The instant of the explosion in Dar es Salaam was vividly recalled Tuesday by victims who testified about the horror of seeing people burned beyond recognition.
"We got outside and saw a man who was totally blackened, charred, probably in the last seconds of life, and he was on his back kind of groaning. He was clearly not going to be living for long," recalled John E. Lange, who had been placed in charge of the embassy.
Lange said every embassy clock was tied to the same electrical system, freezing them in place at 10:39 a.m. as the bomb hit, killing 11 people and injuring 86.
A similar attack occurred almost simultaneously in Nairobi, Kenya. In all, 224 people were killed, including 12 Americans. The Aug. 7, 1998, twin blasts are blamed on Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, who was put on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List after the bombings.
"I suddenly saw what was like a flash of lightning for a split second and what sounded like a thunderstorm," recalled Justina Mdobliu, a Tanzanian woman who worked at the embassy. "The sounds seemed to go through my chest."
Four men are charged with conspiracy in the attacks . The survivors' testimony came as prosecutors finished presenting evidence about the Kenya bombing and began outlining the attack in Tanzania.
Lange said he was at a meeting in his embassy office in Dar es Salaam when he heard a deep rumble followed by a blast that shattered windows.
"I now kind of understand what it's like when the parachute doesn't open and your entire life flashes in front of your eyes because I can still see that glass coming in slow motion in a sense, even though it was in a split second landing on people," he said.
Elizabeth Slater, an information specialist with the State Department, said she was attending an orientation meeting when the bomb went off, filling the room with darkness before the walls tumbled down.
Slater, wiping her face with a tissue, told of a guard barely clinging to life.
"He didn't have any skin left," Slater said as jurors leaned forward to hear her hushed description.
At one point, Lange decided he had to call the State Department and went back inside the embassy. He said he found a direct line to Washington amid the rubble in an office.
"The phones, kind of amazingly, were working," he said. "I said, `There's been a huge explosion, a lot of damage to the building. You won't be hearing from me for a while."'
If convicted, Wadih El-Hage, 40, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, could face life sentences, while Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, could face the death penalty. The four were acused of joining a conspiracy led by bin Laden, who allegedly instructed his followers to kill Americans.
The men offer different defenses: Al-'Owhali says his confession was coerced, and Mohamed says he didn't know what the explosives were intended for. El-Hage says he never joined any terrorism conspiracy. Odeh says he knew nothing of the plots and is being prosecuted because of his association with other suspects.
By Larry Neumeister
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