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1998 Nairobi blast victims vindicated

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 – The death of Osama bin Laden has sparked mixed reactions around the world, as a monumental event in the war against terror.

In Kenya, almost 13 years after the 1998 bomb attacks on the US embassy in Nairobi, victims expressed their feelings of jubilation and relief.

Twenty-seven year-old Charles Muriuki, who lost his mother Mary Wanjiru Muriuki, in the bomb blast, said the news of bin Laden\’s death is vindicating.

"My mother was going to Cooperative Bank. So she was among some of the first who died on the streets. It took four days to identify her. It\’s been 12 long years but we have our justice finally," says Mr Muriuki.

When he first heard of his mother\’s death, Mr Muriuki was just 15 and said life has since been a struggle, but he has managed to find the silver lining.

"Even though there was compensation, it was not enough. I never cleared high school. My dad became irresponsible and started drinking, but I can\’t blame him for that. Life became very tough, but we caught up with life. I am now self-employed and very happy with what I do," said Muriuki.

Douglas Sidialo, who lost his sight from flying glass after the blast, vividly remembers that fateful day of August 7, 1998.

He was driving near the US Embassy when he witnessed a truck turn into the embassy and moments later a huge explosion occurred.

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"From that day I have not seen the light of day. I became blind and was rescued and admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital for two months. When I was discharged I was very bitter and enraged," recounted Mr Sidialo. "If I would have met bin laden I would have skinned him alive, but down the road I realized that bitterness anger and rage only retard healing."

Today, Mr Sidialo is one of the most celebrated blind cyclists in the world, cycling the length of Africa in 2007 covering a distance of 12,000 kilometres in 95 days.

Mr Sidialo, however, expressed his concern of the negative reaction to Bin Laden\’s death by his devout followers.

"My fear is that he [Osama bin Laden] might be turned into a martyr and that people will worship and idolize him. Killing him will breed more terrorists," said Mr Sidialo.

Mary Mwami lost several colleagues in the bombings and came to the Bomb Blast Memorial Park to pay her respects upon hearing the news of Bin Laden\’s death.

Remembering the harrowing experience, Ms Mwami said she believes reconciliation is the way forward.

"I felt like it is a closure not because of revenge, but for us to embrace peace and love one another. Those of us who value peace and unity of human kind can be able to embrace this. It\’s not time for revenge. I hope no one goes out revenging."

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