U.S. issues travel warnings as Arab criticism mounts
December 19, 1998
DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) --.Before the United States and Britain announced an end to airstrikes on Iraq late Saturday, thousands of demonstrators in Arab nations, often converging around U.S. embassies, harshly denounced the four-day military attack.
The U.S. State Department on Saturday warned against travel to Syria. Earlier in the day in Damascus, thousands of youths marched on the American embassy.
The mob threw stones, scaled the walls, looted the ambassador's residence and took down and burned the U.S. flag. Guards from inside the compound fired tear gas to hold back the crowds before police drove them away.
The atmosphere across the region alarmed U.S. and British diplomats. In Cairo more police were brought in to protect the embassies of the two nations.
American and British nationals in Cairo, expressing concern for their safety, kept a low profile. The embassies called on their citizens to exercise extreme caution.
A few kilometers from the diplomatic sites, Islamic University students held a noisy demonstration condemning the U.S. and British attacks. North of Cairo, 4,000 students burned U.S. and Israeli flags.
"Because Bill has to play, the Arabs have to pay," said Ayman Yassin, 20, referring to the widespread belief in the Middle East that President Clinton engineered the attack to delay impeachment proceedings against him.
Militant Islamic group vows violent revenge
One militant Islamic group called the "Anguards for the Conquest" issued a statement warning that the bombers would be punished. The same group claimed responsibility last year for an attack that killed more than 50 tourists.
In the Pakistani port city of Karachi, Islamic activists marched, calling for a Muslim world united against what they called Anglo-American imperialism.
In the Indian capital, New Delhi, protesters burned an effigy of Clinton. Even the mainly Hindu Socialist Janata party condemned the attacks.
In the West Bank, dozens of Palestinian demonstrators were injured, some seriously, when Israeli troops fired after anti-U.S. protesters turned on Israeli soldiers.
Other sizable Arab demonstrations took place recently in Lebanon, Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen and Sudan, where students in Khartoum threw Molotov cocktails at the closed U.S. Embassy. The United States bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in August, claiming it manufactured chemical weapons components.
The United States and Britain initiated nightly attacks on Iraq on Wednesday, saying Baghdad had not cooperated fully with United Nations weapons inspectors looking for biological, chemical and missile weapons.
Inspectors have monitored suspected weapons sites since the U.N. imposed sanctions against Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990.Correspondent Kasra Naji in Cairo contributed to this report.
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