Operation Infinite Reach

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Operation Infinite Reach
Operation Infinite Reach.jpg
The Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, destroyed during Operation Infinite Reach
Date August 20, 1998
Location Afghanistan and Sudan
15°38′45″N 32°33′42″E / 15.64583°N 32.56167°E / 15.64583; 32.56167Coordinates: 15°38′45″N 32°33′42″E / 15.64583°N 32.56167°E / 15.64583; 32.56167

Strikes failed[1][2][3]

  • Al-Qaeda suffers casualties and damage to its installations, but senior al-Qaeda leaders survive[4][5][6]
  • Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant destroyed[7]
  • Al-Qaeda propaganda victory[2][8][9]
 United States al-Qaeda
Commanders and leaders
United States Bill Clinton
United States Anthony Zinni
Osama bin Laden
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Fazlur Rehman Khalil
6–7 warships, 1 submarine[10][11] Up to 600 militants at Zhawar Kili Al-Badr[12]
Casualties and losses
None[13] 6[2]–35[14] killed
1 killed, 10 injured[15]
5 ISI officers killed[16]

Operation Infinite Reach was the codename for American cruise missile strikes on al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan on August 20, 1998. The attacks were in retaliation for al-Qaeda's bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people (including 12 Americans) and injured over 4,000 others.

According to official statements, the U.S. suspected that the Al-Shifa plant was linked to terrorism and was producing chemical weapons for terrorists;[17] these suspicions were based on intelligence reports suggesting the plant's financial ties to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the presence of chemicals used in weapons manufacturing. On the grounds of this intelligence, the U.S. launched missiles into the plant, destroying it and killing or wounding 11 Sudanese. The strikes on Al-Shifa proved controversial;[18] after the attacks, the U.S. rationale was criticized as faulty, and there is "a broad acceptance that this plant was not involved in the production of any chemical weapons."[19][a]

The missile strikes on Afghan training camps inflicted an uncertain number of casualties on al-Qaeda and some material damage to the camps themselves, but bin Laden himself was not harmed. Following the attacks, the ruling Taliban reneged on its alleged promise given to Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal to hand over bin Laden, and the regime instead strengthened its ties with bin Laden.

Operation Infinite Reach was met with a mixed international response: U.S. allies such as the UK, Germany, Australia, and Israel backed the strikes, but the targeted countries, militant groups, and other nations in the Middle East strongly opposed them. The failure of the attacks to kill bin Laden also enhanced his public image in Muslim nations.


In February 23, 1998, bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and three other leaders of Islamic militant organizations issued a fatwa in the name of the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," publishing it in Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Deploring the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the alleged U.S. aim to destroy Iraq, and U.S. support for Israel, they declared that "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilian and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."[20] In spring 1998, the Saudi elites became concerned about the threat posed by al-Qaeda and bin Laden to their country; militants attempted to infiltrate surface-to-air missiles inside the kingdom, an al-Qaeda defector alleged that "prominent Saudis" were bankrolling bin Laden, and bin Laden himself lambasted the Saudi royal family.[21] According to Turki, King Fahd ordered Turki in June to "Finish this," and Turki traveled with to Tarnak Farms to meet with Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, to discuss the question of bin Laden.[22] Turki demanded that the Taliban either expel bin Laden from their country or hand him over to the Saudis, saying that "If [the Taliban] wanted to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, they have to get bin Laden out of Afghanistan."[23] While the Taliban "agreed in principle" with Turki and sent a delegation in July to begin discussions "on how to expel bin Laden from Afghanistan," negotiations stalled by August.[24]

Around the same time, the U.S. was planning its own actions against bin Laden, too. Michael Scheuer, chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit ("Alec Station"), considered using local Afghans to kidnap bin Laden, then exfiltrate him from Afghanistan in a modified Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Documents recovered from Wadih el-Hage's Nairobi computer suggested a link between bin Laden and the deaths of U.S. troops in Somalia, and were used as the foundation for the June 1998 New York indictment of bin Laden, even though the charges were later dropped.[25] However, the planned raid was cancelled in May after internecine disputes between officials at the FBI and the CIA; the National Security Council's hesitance to approve the plan; concerns over the raid's chance of success, and the potential for civilian casualties.[26][27]

The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after the August 7, 1998, al-Qaeda bombing

