'The war of the future' U.S. assesses damage from missile strikes in Sudan, Afghanistan

'A long-term struggle'

White House warns Americans to brace for retaliation

Aftermath Of Attack

August 22, 1998|By Jonathan Weisman and Mark Matthews | Jonathan Weisman and Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- U.S. strikes on suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan destroyed a pharmaceuticals plant in the Sudanese capital and severely impaired training activity at an Afghan camp dubbed "Terrorist University," U.S. officials said yesterday.

U.S. officials provided no estimates of casualties on the ground at either site. A spokesman for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime, however, said 21 people were killed and 30 injured at the Afghan site. The governor of Khartoum said several people were killed or injured in the strike in Sudan.

Even as they contended that the missile strikes would deter future terrorism, White House officials warned Americans at home and abroad to prepare for retaliation. The FBI issued a nationwide alert, warning local police and the public of increased danger.

The National Park police doubled patrols around national monuments, and federal workers were urged to remove their security badges when they leave their office buildings.

"It's very important for the American people to understand that we are involved here in a long-term struggle," Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright warned. "This is, unfortunately, the war of the future."

The sites struck by U.S. missiles were linked to Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire whom U.S. intelligence identified as the likely mastermind of the bombings on American embassies in Africa.

Bin Laden himself was apparently not hurt in the attacks. He was quoted yesterday as making new threats against American targets. "The battle has not started yet," he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his spokesman.

Samuel R.Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser,retorted, "Bin Laden should not rest easy."

The White House spent yesterday assessing the impact of its cruise missile strikes and pressing its justifications to the nation and the world. In all, U.S. ships in the Red and Arabian seas fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles at the suspected chemical weapons plant in Khartoum and more than 70 at a terrorist training complex in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, according to Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was briefed by national security officials.

One training camp "gave the look of a big dump," one witness in Afghanistan told the Reuters news agency.

Another, called Al Badar, about 10 miles from the first camp, was also destroyed, witnesses said.

In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, the chemical plant was "functionally destroyed," Berger said. Sudanese officials insisted that the plant manufactured malaria medicine.

But Berger said that the administration had convincing physical evidence that the plant produced chemicals used to make the deadly VX nerve gas.

President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan said his country "reserves the right to respond to the American attack using all necessary measures," Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported.

It was not clear whether the attacks would yield any long-term gains in the war against terrorism.

"The jury is still out on whether the strikes had a major impact on the terrorist training camps," said Rep. Porter J. Goss, the Republican chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who was briefed on the operation. "Tents and obstacle courses can be rebuilt or relocated."

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said the Pentagon is developing contingency plans for additional military action. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said there is "a very, very serious stepping up of our commitment to deal with people who would use terror."

U.S. officials and experts warned that the targets for retaliation could include U.S. embassies, businesses or tourists abroad, as well as government offices and civilians in the United States.

Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a message to U.S. military commanders around the the country and the world, instructing them to examine their vulnerability.

The Pentagon was on "alpha" alert status yesterday, meaning it was prepared for a general, though unpredictable, threat of terrorism.

Around the world, said Toby Gati, the State Department's top intelligence official in Clinton's first term, "the best-kept secret in the world is the vulnerability of American interests. The number of targets is so large it is truly like reinforcing the Titanic."

Terrorists may look beyond military sites, embassies and other government facilities to less-protected targets, such as businesses and tourists, said Paul Bremer, the State Department's counter-terrorism chief during the Reagan administration. Tourists have long been a chief target of extremists in Egypt.

The State Department has issued a "worldwide caution," warning Americans living or traveling overseas "to exercise much greater caution than usual." The staff cutbacks at various embassies have imposed an additional burden on Americans to look out for their own protection.

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