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Angry Sudanese take over US Embassy in Khartoum

By Mohammed Osman, Associated Press, 08/20/98

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KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Hundreds of angry Sudanese trudged through the mud and rain today to protest around the twisted rubble and concrete of a factory in Khartoum that was heavily damaged in a U.S. missile attack.

Civilians in trucks headed toward the plant chanting ''Down USA!'' in English. White smoke rose from the rubble of the four-story building the United States said was making chemical weapons agents.

Many people said they were shocked the United States struck a factory in the heart of Sudan's capital. Police tried to block civilians, mostly women and children, from entering the compound.

''Are these people crazy? Do you think this is really a weapons factory?'' said a young woman who worked at the factory. She refused to give her name.

Sudan said the factory produced about 50 percent of the country's pharmaceuticals.

The number of casualties from the 7:30 p.m. raid was not clear.

The governor of Khartoum, Majthob al-Khalifa, was quoted today in the Sudanese daily Alwan as saying there were ''several dead and wounded'' among plant workers. He gave no details.

Officials at Khartoum Teaching Hospital said 10 people were injured, including four in critical condition. Workers at the site said they feared some people may be trapped under the debris.

Al-Khalifa, who apparently spoke to Alwan on Thursday night, said there was confusion about the fate of another 300 workers. It was unclear how many of those may have been located since then.

Earlier today, Sudanese demonstrators stormed the empty U.S. Embassy compound in Khartoum, pulling down the American flag and dragging it on the ground. Hours after the attacks, state-run TV showed scores of people scaling the wrought-iron fence around the embassy. Hundreds more threw stones at the building or beat the fence with sticks.

American diplomats were pulled out of Khartoum in 1996. Local staff was ordered to leave after the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

President Clinton ordered the attacks on sites in Sudan and Afghanistan - suspected camps of Muslim militant Osama bin Laden - to retaliate for the embassy bombings. Pakistan said today one missile fell across the border into its territory, killing at least five.

Sudanese government officials accused Clinton of trying to distract attention from his troubles in the Monica Lewinsky sex case.

President Omar el-Bashir said on state-run Sudan Television that Clinton was a ''liar and morally decrepit.''

He said Sudan was recalling its diplomats from Washington and would ask the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency session on the attacks and investigate whether the factory was used to produce chemical weapons.

Sudan ''reserves the right to respond to the American attack using all necessary measures,'' Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted el-Bashir as saying today.

El-Bashir also accused Sudanese opposition groups of misinforming the United States what the factories were producing. Sudan is riven by civil war.

Last December, a Sudanese opposition group charged in a statement faxed to The Associated Press that the government was making chemical weapons in Khartoum and two other cities and using them in its war against southern rebels.

Sudan's information minister, Ghazi Salah-Eddin, said the El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. made ''cheap medicines ... for the diseases found in Sudan.''

It was hit by five missiles Thursday and ''the destruction is total,'' he said.

Salah-Eddin also accused Clinton of trying to draw public attention from his relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

''They want to distract the American people,'' he said.

A number of Sudan's allies spoke out in its defense.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi telephoned el-Bashir and ''condemned the unjust aggression,'' the television said. State-run Iraq television accused the United States of ''systematic international terrorism.''

Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report quoted a secret congressional report as saying Iraq had built chemical weapons plants in Sudan. This was never publicly confirmed by U.S. officials.

Germany canceled aid flights today that were to depart for an eight-week mission delivering aid to the south, where international aid agencies estimate 1.5 million people face starvation.


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