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, al-Qaeda began reconnoitering Nairobi for potential targets in December 1993, using a team led by Ali Mohamed. In January 1994, bin Laden was personally presented with the team's surveillance reports, and he and his senior advisers began to develop a plan to attack the American embassy in Nairobi. From February to June 1998, al-Qaeda prepared to launch their attacks, renting residences, preparing their bombs, and acquiring trucks. All the while, bin Laden continued his public-relations efforts, giving interviews with ABC News and Pakistani journalists.[28][29] While U.S. authorities had investigated al-Qaeda activities in Nairobi, they had not detected any "credible threats" of imminent attacks.[30]

On August 7, al-Qaeda teams in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, attacked the cities' U.S. embassies simultaneously with truck bombs. In Nairobi, the explosion collapsed the nearby Ufundi Building and destroyed the embassy, killing 213 people, 12 of them Americans; another 4,000 people were wounded. In Dar es Salaam, the bomber was unable to get close enough to the embassy to demolish it, but the blast killed 11 and wounded 85 people, all Africans.[31][32] The bombings were "the most devastating terrorist attack against American targets" since the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings.[33] To justify the high-casualty attacks, bin Laden claimed that they were in retaliation for the U.S. "invasion" of Somalia, and that the Rwandan Genocide and a supposed U.S. plan to partition Sudan had been devised in the embassies.[34]

Decision to strike[edit]

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger called President Bill Clinton at 5:35 AM on August 7 to notify him of the bombings.[35] That day, Clinton started meeting with his "Small Group," an "inner circle" of national security advisers that included Berger, CIA director George Tenet, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno,[b] Defense Secretary William Cohen, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton.[36] The group's objective was "to evaluate military options for retaliation".[15] Based on electronic and phone intercepts, material evidence from Nairobi, and interrogations, officials soon suspected bin Laden as the perpetrator of the attacks.[37][38] On August 8, the White House asked the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a "list of possible targets"; the initial list included twenty targets in Sudan, Afghanistan, and an "unidentified third nation," although it was narrowed down on August 12.[39]

In an August 10 Small Group meeting, the principals agreed to use Tomahawk cruise missiles in the retaliatory strikes.[15] Cruise missiles had been previously used against Libya and Iraq as reprisals for the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing and the 1993 attempted assassination of then-President George H. W. Bush.[40] On August 11, General Anthony Zinni of Central Command was instructed "to prepare detailed plans for strikes against [bin Laden's Khost camp],"[41] where CIA intelligence indicated bin Laden and other terrorists would be meeting on August 20. Clinton was informed of the plan on August 12 and 14.[41][40] While participants in the meeting later disagreed whether or not the intelligence indicated bin Laden would attend the meeting, an objective of the attack remained to kill the al-Qaeda leader.[42]

On August 14, Tenet told the Small Group that there was "no doubt" bin Laden and his organization was responsible for the attack;[43] Tenet called the intelligence a "slam dunk," according to senior counterterrorism official Richard Clarke,[44] and Clinton approved the attacks the same day.[15] As the 9/11 Commission Report relates, "whether to strike targets outside of Afghanistan" was debated.[41] Tenet briefed the small group again on August 17 "about possible targets for cruise missile strikes against bin Laden's 'infrastructure' in Afghanistan and Sudan."[45] On August 19, Al-Shifa was designated as one target, as well as the Afghan camps and a Sudanese tannery allegedly owned by bin Laden.[46] The aim of striking the tannery was to "hurt Bin Ladin financially," but it was removed as a target due to fears of killing civilians "without doing significant harm to Bin Ladin."[47] Clinton gave the final "green light" for the attacks at 3:00 AM on August 20.[11] The same day, he also signed Executive Order 13099, which "[imposed] sanctions against [bin Laden] and al Qaeda."[48]

The missiles would pass into Pakistani airspace,[49] and U.S. officials worried that Pakistan would mistake them for an Indian nuclear attack.[50] Clarke was also concerned that the Pakistanis would shoot down the cruise missiles or airplanes if they were not notified, but also feared that the ISI would give the Taliban or al-Qaeda advance warning if they were alerted.[51] In Islamabad on the evening of August 20, General Joseph Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Pakistan Army Chief of Staff Jehangir Karamat that the incoming strikes were American.[6] Clarke also worried that the Pakistanis would notice the U.S. Navy ships, but was told that submerged submarines would launch the missiles. However, the Pakistan Navy detected the destroyers and informed the government.[52]

