successors. They include the Kenyan Abdallah Mohammed Fazul, who is accused of being one of the planners of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi […]". Fazul, the leader of al-Qaeda's East African cell, is currently believed to be hiding in Somalia. His name appears on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists, and the US is offering $5 million for his capture.
According to The Citizen, another East African member of al-Qaeda, the Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani, "would have risen up the ladder following bin Laden's death had he not been jailed for life in the US earlier this year for his role in the 1998 bombings."
African leaders appear jubilant, but also realistic, knowing that defeating Islamic terrorism still lies ahead. Al-Qaeda and its branches have hit Africa in its heart more than once, and have killed hundreds of innocent victims. Last year, the Somali-based Al-Shabaab militant group carried out a suicide bombing in Uganda. Further, Mali and the whole of North Africa keep on being threatened by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQMI]. Mali's Foreign Minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, was quoted by the French daily Le Monde as saying that the killing of Bin Laden was a blow to the Islamist network but that he feared that it could also boost support for the AQMI.
The general feeling after Bin Laden's death, however, is that "justice has been done." Some Somali women's groups even wrote a statement thanking the US for killing Bin Laden, and saying that he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of women and children in the Somalia, where al-Shabab operates.