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Pentagon: Strikes sought to protect U.S. citizens overseas

August 20, 1998
Web posted at: 3:32 p.m. EDT (1932 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Simultaneous military strikes against suspected terrorist facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan came after evidence led U.S. officials to conclude Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden was behind the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The August 7 bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, killed more than 250 people and injured more than 5,500. Twelve U.S. citizens, including military personnel and dependents, were among those killed.

Evidence that led U.S. officials to believe bin Laden was behind the assaults included a series of reports and statements from bin Laden, said U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen.

U.S. officials have long called bin Laden a sponsor of terrorism.

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The targets of Thursday's strikes were facilities associated with bin Laden, officials said.

Wire services reported that a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanstan said bin Laden survived the attack.

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The military's goal, Cohen said, was to disrupt and attempt to destroy the suspected training and support facilities used to train "hundreds, if not thousands, of terrorists."

The strikes were carried out simultaneously at about 1:30 p.m. EDT, Pentagon officials said.

Seven sites were targeted -- one in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and six in Afghanistan, about 95 miles south of Kabul near the Afghani-Pakistani border, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton told reporters.

The facility in Khartoum manufactured chemicals for weapons, officials said. It was located northeast of the city in an industrial area, the Pentagon said.

The strike targets in Afghanistan included a training ground and support facilities, officials said.

The United States acted alone in carrying out the attacks, Pentagon officials said.

The military's sole motivation, Cohen and Shelton said, was to protect U.S. citizens stationed overseas from further terrorist attacks.

"We recognize these strikes will not eliminate the problem," Cohen said. "But our message is clear: there will be no sanctuary for terrorists and no limit to our resolve to defend American citizens and our interests -- our ideals of democracy and law -- against these cowardly attacks."

Cohen and Shelton said planning for the attack began within the last week. They refused to give specifics of where the U.S. strike teams originated from, saying they did not want to give suspected terrorists information that could be used against U.S. military personnel.

Specifics on how the strikes were carried out or the number of military personnel involved were also not given.

U.S. officials did not rule out the possibility of further strikes against suspected bastions of terrorism.

Cohen called the strikes "an exercise of self defense."

 

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