Sudan rioters attack British embassy

US steps up attempts to seize terror boss bin Laden's assets
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The Independent Online
AN ANGRY crowd attacked the British embassy in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, yesterday, smashing windows and tearing the Union flag to pieces. Although police reinforcements arrived to protect embassy staff, the incident has heightened fears that Britain's immediate support for the American missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan will put British lives and property at risk abroad.

The deserted US embassy in Khartoum was also stormed yesterday by thousands of Sudanese, chanting "God is greater than America". They were spurred on by Sudan's president, Omar el-Bashir, who said his people were prepared to die in a holy war. Afterwards about 500 people marched to the British embassy. They stoned the building, smashing most of the windows, and cut down the Union flag from a pole in front before tearing it to pieces.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the Government had protested to the Sudanese authorities over the attack, which lasted about 20 minutes. "When the crowd arrived, we asked the foreign ministry for additional police protection, which arrived quickly," he said. "Our staff are in remarkably good spirits. They were able to continue with their work, keeping in close touch with the 200-odd British nationals still in Sudan." Last week the Government advised Britons in Sudan to leave, and to be vigilant and avoid crowds if they stayed. Travel to Sudan was discouraged unless it was essential.

Anger has run high in Sudan since six of the 76 cruise missiles fired by the US on Thursday demolished a factory on the outskirts of Khartoum, killing one person and injuring nine. Washington said the plant was being used to produce chemical weapons, a claim strongly denied by the Sudanese government. There are also suspicions that America was seeking to punish Sudan for its past associations with Osama bin Laden, the Saudi billionaire accused by Washington of masterminding the bomb attacks on its embassies in east Africa from his base in Afghanistan.

Yesterday President Bill Clinton announced measures designed to clamp down on Mr bin Laden's assets, banning transactions between the US and companies or individuals linked to him. "We must not allow sanctuary for terrorism - not for terrorists or for their money," Mr Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "It takes money - lots of it - to build the terrorist network bin Laden has. We'll do our best to see that he has less of it."

Although it emerged that the US has compiled a thick dossier of allegations against the Saudi revolutionary, and that it had made at least two attempts during the past year to extricate him from Afghanistan, the absence of public proof of his involvement in the embassy bombings has led to criticism of Tony Blair for giving Mr Clinton swift and unequivocal support. Maverick Labour MPs including Tony Benn and Tam Dalyell condemned the missile attacks yesterday and called on Mr Blair to withdraw Britain's approval.

Afghan eyewitness, page 13; Focus, pages 22-23; Leading article, page 24