Al-Shifa plant bombing and controversy[edit]

The remains of the destroyed Al-Shifa plant

Thirteen missiles[53] were launched from American warships in the Red Sea at about 01:30 EDT (17:30 GMT).[54] At 7:30 PM local time,[10] the missiles hit the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, which the United States claimed was helping Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's leader and the mastermind behind the embassy attacks, build chemical weapons. The entire factory was destroyed except for the administration, water-cooling, and plant laboratory sections, which were severely damaged. One night watchman was killed and ten other Sudanese were wounded by the strike.[53][55] Worried about the possibility for hazardous leakages, the U.S. "decided that burning the plant to the ground would incinerate any toxic materials; extra cruise missiles were added to the mission to ensure total destruction."[11]

Richard Clarke, the United States National Security Council advisor at the time of the strikes, stated that intelligence existed linking bin Laden to Al-Shifa's current and past operators, namely the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.[56] Since 1995, the CIA had received intelligence suggesting collaboration between Sudan and bin Laden to produce chemical weapons "to use against U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia".[57][58] According to testimony by Cohen, "... the U.S. intelligence community obtained physical evidence from outside the al-Shifa facility in Sudan that supported long-standing concerns regarding its potential role in Sudanese chemical weapon efforts that could be exploited by al Qaeda."[59] Cohen also stated that "multiple, reinforcing elements of information ... [including] information from HUMINT and technical sources" backed the intelligence community's view that the Al-Shifa plant was linked to terrorism.[60] An August 4 CIA intelligence report suggested that bin Laden "had already acquired chemical weapons and might be ready to attack,"[61] while al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl had also spoken of "bin Laden's interest in chemical and nuclear weapons."[6]

The CIA had obtained a sample of soil from the facility which showed the presence of O-Ethyl methylphosphonothioic acid (EMPTA), a substance used in the production of VX nerve gas,[53] at 2.5 times of trace levels. The sample had been taken by an Egyptian operative in December 1997, although reports contradict on whether the soil was obtained from within the compound itself, or outside. The agent's bona fides were later confirmed through polygraph and "other unspecified ways".[58]

A molecular model of EMPTA, the chemical allegedly detected in the Al-Shifa plant

Officials later acknowledged, however, that "the evidence that prompted President Clinton to order the missile strike on the Shifa plant was not as solid as first portrayed ... there was no proof that the plant had been manufacturing or storing nerve gas, as initially suspected by the Americans, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980's."[62][63][64] The Al-Shifa factory, which had a contract with the UN, employed 300 Sudanese and provided over half of the country's pharmaceuticals, including "drugs for treating malaria, diabetes, hypertension, ulcers, rheumatism, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis."[53][65] A Sudani named Salah Idris purchased the plant in spring 1998; while the CIA "attempted to link Idris to the Islamic Jihad, and ... bin Laden," it was "unaware Idris was the owner of Al Shifa at the time of the missile attack."[66] Idris later denied any links to bin Laden;[67] he later sued to recover $24 million in funds frozen by the U.S., as well as for the damage to his factory.[62] The Chairman of Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries told reporters that he "had inventories of every chemical and records of every employee's history. There were no such [nerve gas] chemicals being made here."[68]

Sudan invited the U.S. to conduct chemical tests at the site for evidence to support its claim that the plant might have been a chemical weapons factory; the U.S. refused the invitation to investigate and did not officially apologize for the attacks.[62] Press coverage indicated that the factory was not a "closed, secretive, or military-run facility," as the U.S. alleged,[69] and American officials later conceded that Al-Shifa manufactured pharmaceutical drugs.[70] Sudan requested a UN investigation of the Al-Shifa plant to verify or disprove the allegations of weapons production; while the proposal was backed by a number of international organizations, it was opposed by the U.S.[71]

The American Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote a report in 1999 questioning the attack on the factory and suggesting that the connection to bin Laden was not accurate; James Risen reported in The New York Times:

