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Slow-motion manhunt: US relentlessly pursues '98 embassy bombing suspects

19 of the 22 suspects indicted in 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania have been killed or captured.
19 of the 22 suspects indicted in 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania have been killed or captured.

In the 15 years since terrorists staged near-simultaneous attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing hundreds of people, America’s government and military have systematically hunted the 22 suspects it identified as being involved in the planning or execution of the brazen plot.

In a slow-moving but relentless chase that draws comparisons with the Mossad’s hunt of the attackers who butchered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the U.S. has now killed or captured 19 of the original 22 suspects, most recently snatching Anas al Libi in Libya on Saturday. 

19 of the 22 suspects indicted in 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania have been killed or captured.

Six of the eight dead suspects were killed by U.S. military forces: Four in drone attacks, one (Osama bin Laden) in a U.S. commando raid in Pakistan and one in combat in Afghanistan. One was killed by Pakistani forces and one by Somali government forces.

Six of the 10 captured suspects have been convicted in U.S. courts and imprisoned at the Bureau of Prisons “SuperMax” facility in Florence, Colo. One other suspect is imprisoned but his whereabouts unknown. Two others are awaiting trial in Manhattan and one, al-Libi,  is  being interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy ship. An 11th captured suspect died in Britain while fighting extradition to the U.S.

In the attacks, which seared the names “Osama bin Laden” and “al Qaeda” into Americans’ consciousness, terrorists detonated massive truck bombs on Aug. 7, 1998, outside the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Nairobi attack killed more than 200 people, while the Tanzania attack killed 11.

The 22 suspects – 12 of whom were on the original Most Wanted Terrorist list published on Oct. 10, 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- were identified in an original indictment filed in U.S. District Court of Southern New York on Nov. 4, 1998, or added in subsequent superceding indictments. Al Libi was among the last added. 

Here is a list of the suspects detailing their roles in the attacks and their current status, where known. The list was compiled from NBC News reporting and information from the U.S.  Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Bureau of Prisons; the FBI, the Center on National Security, Fordham University Law School and news reports:

Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, published a “fatwa” – or religious edict – on Feb. 23, 1998 stating that Muslims should kill Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world, providing the basis for the embassy bombings. On the morning of the bombings, bin Laden called the two “suicide bombers” – only one of whom died in the attacks -- by satellite phone to offer encouragement and may have chosen the locations to detonate the truck bombs. He was killed in Abottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011, in a raid by U.S. commandos.

Ayman al Zawahri, now the leader of al Qaeda, remains a fugitive. He is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Muhammad Atef, the military commander of al Qaeda at the time, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Nov. 14, 2001, in a drone attack.

Saif al Adel served on the military committee of al Qaeda, reporting to Atef, and was a member of the group’s majlis al shura, or consultation council. He remains a fugitive, and was reportedly in Iran until recently.

Ali Mohamed was a double agent: a former Egyptian intelligence officer who later worked for U.S. Army Special Forces, briefing soldiers before they went to Islamic countries. Two weeks after the bombings, FBI agents searched his apartment in North Carolina and found evidence of terrorist activities. He pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy under a plea bargain in October 2000 and was sentenced to life without parole. At his sentencing, he said that he had trained some of the conspirators in the bombings in the use of explosives and helped set up the Nairobi cell. His whereabouts in the prison system are unknown.

Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, was a member of the ruling council and served as both a religious and logistics adviser. He is currently serving a life sentence of life imprisonment in the United States.

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah was one of the leaders of the Nairobi cell that carried out the bombing there. He remains a fugitive, his whereabouts unknown.

Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah provided military and intelligence training for al Qaeda. He was killed by gunfire from a Pakistani helicopter in Naghar Kalai, Pakistan, on April 12, 2006

Khalid al Fawwaz allegedly set up an al Qaeda operation in London, which served as a conduit for messages between various terror group cells, including the one in Nairobi, to al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan. He is awaiting trial in U.S. Southern District Court, Manhattan, fought extradition from the U.K. for more than a decade.

Wadih el Hage was bin Laden’s secretary and provided logistical support and training for al Qaeda. He is serving a life sentence in the United States.

Anas al Libi was captured Saturday in Libya, where he had reportedly been living openly for some time. He allegedly came up with the idea of the bombings in 1993 and conducted surveillance – photographic and visual – of the U.S., Israeli, French and U.K. embassies in Nairobi. He is currently being questioned on the USS San Antonio.

Ibrahim Eidarous, facilitated the delivery of fake travel documents for co-conspirators in the bombing plot. He died in 2008 while under house arrest in the United Kingdom while fighting extradition to the U.S. 

Adel Abdel Bary, with Eidarous allegedly facilitated the delivery of fake travel documents for co-conspirators in the bombing plot. He is awaiting trial in U.S. Southern District Court, Manhattan, after unsuccessfully fighting extradition from the U.K. for more than a decade.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, AKA Haroun, was said to be the mastermind of the attacks. He was killed at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, by Somali government troops on June 8, 2011.

Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali helped recruit and provided military training. He was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan in 2010.

Mohammed Sadeek Odeh helped build the bomb in Nairobi. He is serving sentence of life imprisonment in the United States.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali was a passenger in the truck used in the Nairobi bombing and threw a stun grenade before exiting the vehicle, which the driver then detonated. He was the first suspect arrested, five days after the attacks, and confessed. He is serving sentence of life imprisonment in the United States.

Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil prepared and loaded the TNT and other explosives in the Dar es Salaam truck bomb. He was killed in Afghanistan by U.S. forces some time in 2005, based on the removal of his name from the most-wanted terrorist list that year.

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed assembled the bomb used in Dar es Salaam. He is serving sentence of life imprisonment in the United States.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an al Qaeda explosives expert, obtained the components in Dar es Salaam bomb and rented a hotel room in Nairobi where the bomb that exploded there was assembled. He is serving a life sentence in the United States.

Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam, who helped load the Tanzania truck bomb, was killed in Pakistan on Jan. 1, 2009, in a drone attack.

Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan purchased the trucks for the bombs in both cities and outfitted them to accommodate the bombs. He also was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan on Jan. 1, 2009.

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