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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bombs Devastate U.S. Embassies in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Powerful bombs exploded minutes apart outside the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Friday, killing more than 67 people. More than 1,100 were injured, officials said.

At least eight Americans were among the dead in Kenya and seven more were missing, U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Scharf said. The U.S. ambassador to Kenya was slightly injured.

More than 60 were killed and 1,100 wounded in Nairobi, Red Cross and ambulance officials said. At least seven were killed and 72 hurt in Tanzania, officials said.

"We fear the worst. By the time the rubble is cleared, we expect to find more dead,'' Red Cross spokeswoman Nina Galbe said. Rescuers worked beneath huge studio lights set up outside the embassy as darkness fell.

An Arabic-speaking man was taken into custody in Nairobi by Kenyan police in connection with the bombing, said a photographer who witnessed the incident.

Police made no immediate comment but told state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corp. they suspected a van loaded with explosives and parked behind the embassy caused the blast.

There was no claim of responsibility. However, the Islamic Jihad vowed to strike U.S. interests because some of its members were arrested in Albania and handed over to Egypt, according to a report Thursday in Al-Hayat, a daily Arabic language newspaper published in London.

Several groups around the world use the name Islamic Jihad. This one is considered the successor to the groups that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

In Washington, President Bill Clinton condemned the attacks and said the United States would bring the terrorists to justice "no matter what or how long it takes.''

The United States rushed medical supplies and investigators to both Tanzania and Kenya.

A U.S. State Department official confirmed bombs that went off five minutes apart caused the two explosions.

"It was definitely a bomb,'' said a U.S. Embassy official in Nairobi, who refused to identify himself. "You can see a huge crater behind the building, and a bomb went off at the embassy in Tanzania at the same time.''

Preacher Julius Koiyet said he saw three men throw a tin container about 30 centimeters long toward the embassy, but it bounced onto an adjacent building where it exploded. A fourth man fired a gun randomly, striking Koiyet in the shoulder.

Koiyet said he heard at least two bomb blasts. Police were unable to confirm the number of explosions.

In Nairobi, the blast at 10:35 a.m. local time toppled the four-story Ufundi Cooperative building toward the embassy, which was badly damaged. Cooperative Bank House, with government and private offices, also was damaged.

The blast shattered windows as far as 10 blocks away. A passing public bus and a minibus caught fire and a Kenya Red Cross worker said at least eight passengers died in the inferno.

Bloodied clothing and papers littered the streets. Crowds crawled over a mountain of twisted and broken concrete and metal trying to reach trapped people who were crying for help.

Shattered cars were left smoldering on the street amid the debris. Police helicopters hovered overhead, and helped with evacuations.

"There was a huge blast and everything was flying,'' said witness Pastor Wachira. "It was all confusion.''

Gesturing at dazed and bloody survivors crumpled on sidewalks and in the road, Wilberforce Mariaria asked, "How can someone think of doing this kind of thing.''

Passersby helped rescuers and ferried the injured to hospitals in cars. More than 1,100 people were being treated in four hospitals.

In Tanzania, a suspected car bomb exploded in the U.S. Embassy parking lot, Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye said. At least seven people were killed and 72 injured, officials said.

No Americans were among the dead, but five Tanzanians who worked at the embassy were killed, a State Department official said.

Nearly two-thirds of the embassy in Dar es Salaam was destroyed, witnesses said. The nearby Nigerian Embassy and Algerian diplomatic residence were damaged. Cranes were hurried to the site to tear apart wreckage in the search for survivors. Many cars were in flames.

"Glass was flying ... I found myself [1 1/2 meters] from where I was sitting,'' witness Jim Owens was quoted by CNN as saying. He said one woman was injured when a wall collapsed on her, and another had her nose ripped off.

Officials in the United States, Kenya and Tanzania refused to speculate on who was responsible.

"All we can say is if any of our people or embassies are being targeted, we are not going to tolerate it,'' Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was quoted as saying by CNN.

Security was immediately tightened at other U.S. embassies, including in Kampala, in nearby Uganda, where staff members were evacuated.

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, was cut on the lip and helped from Cooperative Bank House, where she had just given a news conference, U.S. Embassy spokesman Bill Barr said.

U.S. Marines and African troops patrolled outside both of the damaged embassies.

"I condemn in the strongest terms such acts of terrorism perpetrated not only in Kenya but anywhere else in the world,'' said Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, who surveyed the wreckage.

Officials made an urgent plea for blood donations and medical help.