Now, the analysts renewed their doubts and told Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley that the C.I.A.'s evidence on which the attack was based was inadequate. Ms. Oakley asked them to double-check; perhaps there was some intelligence they had not yet seen. The answer came back quickly: There was no additional evidence. Ms. Oakley called a meeting of key aides and a consensus emerged: Contrary to what the Administration was saying, the case tying Al Shifa to Mr. bin Laden or to chemical weapons was weak.[72]

According to Risen, some dissenting officials doubted the basis for the strike; however, "the President's chief advisers concluded that the risks of hitting the wrong target were far outweighed by the possibility that the plant was making chemical weapons for a terrorist eager to use them."[72] Reno, concerned about the lack of conclusive evidence, had reportedly "[urged] that the attacks be delayed until such evidence could be assembled."[73] Barletta writes that "It is unclear precisely when U.S. officials decided to destroy the Shifa plant."[74] ABC News reported that Al-Shifa was designated as a target "literally hours before the attack"; Newsweek stated that the plant was targeted on August 15–16; and U.S. officials asserted that the plant was added as a target months in advance.[74]

It was later hypothesized that the EMPTA detected was the result of the breakdown of Fonofos, an insecticide used in African agriculture.[75] However, Eric Croddy contends that the sample did not contain Fonofos, arguing that Fonofos has an ethyl group and a benzene group, which "would have been detected";[76] he also states that "It is not easy to confuse [Fonofos] with EMPTA."[76] Ultimately, Barletta concludes that "It remains possible that Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory may have been involved in some way in producing or storing the chemical compound EMPTA, which can be used in the production of VX nerve gas ... On balance, the evidence available to date indicates that it is more probable that the Shifa plant had no role whatsoever in CW production."[64]

Attack on camps in Afghanistan[edit]

Satellite image showing an al-Qaeda training camp in Zhawar Kili Al-Badr

About 75[77][6][78][79][c] Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired by U.S. Navy ships in the Arabian Sea[78] into Afghanistan at the Zhawar Kili Al-Badr camp complex in the Khost region, a training camp, and a "support complex."[12][13] These included the Al Farouq training camp and the Jihad Wahl training camp, each of which had about 70 to 120 trainees.[80] Targets within Zhawar Kili Al-Badr also included storage, housing, administration, training, and logistics facilities. Other militant organizations that used these camps included Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, and Pakistani militant groups fighting an insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.[81][80][13][82][83] The missiles hit at roughly 10:00 PM local time.[6]

The attack was made partly in an attempt to assassinate bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.[42][41] According to Steve Coll, the CIA heard after the attack that bin Laden had been at Zhawar Kili Al-Badr but had left some hours before the missiles hit.[6] Bill Gertz writes that the earlier arrest of Mohammed Odeh on August 7, while he was traveling to meet with bin Laden, alerted bin Laden, who canceled the meeting; this meant that the camps targeted by the cruise missiles were mainly empty the day of the U.S. strike.[84] Lawrence Wright says that the CIA intercepted a phone call indicating that bin Laden would be in Khost, but the al-Qaeda chief instead decided to go to Kabul.[85]

Judging that "Collateral damage was just not an issue," the U.S. used cluster munitions in several missiles, seeking to maximize militant casualties.[10] However, various sources differ on the precise number of casualties that the missile strikes against al-Qaeda's Afghan bases caused. According to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, 20 Afghans, seven Pakistanis, three Yemenis, two Egyptians, one Saudi and one Turk were killed.[86] Bin Laden bodyguard Abu Jandal later estimated that only six men had been killed in the strikes: "a Saudi, an Egyptian, an Uzbek, and three Yemenis."[2] Abdul Rahman Khadr, a militant training at the Al Farouq camp, also reported that six men had been killed.[87] The Taliban said that "twenty-two Afghans had also been killed and more than fifty gravely wounded," while Berger stated that "twenty or thirty al-Qaeda operatives were killed."[2] Bin Laden jokingly told militants that only a few camels and chickens had died.[88] A declassified September 9, 1998, State Department cable cited a body count of 20 Pakistanis and 15 Arabs killed in the camps.[14]

