U.S. Says Raids a Success, Warns of More Strikes
The Clinton administration declared Friday that its cruise missile attacks on terrorists inflicted at least moderate damage on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan, and it warned that a violent terrorist reaction--and perhaps a new round of U.S. strikes--might lie ahead.
One day after Navy ships loosed 75 Tomahawk cruise missiles, National Security Advisor Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger said the attacks had “functionally destroyed” an alleged chemical weapons plant in Khartoum, Sudan, and done “moderate to severe” damage to a complex of terrorist training camps allegedly run by millionaire Saudi exile Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
And Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, after briefing lawmakers on Capitol Hill, warned that the U.S. attacks might be resumed. Asked if more strikes were scheduled, Cohen said: “That’s always a possibility. We have contingency plans that we are developing, and there will be more in the future.”
The cruise missile strikes, initiated Thursday in response to the Aug. 7 U.S. embassy bombings that killed more than 260 people in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, showed “we’re going to be on offense, as well as defense,” Berger told reporters at the White House.
While U.S. officials said they could provide no casualty estimates, an Afghan news service said 21 people were killed and 53 wounded at Bin Laden’s sprawling Zhawar Kili al Badr training camp about 90 miles southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, near the Pakistani border.
The Sudanese government, meanwhile, said 11 people were injured in the bombing of the Shifa Pharmaceutical plant in northern Khartoum, while others were missing and possibly buried beneath the rubble.
Because cloud cover was making satellite photography difficult, U.S. officials said they might not have a complete assessment of damage at the camp, where they believed a gathering of terrorist leaders had been going on, until next week.
Some lawmakers who had expressed strong support for the strikes Thursday said Friday that they will not consider the mission a complete success unless it becomes clear that the missiles inflicted sizable casualties.
“Just hitting physical structures is not particularly impressive,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Terrorists May Not Have Met, Cohen Says
Cohen, meanwhile, conceded that it was not clear that the meeting of terrorists at the camp--a key reason for the strikes--had in fact taken place.
But a Defense official said some buildings in the sprawling training site were badly damaged, while others were partially damaged and others were not harmed at all. Reporters traveling in the area said that the camp, the target of about 50 of the 75 cruise missiles, was pocked with craters 20 feet deep and up to 40 feet wide. Eyewitnesses said that when the missiles approached, they heard a loud hissing, then saw blinding fireballs.
The Sudanese chemical plant was almost totally flattened by the simultaneous bombings. Film released by the Sudanese government showed the smoking wreckage of the facility, a complex of reinforced concrete buildings.
Bin Laden, the suspected terrorist mastermind, was said by leaders of the Taliban militia, which controls most of Afghanistan, to have survived the onslaught. But Berger, citing a new initiative against terrorism, said: “Bin Laden, I think, like any other terrorist, should not rest easy.”
Berger declined to respond when asked whether that meant that the United States does not consider the Saudi dissident to be covered by the 25-year-old U.S. policy against the assassination of foreign leaders.
U.S. Strikes Prompt Threats, Violence
The new round of warnings from U.S. officials brought counter-threats and violence from both terrorist groups and their sympathizers.
“America has declared war on us,” Syad Abdullah, a senior Taliban leader, told The Times. “We will take revenge. If we had these sort of missiles, we would launch them against America.”
In a statement read to The Times by an associate, Bin Laden vowed to continue the war against the United States.
“The war has just started. The Americans should wait for an answer,” Ayman Zawahiri said over a satellite telephone.
Zawahiri, the chief of the militant organization Islamic Jihad, said Bin Laden and his colleagues were safe and hiding “somewhere in Afghanistan.”
“Tell the Americans that we aren’t afraid of bombardment, threats or acts of aggression. We suffered and survived Soviet bombings for 10 years in Afghanistan, and we are ready for more sacrifices,” Zawahiri said.
Zawahiri praised the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement for refusing to hand over Bin Laden to the United States.
Angry Taliban members may have been behind the shooting of two U.N. workers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Friday, although U.N. officials said that remained unclear. The workers, an Italian military aide and a French political affairs officer, were attacked while the United Nations was in the process of evacuating its roughly two dozen workers from Afghanistan.
The Frenchman was treated and released, while the Italian, wounded in the abdomen and arm, remained hospitalized in serious condition, U.N. officials said. The U.N. had urged workers to stay in their homes because of an expected violent reaction to the strikes.
An angry mob also burned and looted the U.N.'s office in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, thousands of protesters burned effigies of President Clinton in Karachi, and police needed batons and tear gas to break up a march by angry Afghan refugees toward the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar.
Sudanese protesters threw rocks at the unoccupied U.S. Embassy in their capital, Khartoum, as the Sudanese government issued a statement denouncing Clinton as a “sex pervert and maniac.” Friday evening, the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to take up the cruise missile strikes, although it was not clear when that might take place.
