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  Clinton: Terrorists Must Not Prevail

In his weekly radio address, President Clinton pledged to find the perpetrators. (AFP)
By Thomas W. Lippman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 1998; Page A25

President Clinton pledged yesterday that neither the lethal bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa nor any other acts of terrorism will cause the United States to retreat from its global responsibilities or shrink its official presence around the world.

"Americans are targets of terrorism, in part, because we act to advance peace and democracy and because we stand united against terrorism," Clinton said yesterday in his radio address to the nation. "To change any of that, to pull our diplomats and troops from the world's trouble spots, to turn our backs on those taking risks for peace, to weaken our opposition to terrorism, that would give terrorism a victory it must and will not have."

The death toll from bombs that went off without warning Friday at the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, rose to at least 149, including at least 12 Americans, officials said yesterday. The total number of injured was more than 4,200, officials in Nairobi estimated, and could rise as rescue workers find more victims.

Recalling that the United States has captured and successfully prosecuted suspects in previous terror attacks years after they occurred, Clinton said again that "no matter how long it takes, or where it takes us, we will pursue terrorists until the cases are solved and justice is done."

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, meanwhile, released the names of 10 of the 12 known U.S. victims. The list, which contained the names of several military and support personnel, reflected the fact that many Americans employed at embassies abroad are not State Department diplomats but security staff, aid workers and technicians who represent several government agencies.

"I, and all members of our foreign affairs and defense community, feel this loss very deeply," Albright said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire nation, I extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives."

She joined Clinton in reaffirming that "the United States will spare no effort and use all the means at our disposal to track down and punish the perpetrators of these outrageous acts."

Clinton's senior foreign policy and national security advisers -- including Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, who by law are responsible for investigating the crimes even though they occurred outside the United States -- met at the White House to review the status of rescue operations and of the incipient investigation, administration officials said.

Albright, Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering, White House national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen are all scheduled to appear on public affairs television shows today -- a sign that the grisly reminders of mortality and vulnerability in the Africa bombings have at least for the moment diverted attention from the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation.

Administration officials resolutely refused to theorize responsibility for the deadly attacks, saying that a painstaking investigation has just begun. Independent analysts and specialists in terrorism also cautioned against speculating about who might have organized and carried out the bombings, but several noted that there is a limited universe of groups and individuals with the motive and capability to perpetrate such massive, coordinated attacks.

Most commentators focused on two prominent terrorism suspects who are based in Afghanistan and believed to be cooperating with each other.

One is Ayman Zawahri, whose name also has been transliterated as Iman Zowaheri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization. His name tops a "Wanted: Masterminds of International Terrorism" list posted on the Egyptian government's official Web site.

Two widely read Arabic language newspapers published in London reported last week that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad vowed to strike at the United States for orchestrating the capture in Albania and extradition to Egypt of three Islamic militants connected to the ethnic Albanian separatist movement in the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia. Most of the ethnic Albanians who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population are Muslim.

One of the three captured militants, Ahmed Ibrahim Najjar, is under sentence of death in Egypt for his alleged role in an earlier attack on Cairo's popular Khan el Khalili bazaar.

According to Edward V. Badolato, a private security consultant who was military attache at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, Zawahri is a "running mate" of the other man most frequently named in speculating about suspects, Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden is a renegade Saudi millionaire, the son of a road-building contractor who had close ties to the Saudi royal family, who according to the State Department uses his money to finance a relentless campaign against the Saudi rulers and against the U.S. military presence in the kingdom.

His family has disowned him and the Saudi government revoked his citizenship, forcing him to relocate to Sudan, Kenya's neighbor to the north, where he remained until international pressure on Khartoum persuaded the Sudanese to force him out. In 1996, he relocated to Afghanistan.

According to the State Department, bin Laden has "close associations with the leaders of several Islamic terrorist groups," probably forged initially when he was helping militant Muslims from several countries fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and has financed their activities.

In its annual report on international terrorism, the State Department said bin Laden "called the 1995 and 1996 bombings against U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia 'praiseworthy acts of terrorism.' "

On June 12, the State Department warned that bin Laden was reportedly threatening "some type of terrorist action . . . in the next several weeks." And in a July 29 report, the Chicago-based Emergency Response and Research Institute quoted bin Laden as telling an Arabic newspaper, "We had thought that the Riyadh and Khobar blasts were a sufficient signal to sensible U.S. decision-makers to avert a real battle between the Islamic nation and U.S. forces, but it seems that they did not understand the signal."

Opposition to U.S. military presence in Muslim countries was the motivation stated in a claim of responsibility for the bombings made yesterday by a previously unknown group calling itself "The Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Places."

The term "holy places" was understood as a reference in particular to Mecca and Medina, Saudi cities held sacred in Islam and visited by millions of pilgrims every year. In statements to a television station in Qatar, the group representatives described it as "Islamic holy warriors from all countries of the world," determined to drive U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries and resolved to "strike at American interests in all places until all its objectives are met."

The group said the Nairobi bombing was carried out by two men from Mecca, the holy city where non-Muslims are barred, and the Dar es Salaam attack by an Egyptian.

"We're aware of those reports. any claim of responsibility will be taken seriously as part of the investigation," White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

Another theory about the bombings is that they were organized by hard-liners in Iran opposed to the moderate President Mohammed Khatemi and his tentative moves toward rapprochement with the United States. Iran, listed by the State Department as the biggest promoter of international terrorism, has not been associated with any major incidents since Khatemi's election in May 1997, but several of his opponents in the conservative religious establishment have warned that they would take action to reinforce Iran's longstanding enmity to Washington.

But Iran condemned the bombings yesterday and called for international efforts to combat terrorism.

Iran's official news agency, monitored in Tehran by Reuters, issued a statement quoting foreign ministry spokesman Mahmoud Mohammadi as saying that "The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns the bomb explosion at U.S. embassies" in Kenya and Tanzania.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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