Pakistani and hospital sources gave a death toll of eleven dead and fifty-three wounded.[89] An initial report by the Pakistani government stated that a missile had killed six Pakistanis; the government later retracted the statement and fired its intelligence chief for the incorrect report.[83] ISI director Hamid Gul, who reportedly notified the Taliban of the missile strikes in advance,[42] later stated that "more than half the missiles fell in Pakistani territory, killing two Pakistani citizens."[2] According to reporter Mary Anne Weaver, the attack "hit two ISI training camps in Afghanistan, killing 5 ISI officers and 20 trainees."[16][90][91] One 1998 report also suggested that "most of the people killed in Afghanistan were Pakistani recruits training to fight in Kashmir, not bin Laden terrorists."[92]

Following the attack, U.S. surveillance aircraft and reconnaissance satellites photographed the sites for damage assessment.[10][80] One anonymous official reported that "Some buildings suffered meaningful damage. We missed some others."[10] Jandal stated that "Each house was hit by a missile but they did not destroy the camp completely," and that bathrooms, the kitchen, and the mosque were hit in the strike.[87] Berger stated that the damage to the camps was "moderate to severe,"[12] while CIA agent Henry Crumpton later wrote that al-Qaeda "suffered a few casualties and some damaged infrastructure, but no more."[5] In contrast to the attack on Al-Shifa, the strike on the Afghan camps was uncontroversial.[93][18]


Clinton flew back to Washington, D.C. from his vacation at Martha's Vineyard[50] to announce the attacks in a TV address, saying the Khost camp was "one of the most active terrorist bases in the world." He added that "Our actions today were not aimed against Islam," which he called "a great religion." He emphasized that "Our battle against terrorism ... will require strength, courage and endurance. We will not yield to this threat ... We must be prepared to do all that we can for as long as we must."[95] Albright stated that "decent people everywhere must send the message to terrorists everywhere that they can hide but they cannot escape the long arm of justice."[54]

Each cruise missile cost about $750,000,[6] and "nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars' worth of armaments" were fired in the strikes overall.[2] The failure of the missiles to eliminate their targets would lead to an acceleration in the American program to develop unmanned combat air vehicles.[96] Reportedly, bin Laden sold some of the unexploded missiles "to China for more than $10 million," while Pakistan "may have used some ... to design its own version of a cruise missile."[2] On September 2, the Taliban also reported that it had found an unexploded U.S. missile.[97]

The missiles were launched three days after Clinton testified on the Monica Lewinsky scandal,[98] and some media outlets, Middle Eastern protesters, and Republicans accused Clinton of ordering the attacks as a diversion;[8][99][100] some Arab protesters even made signs reading, "No war for Monica!"[53] The attacks also drew parallels to the then-recently released movie Wag the Dog, which features a fictional president faking a war in Albania to distract attention from a sex scandal.[8][101] Operation Infinite Reach was covered heavily by U.S. media, and about 75% of Americans knew about the strikes by the evening of August 20. Polls taken after the attacks showed that up to "40% of respondents ... indicated that they believed distracting the nation was one of the considerations motivating President Clinton."[102] "Respondents with less than a 12th grade education were nearly twice as likely as their college-educated counterparts (60% vs. 31%) to believe that the president's decision to order the missile strikes was influenced 'a great deal'" by the Lewinsky scandal.[102] The White House and administration officials denied any connection between the missile strikes and the ongoing scandal.[103][104] A Los Angeles Times poll taken three days after the attack indicated that 75% approved of Operation Infinite Reach, while 16% did not. However, 84% believed that the operation would trigger a retaliatory terrorist attack on U.S. soil.[105]

The attacks reportedly strengthened bin Laden's image "as a symbolic figure of resistance" to the U.S.[2] As Coll put it, "Bin Laden's reputation in the Islamic world had been enhanced. He had been shot at by a high-tech superpower and the superpower missed ... The missile strikes were his biggest publicity payoff to date."[8] Two hagiographies of bin Laden were soon published in Pakistan,[8] and children in Kenya and Tanzania could even be seen wearing bin Laden T-shirts.[2] Al-Qaeda even sold propaganda videos of the strikes' damage in European and Middle Eastern Islamic bookstores.[106] Maulana Sami ul-Haq, leader of the Pakistani Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party, concurred that the strikes "turned Osama bin Laden, an ordinary man, into a hero."[107] A 1999 report prepared by Sandia National Laboratories stated that bin Laden "appeared to many as an underdog standing firm in the face of bullying aggression," adding that the missile strikes "provoked a new round of terrorist bombing plots."[14] British Islamist Hani al-Sebai said that Operation Infinite Reach "helped turn a loose association of Soviet-war alumni and other militants into a magnet for funds and recruits," whereas before the attacks, "there was no al Qaeda."[106] Historian Timothy Naftali concluded that while the strikes damaged the Khost camps, "the attacks had no deterrent effect on America's enemy ... the failed attack probably intensified [bin Laden's] hunger for violence."[1]

