Usama bin Laden: Attack and Retaliation

Terrorist Attacks Supported by bin Laden

Bin Laden has been linked to at least six major terrorist bombings, including the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993. He was also reported to have ties with Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Abdel-Rahman.

Support for Attack on U.S. Troops in Somalia

Attack on the Khobar military barracks in Riyadh in November 1995 and Dhahran in June 1996; attempted assassination of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in June 1995.

Embassy Attacks in Africa

The Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Places, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Nairobi, Kenya

A car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Embassy located in the city's downtown area. The explosion happened between the sixth story embassy and the 22nd floor Co-Operative House. The five-story Ufundi House, sandwiched between the two buildings, was totally collapsed.

The bomb was between 500 and 1,000 pounds; experts say it was an ammonium nitrate-based explosive or possibly an air/fuel device. Approximately 250 were killed and 5,000 wounded in the blast.

One witness was Joash Okindo, a Kenyan security guard at the embassy who was wounded in the bombing. He told the Kenya Television Network that five swarthy men had driven up to the entrance of the basement parking garage at the rear of the embassy but were prevented from entering by five Kenyan guards, armed only with small staves.

A U.S. Marine carrying a firearm approached, Okindo said, and the attackers opened up with automatic rifle fire. He said at least one marine had returned fire but one of the attackers then threw a hand grenade, identified as a "flash-bang" non-fragmentation device. A yellow pickup truck was identified as carrying the device and transporting the bomb to the building. The huge explosion followed. U.S. federal explosives experts (the FBI, ATF and military) are continuing the investigation.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Heavy damage was sustained in simultaneous car bomb attacks; 12 American were killed.

Retaliatory Strikes

Two strikes were made by the United States against Sudan and Afghanistan on Aug. 20, 1998.

Officials were told the strike was supposed to be kept to a few people. They called themselves the "small group" and amounted to about 12.

Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from a number of naval ships operating in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. Aircraft were not used in order to avoid tipping off news organizations and bin Laden to the pending mission.

Although the ships have not been identified by the Navy, cruise armed vessels in the area are listed as cruisers Cowpens and Shiloh; destroyers Briscoe, Elliot, Hayler and Milius. Sources indicate one site was taken under fire by an attack submarine — possibly the SSN Columbia.

It was reported that one of the missiles had malfunctioned, crashing in Pakistan where it was supposedly recovered intact. But American weapons experts have been skeptical of that claim, saying the missile is not ruggedly designed and would have been destroyed on impact.

Military leaders believed bin Laden would be in the camps when they were hit, according to Senator Richard Lugar.

Information pieced together from Pakistani government sources, witnesses and news reports suggest that Osama bin Laden canceled plans to meet with key commanders from Pakistan and other countries late on that day, Aug. 20, on advice from his security men. The report said Pakistani intelligence had intimate knowledge of bin Laden on the day of the U.S. missile strikes.

Kuwait’s Al-Watan newspaper reportedly leaked news of the impending U.S. missile strike to bin Laden on Aug. 22; sources said the leak was aimed to limit casualties so that bin Laden would have less justification for a counterattack.

The Pakistani government claimed Gen. Anthony Zinni, commander of the U.S. Central Command, was in Peshawar on Aug. 19 to meet with officials; others said Zinni came with a team of intelligence experts whose task was to pinpoint the camps and determine bin Laden’s exact whereabouts.

By all accounts, had things gone normally that night, bin Laden would have had dinner with commanders and then would have sat down in the open to sip coffee, which was his habit.


In this attack, the target was the Shifa Pharmaceutical Company. The plant was suspected of being used as a processing plant for VX gas and of being connected with Iraq. American intelligence sources electronic intercepts between Shifa executives and Iraq weapons specialists, including Emad Al Ani, the father of Iraq’s chemical weapons program. The plant was also suspected manufacturing Empta (ethylmethylphosphonothioic acid), a VX component. There is no other use for this chemical other than use in VX, scientists say, though trace evidence can be confused with pesticides.

