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A pair of plaintiffs’ attorneys who for years have been fighting to get compensation for scores of victims injured or killed in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa are taking another stab at the U.S. Department of State. This time � after several failed efforts � the two attorneys are hoping to tap into $4 million in alleged al-Qaida assets that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has impounded. The lawyers, one in California and the other in Washington, are counting on the cooperation of a judge and the State Department to authorize the release of the funds and allocate them to their clients � roughly 2,700 Africans who were injured or affected by the terrorist attacks. “I have tried to get our people paid in every way you can imagine, except writing to Santa Claus, and we have consistently been rebuffed,” said Gerald Sterns, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, claiming that American victims of the embassy bombings have been compensated through a 9/11 fund program. “But the Kenyans and the Tanzanians have been completely stiffed,” added Sterns of the Law Offices of Sterns & Walker in Oakland. CLOSURE, BUT NO CASH Sterns’ comments come on the heels of the recent killing of Egyptian Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, who was on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists for his alleged role in the embassy bombings in Africa. Atwah was killed on April 12 in an air strike in a remote village in Pakistan. Sterns noted that while Atwah’s death might offer a sense of closure for the United States, there are still scores of African victims who have not yet been acknowledged, nor compensated, by the United States. The 1998 bombings in Tanzania and Kenya killed more than 200 people � including 12 Americans � and injured more than 5,000. Sterns, along with plaintiffs’ attorney Phil Musolino of Musolino & Dessel in Washington, D.C., have alleged that the United States is liable for damages because it negligently failed to secure the embassies and failed to warn of the potential for a terrorist attack. The United States has denied any negligence in the bombings. Michael Ryan, an assistant U.S. attorney who helped convince an appeals court in 2003 that the United States could not be sued for the embassy bombings on jurisdictional grounds, declined to comment. He did, however, provide court documents that detailed the government’s position on the matter. According to court records, a class action representing more than 5,000 Kenyan citizens and businesses was filed in 1999 in federal court in Washington, D.C. The suit was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, claiming that the U.S. government failed to secure the building adequately and failed to act on a warning of potential attacks. The case is Macharia v. U.S., 99cv03274 (D.D.C.). But U.S. attorneys argued that the plaintiffs’ tort claims all originated in Africa, and therefore were barred by the tort claims act’s foreign country and discretionary-function exceptions. The district court dismissed the suit. An appeals court in 2003 affirmed the dismissal. SUING BIN LADEN Musolino plans to pursue another ongoing lawsuit against Osama bin Laden, which is currently pending in federal court in Washington and seeks to hold the alleged terrorist responsible for the bombings. The case is Mwani v. Bin Laden, 1:99 CV 00125 CKK D.C. He is hoping to convince a judge to issue a judgment against bin Laden, and eventually authorize the release of the frozen al-Qaida funds to his clients. According to Musolino, the U.S. government has asserted that it did allocate $40 million to the African communities hit by the attacks. But he claimed that the money never made it to his clients, and that it ended up being disbursed to rebuild communities. He said there are scores of widowed, orphaned and blinded victims who have yet to be compensated. “The injuries devastated everyone,” he said. Tresa Baldas is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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