Two days after Operation Infinite Reach, Omar reportedly called the U.S. State Department, saying that the strikes would only lead to more anti-Americanism and terrorism, and that Clinton should resign. The embassy bombings and the declaration of war against the U.S. had divided the ruling Taliban and angered Omar. However, bin Laden swore an oath of fealty to the Taliban leader, acknowledging him as "our noble emir," and Omar then "no longer viewed bin Laden as a threat".[108] According to Wright, Omar believed that turning over bin Laden would weaken his position.[109] In an October cable, the State Department also wrote that Operation Infinite Reach angered the Taliban against the U.S. and "strengthened the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance".[14] A Taliban spokesman also told State Department officials in November that "If Kandahar could have retaliated with similar strikes against Washington, it would have."[14] In response to U.S. charges that bin Laden was responsible for the embassy bombings, the Taliban announced that he was "a man without sin."[106] When Turki visited Omar to retrieve bin Laden, he told the prince that they had miscommunicated and that he had never agreed to give the Saudis bin Laden.[110] According to Turki's account, when he protested, Omar lambasted Turki, insulting the Saudi royal family[106] and calling bin Laden "a man of honor, a man of distinction."[110] Turki left without bin Laden.[110]

According to the The New York Times, bin Laden planned "to develop a more potent strain of heroin to export to the United States and Western Europe" as retaliation for the attacks.[111] An August 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief stated that after the attacks, "Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington."[112]

On October 12, 2000, the USS Cole, one of the warships that had participated in Operation Infinite Reach, was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden by two al-Qaeda members manning a speedboat loaded with explosives; 17 sailors were killed, 39 were wounded, and the ship was seriously damaged.[113]

International reactions[edit]