A CIA operative had reportedly taken a soil sample from the area of the plant that showed a presence of two-and-a-half times what would be considered a trace of the chemical. Sources also said a chemistry lab used to test the soil sample is used by the CIA on many occasions. The operative that provided the sample was also reported to have passed several polygraph examinations to verify that he performed the mission as designed.

Defense Secretary William Cohen indicated that the Shifa Palnt was attacked based on inconclusive information and that the United States had no hard evidence that the plant was manufacturing chemical weapon parts. He further stated that it was not until three days after the attack that the plant manufactured medicine. Fifteen to 20 cruise missiles were used in the attack.

The Sudanese government said it would retaliate against a U.S. missile attack using diplomatic rather than military means. "Retaliation for us will be within the context of the United Nations channels," Sudanese Foreign Miniser Mustafa Osman Ismail said.


Six targets were hit and 73 Tomahawk missiles were used in this attack on training camps suspected of providing a number of different programs, including a 15-day basic training course followed with more advanced explosives training.

Base camp contained command and control center along with housing, storage, training and administrative facilities.

There have been conflicting reports on the amount of damage that was caused by the attack.

Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, or Movement of the Holy Warrior, was one such camp whose leader was identified as Fazal ur-Rehman Khalil. This camp was reported to have suffered the most damage.

Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was reportedly used to train Pakistanis and Kashmirs for their war with India.

Al Farooq was used by a variety of Arab countries for a cross-section of terrorist training activities. It catered mainly to fighters from Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Al Badr was reportedly run by a bin Laden group known as al-Qaeda.

Suspects Development

The CIA and U.S. Special Forces had drawn up secret plans in the spring of 1998 to conduct a commando raid to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. White House officials were aware of this mission, which was ultimately shelved by CIA Director George Tenet because of the high risk involved: the possibility of heavy casualties among Americans and innocent Afghans.

Kenyan Bombing

Mohammed Saddiq Odeh a 34-year-old Palestinian engineer, was arrested in Pakistan traveling with a false passport. He was using the name Mohammed Sadiq Howaida. Married and extremely religious, this man who operated as a fishmonger was allegedly bankrolled by a bin Laden organization. Sources say he helped supervise the building of the bomb. The FBI says Odeh told agents the bombings were carried out by a terrorist group headed by Osama bin Laden.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, aka Klalid Salim Saleh bin Rashed

Identified as a passenger in the truck that carried the bomb, this man was injured in the bombing but believed he was a suicide mission.

He described the bombing as a "martyrdom operation."

He was identified as the one the threw the "flash-bang" grenade that distracted the guards.

While in the hospital, he was discovered attempting to discard keys to the truck as well as handgun ammunition.

Jamil Hassan Abdi

A Kenyan with Yemen heritage; detained with no further information

Hassan Omar Hassan

His house was raided in coastal town of Mallindi, 75 miles nortth of Mombass; it may have been used as a safe house or location where the explosive device was constructed.

Abdallah Sadiq

Owner of Hilltop Lodge, a seedy hotel that Odeh and several other suspects have allegedly stayed

Tanzania Bombings

An arrest warrant was issued for Abdallah Mohammed Fadhul in New York

Two unidentified suspects; no further information published

Explosive Devices

No definitive findings have been released in regards to the type of improvised explosive devices were used. The only official word is that a car or truck bomb was utilized. The main explosive device used was likely an ammonium nitrate explosive, which may have been gas-enhanced.

There is also the possibility that the device was an improvised fuel/air bomb, similar to ones used in past Islamic bombings. A British military officer recently indicated it my have been Semtex, the Eastern European block version of the chemical C-4. So far no one else has backed that theory as it's not the right tool for the job; based upon the amount of damage, each device was probably in the 1000 to 1200-pound range.

— Intelligence reports, international government sources and a variety of news services contributed to this report.