Sudanese factory destroyed by US now a shrine
President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike on the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum in 1998; the Sudanese still haven't forgotten.
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"I blame the United States of America," says Ataib, as if the attack had happened yesterday. "Even if they apologize, it is nonsense, because they already did what was on their minds. Now it is like a tourist site."Skip to next paragraph
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'A terrorist act'
Hassan al-Turabi, the firebrand preacher and speaker of parliament at the time – now he is a fierce critic of the government – told the Monitor after the attack that "Islam is now entrenched" in Sudan.
"The [US] president wanted a target, and on his list Sudan was there," Mr. Turabi said in 1998. "This is a terrorist act against Sudan, a terrorist act."
The effort to neutralize Mr. bin Laden with missiles would instead "create 10,000 bin Ladens," Turabi predicted.
Senior US officials involved in the decision to strike Sudan still stand by it, though debate took place within the US government at the time, and increased afterward, about the tenuousness of any link to the future Al Qaeda leader, and of the evidential strength of a single soil sample acquired by the CIA from outside the Al Shifa main gate – just steps away from where the furniture showroom now is.
US: VX precursor found
The Clinton administration argued that a precursor ingredient of VX nerve agent had been discovered. Intelligence reports had also emerged in previous years – before bin Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1996, under pressure from Washington – that Iraq had shifted some chemical weapons capacity to Sudan.
But notes taken of the final meeting between Mr. Clinton and top officials Aug. 19, 1998, the day before the strike, indicate that CIA Director George Tenet had said the agency was working to "close the intelligence gaps on this target," according to a 1999 report in The New York Times.
The Times also reported that, after the Sudan attack, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and a senior deputy "encouraged State Department analysts to kill a report being drafted that said the bombing was not justified."
That would not be news to Kadija Osman, wife of the man who guards the broken facility today. Wrapped in an orange scarf that glows eerily during a thick sandstorm that stains the sky yellow, Ms. Osman lets her daughter play in the rubble.
"I feel very, very angry about this. It's a big wrong, a wrong attack," says Osman, whose family has guarded the ruins for a decade. "It's a big loss for Sudan. There were no chemical weapons here."