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Obama, Bush honor victims of Osama bin Laden's opening salvo against US

President Obama and former President Bush participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 1998 Osama bin Laden-backed attacks on two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush met in an African capital Tuesday to honor the victims of Osama bin Laden’s opening salvo in his war against America.

Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush attend a memorial Tuesday for the victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The near-simultaneous bombings at two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 claimed the lives of 224 people, including 12 Americans.

In the words of then President Bill Clinton, the U.S. had lost “12 proud sons and daughters who perished half a world away, but never left America behind, who carried with them … the ideals for which America stands.”

A few months before the attacks in August 1998, bin Laden had warned his war would "inevitably move ... to American soil." U.S. embassies are American territory, according to international law.

The attacks prompted the FBI to put bin Laden on its "Most Wanted" list, though al-Qaeda attempts to attack American targets date back to 1992. The 1993 World Trade Center attack was masterminded by Ramzi Yousef and it is unclear if bin Laden was involved.

Nearly 15 years later, the embassy attacks brought together Obama and Bush on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

In a brief ceremony, Obama and Bush walked over to a memorial on a large piece of rock near the embassy’s entrance under a big tree. A new embassy was built in 2003.

Amr Nabil / AFP - Getty Images, file

An American soldier stands guard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 8, 1998, the day after a bomb blast killed 10 Tanzanians and wounded more than 85 local people and Americans.

A U.S. Marine laid the wreath as the two presidents stood for a moment of silence. They did not make any public remarks, but then spoke to survivors and relatives of those who died.

The stone is inscribed with the names of the 10 Tanzanians who died. More than 85 Americans and Tanzanians were also injured in the attack.

A memorial by the embassy community is also held every August 7, the anniversary of the attacks. Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have previously visited the embassy and laid wreaths at the memorial stone.

Despite the devastation caused by the bombing, 15 Tanzanian embassy staff who survived still work there today.

And the number of American staff there has grown by 57 percent since 2009.

The attack prompted Clinton to attempt to kill bin Laden with a missile strike, Bush continued efforts to find bin Laden, who was finally slain in 2011 while Obama was in office.

Bush was in Dar es Salaam with his wife Laura for The Bush Center’s two-day African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania.

At a meeting earlier Tuesday, Laura Bush shared a platform with Michelle Obama and spoke of the overriding need for freedom – freedom not only from tyranny but also in education, economics and other areas.

President Obama was warmly greeted by throngs in Tanzania, but his message of trade was overshadowed by other events around the world.

Michelle Obama stressed the importance of education in empowering women.

“I am sitting here now, as First Lady of the United States of America, because of education,” she told the summit, according to The Bush Center's Twitter account.

The Obamas are on the final day of a week-long tour of the continent, visiting Senegal and South Africa.

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