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United States of America v Usama Bin Laden et al.

Court United States District Court, S.D. New York, United States
Case number S(9) 98 Cr. 1023 (LBS)
Decision title Indictment
Decision date 4 November 1998
Parties
  • United States of America
  • Osama Bin Laden
  • Other defendants (Muhammad Atef, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Saif Al Adel, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah, Khalid Al Fawwaz, Wadih El Hage, Anas Al Liby, Ibrahim Eida
Other names
  • Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin
  • Shaykh Usamah Bin-Ladin, Osama Bin Laden
Categories Conspiracy, Terrorism, War crimes
Keywords war crimes, Murder, Terrorism (terrorism, conspiring, killing of civilians, material support), Wanton destruction
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Summary

The 1998 United States Embassy bombings were a series of attacks that occurred on 7 August 1998, in which hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous truck bomb explosions at the embassies of the United States in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. The date of the bombings marked the eighth anniversary of the arrival of American forces in Saudi Arabia.

Members of the al-Qaeda (terrorist group) were charged for planning and committing the bombing of the Embassies of the US in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Usama bin Laden is the head of Al-Qaeda and as such was amongst the people charged. The charges included also conspiracy to murder of US nationals anywhere in the world, US military personnel in Somalia and the Saudi Arabia Peninsula, US nationals serving in the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the concealment of any such plans of Al-Qaeda. 

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Procedural history

On 8 June 1998, Usama Bin Laden was indicted (under seal) on charges of ‘conspiracy to attack defense utilities of the United States’. In addition, the allegations stated that bin Laden was the head of the terrorist organisation called al-Qaeda, and that he was a major financial backer of Islamic fighters worldwide.

On 4 November 1998, Usama bin Laden was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, on charges of conspiracy to murder of US nationals anywhere in the world including in the United States, US military personnel in Somalia and the Saudi Arabia Peninsula, US nationals serving in the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the concealment of al-Qaeda activities. The evidence against bin Laden included courtroom testimony by former al-Qaeda members and satellite phone records, from a phone purchased for him by al-Qaeda procurement agent Ziyad Khaleel in the United States.

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Related developments

Bin Laden was placed on the American Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) lists of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives and Most Wanted Terrorists for his involvement in the 1998 US Embassy bombings.

From 2001 to 2011, bin Laden was a major target of the War on Terror, as the FBI placed a $25 million bounty on him in their search for him.

On 2 May 2011, Usama bin Laden was shot and killed inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Central Intelligence Agency operatives in a covert operation ordered by United States President Barack Obama.

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Legally relevant facts

On 7 August 1998, the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The bombings resulted in the death of 234 and approximately 4,650 people were injured.

Usama bin Laden and 20 other members of Al-Qaeda were charged with conspiracy to murder US nationals anywhere in the world including in the United States, US military personnel in Somalia and the Saudi Arabia Peninsula, US nationals serving in the Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the concealment of Al-Qaeda activities. (para. 11) Usama bin Laden allegedly planned and financed the attacks.

In addition, bin Laden and the other defendants were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against US nationals outside the US and against US property (para. 22).

In addition, the defendants were charged with conspiracy to destroy buildings and property of the United States (para. 26), conspiracy to attack national defence utilities (para. 30), bombing the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (paras. 33, 35), murder and use of weapons of mass destruction in Kenya and Tanzania (para. 37, 29, 41, 43).

Bin Laden issued his "Declaration of Jihad" with the aim of recruiting others to ‘kill Americans and encouraged other persons to join the jihad against the American enemy'.

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Core legal questions

  • Was Usama bin Laden together with others responsible for the 1998’s Bombings of US Embassies? 

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Title 18, Sections 1101, 1001, 844, 924 (c), 924 (2), 1623, 2332 (b), 2332 (a)(1), 2332 (a)(3), 956 (a)(1), 956 (a)(2)(A), 1114, 1116, 1117, 844 (f)(3), 844 (f)(1), 844 (f)(2), 844 (n), 2155 (a), 2155 (b), 930 (c) and 1111 of the US Code.

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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