Sudanese officials complained that the chemical plant had produced medicines, including anti-malarial pharmaceuticals.
In his briefing, Berger did not dispute that the facility might, in fact, have manufactured such products. But he insisted that the U.S. government had strong evidence that the site was used to produce so-called precursor chemicals for the highly toxic nerve gas VX.
Clinton Phones Allies, Resumes Vacation
Clinton sought to further explain the missile strikes to more allies with a round of phone calls made before he left Washington on Friday afternoon to resume his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
He won expressions of support from such traditional allies as the Germans and British, but Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin sided with some unhappy Arab nations and complained that Clinton had not provided him advanced notice.
“My attitude is negative, as it would be to any act of terrorism, military interference or failure to solve a problem through negotiations,” Yeltsin said in the city of Murmansk.
The cruise missile attacks were launched from seven Navy ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. The vessels are part of a large force in the Middle East region that includes 21 ships of the 5th Fleet, among them the aircraft carrier Lincoln, now patrolling the Persian Gulf.
The Pentagon has kept a large force in the region since last fall because of the intermittent standoffs with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In all, there are about 20,000 U.S. military personnel in the area.
A senior Defense official said that in their planning, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had considered a range of options in addition to the cruise missile attacks.
But he said the cruise missile option was always the strong front-runner. Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the cruise missile has become a weapon of choice for the military because of its speed and stealth and the fact that it does not put U.S. personnel at risk.
Thursday’s mission was a departure from other recent strikes in the Middle East, where cruise missiles had been aimed at buildings and other physical structures. The most recent attacks, by contrast, were intended to strike terrorist leaders, and their clear goal was to kill the members of the terrorist groups who were meeting at Bin Laden’s alleged training camp.
The Pentagon used new cruise missiles equipped with anti-personnel “submunitions” that release shrapnel to kill enemies spread out over large areas.
Americans Receive Travel Advisory
Meanwhile, authorities in the United States and abroad sought to further tighten security in anticipation of possible new attacks on Americans.
The State Department on Thursday issued a “worldwide caution” advising travelers and expatriates to review their security plans, stay alert to the news and take “much greater” care than usual.
On Friday, the FBI sent out a general security warning to all its offices, as officials in Washington added police patrols and tightened security around buildings, monuments and subway stations that could be targets for terrorists.
“It is reasonable and prudent to conclude that yesterday’s action by the United States elevates the risk to U.S. interests worldwide,” the FBI’s statement said.
The U.S. mainland remains relatively difficult for radical Islamic terrorists to attack, but security experts say that Americans traveling in the Middle East and parts of Asia are taking a risk now and for weeks to come.
Airports, government buildings and some major U.S. landmarks have been made more secure against terrorist violence in the 1990s as a result of lessons learned from the Persian Gulf War, the World Trade Center bombing and the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
But authorities said the level of threat didn’t match the risks during the period of the Gulf War.
“At this time, we do not possess any information that any groups or individuals are planning to act out any violence within the United States,” spokesman Paul Bresson said at FBI headquarters.
Contributing to this report were staff writers Dexter Filkins in Pakistan, Dean E. Murphy in Nairobi, Craig Turner at the United Nations, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Jodi Wilgoren in Washington, and special correspondents Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Javed Rana in Islamabad, Pakistan.
* DIPLOMATIC DILEMMA: Mideast allies want extremists weakened, but American military actions inflame passions on their streets. A19
* AFRICA’S OUTCAST: Sudan’s abysmal human rights record has made it an international pariah. A21
* TRAVEL ADVISORY: The State Department issued a “worldwide caution” on travel abroad. A21
* OTHER STORIES, PHOTOS: A18-21
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Assessing the Damage
Thursday’s U.S. missile strikes caused significant damage to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and destroyed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant suspected of making raw materials for the manufacture of the deadly nerve gas VX. The following are spy satellite photos from the Department of Defense before the attack, which reportedly left craters up to 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep at the camp complexes.
Shifa Pharmaceutical plant
* Damage: Facility was flattened, estimated damage $100 million.
* Victims: Undetermined number of people injured and missing.
Zhawar Kili al Badr camps
(1) Base camp: Command-and-control operation; up to 600 people had been observed using the military-style complex.
(2) Support camp: A supply camp with weapons and ammunition.
(3) Training facilities: Tactics and weapons training.
* Damage: Undetermined damage to sites.
* Victims: Estimated 21 killed, 53 wounded.
Red Sea: Six Tomahawks fired at Sudan
Arabian Sea: About 70 Tomahawk missiles fired at Afghanistan
Sources: U.S. State Department; staff and wire reports