  • Afghanistan – The Taliban denounced the bombing as having been aimed at the Afghan people, denied charges it provided a safe haven for bin Laden, and insisted that the U.S. attack killed only innocent civilians.[114] Omar also condemned the strikes, "saying that they showed 'enmity' for the Afghan people;"[54] he also announced that Afghanistan "will never hand over bin Laden to anyone and (will) protect him with our blood at all costs."[14] The UN office in Jalalabad was burned and looted by a mob.[12] An Italian UN official was killed in Kabul on August 21, allegedly in response to the strikes; the Taliban claimed to have arrested and arraigned four suspects.[97]
  • The Arab League, holding an emergency meeting in Cairo, unanimously demanded an independent investigation into the Al-Shifa facility; the League also condemned the attack on the plant as "an attack on Sudan's sovereignty".[100]
  •  AustraliaPrime Minister John Howard said the U.S. was entitled to respond to the East African embassy bombings.[114]
  • Chechnya – Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov said that by attacking Afghanistan and Sudan the United States had launched an "undeclared World War III."[115] He threatened to attack the Americans anywhere in the world, adding that Clinton "had been put on the 'wanted list' for his crimes against the Islamic people and would be tried according to Shariah laws".[115]
  •  China – China's Foreign Ministry condemned terrorism but said that the U.S. should have responded "through international law".[116]
  •  Cuba – Cuba said that "President Clinton ignored the sovereignty of Sudan and Afghanistan and launched a theatrical bombardment which overshadowed his recent sex scandal."[114]
  •  Egypt – The Egyptian government issued a statement urging the UN to find new ways to address countries harboring terrorists. Mustafa Mashhur, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said that U.S. military action will "cause more hatred against America and ignite the flame of extremism and instability in the region".[117]
  •  GermanyChancellor Helmut Kohl said his government supported the U.S. strikes, and condemned terrorism.[114]
  • Militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen also threatened to retaliate, saying "The Americans and Jews should now prepare for their destruction. The self-respecting Muslims of the world ... have announced they will wage a holy war against America."[118] The group's leader, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, announced that "Osama's mission is our mission. It is the mission of the whole Islamic world."[119]
  • A Hezbollah spokesman stated that "This savage act against the innocent will fan the flame of antagonistic feelings towards the United States."[117]
  • Iran Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denounced the strikes as "state terrorism,"[79] and Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that "No international law allows pouring rockets on defenseless people without a reason."[117]
  •  Iraq said it was "ready to cooperate with any Arab and international countries to confront the U.S. hostile policies,"[114] calling the strikes "systematic international terrorism".[116] Iraqi ambassador to the UN Nizar Hamdoon "denied any Iraqi involvement in the development or production of chemical weapons in the Sudan".[79]
  •  IsraelPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "welcomes the U.S. decision to strike targets of terrorists in Sudan and Afghanistan."[114]
  •  JordanNasser Judeh, the Jordanian Information Minister, condemned terrorism and the embassy attacks, adding that "Dialogue should be the means to solve problems, and not ... violence."[117]
  •  LibyaLibyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi declared his country's support for Sudan's efforts "in the fight against this aggression," and led an anti-U.S. rally in Tripoli.[114]
  • Osama bin Laden's spokesman issued a response, saying "The battle has not started yet. Our answer will be deeds, not words."[11] Ayman al-Zawahiri made a phone call to reporter Rahimullah Yusufzai, stating that "We survived the attack ... we aren't afraid of bombardment, threats, and acts of aggression ... we are ready for more sacrifices. The war has only just begun; the Americans should now await the answer."[120] Bin Laden himself said that the Americans had only fired missiles at him because they were "too cowardly ... to meet the young people of Islam face-to-face."[106]
  •  Pakistan – Pakistan denounced the U.S. missile strikes as a violation of the territorial integrity of two Islamic countries,[114] and criticized the U.S. for allegedly violating Pakistani airspace.[79] Pakistanis protested the strikes in large demonstrations,[8] including 300 people in Islamabad,[79] where protesters burned a U.S. flag outside the U.S. Information Service center;[114] in Karachi, thousands burned effigies of Clinton.[12]
  •  RussiaPresident Boris Yeltsin condemned the U.S. action as "dishonorable" and said Washington "should have carried out negotiations to the end," but his spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that "Russia and the United States are in the same boat in everything that concerns the fight against world terrorism."[114]
  •  South Africa – In retaliation, a group calling itself Muslims Against Global Oppression bombed a Planet Hollywood restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa on August 25, killing two and injuring 25. A second person died of a heart attack.[121][122]
  •  Sudan – Thousands of anti-U.S. protesters took to the streets of Khartoum.[118] The minister of information of Sudan harshly condemned the attack on Khartoum and denounced Bill Clinton as a "proven liar" with "100 girlfriends".[123] President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir led an anti-U.S. rally and warned that his country "reserves the right to respond to the American attack using all necessary measures."[114] Al-Bashir promised to retaliate and formed a commission to investigate "the ownership of Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, how it was set up and financed and how its ownership passed to the current owners."[67] The Sudanese government expelled the British ambassador for Britain's support of the attacks, while protesters stormed the empty U.S. embassy.[67] Sudan also reportedly allowed two suspected accomplices to the embassy bombings to escape.[53]
  •  Syria – Syria condemned both the embassy bombings and the U.S. attacks.[116]
  •  United KingdomPrime Minister Tony Blair said he "strongly" supported the U.S. strikes.[114]
  •  United NationsSecretary-General Kofi Annan was "concerned over these developments and awaits further details."[114]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ *"It developed that the plant actually made only pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines, not chemical weapons ... Bin Laden had nothing to do with the plant." (Wright 2006, p. 282)
    • "The evidence that the factory produced chemical weapons and had links to bin Laden is weak." (Reiter, p. 6)
    • "The factory probably had no role whatsoever in CW development." (Barletta 1998, p. 116)
  2. ^ While Coll (2005, p. 406) writes that Reno was present in the Small Group, Barletta (1998, p.116) does not.
  3. ^ Accounts differ as to how many cruise missiles were fired at the Afghan training camps. Wright (2006, p. 283) gives a number of 66; Newsweek, "'Our Target Was Terror'," August 30, 1998, says 60; other news reports cite a total figure of 75 cruise missiles fired in the operation (Middle East Institute 1999, p. 102); and Crenshaw writes that 60–70 missiles were launched (in Crenshaw 2003, p. 325).


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