US sued over missile strike on Sudan

The United States government is to be sued over its missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in 1998 in a lawsuit that will revive an embarrassment for America and for President Bill Clinton.

The United States government is to be sued over its missile attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in 1998 in a lawsuit that will revive an embarrassment for America and for President Bill Clinton.

On 20 August 1998, the US launched the attack in retaliation for the bombing of its embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which America blamed on the Islamist leader Osama bin Laden.

The attack destroyed the al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory in Khartoum. US officials said the facility was used to produce chemicals for the deadly nerve agent VX.But the factory was owned by Salah Idris, a Sudanese businessman. He was labelled a terrorist by the US, which froze his bank account. He sued and the US unfroze the account, while not admitting any mistake. America did, however, admit that its intelligence on the plant had been wrong, and that it did not know who owned it.

Now Mr Idris wants compensation. He had been debating the merits of a suit for a year, not just because he wants to be repaid for the destruction of the facility but because he wants to clear his name.

Mr Idris appeared in London yesterday to announce the law suit. That is, in itself, significant: though America continues to maintain that he is linked to terrorism, Britain apparently does not believe this. Publicly, British officials continue to back theUS strikes; in private, they believe the attack on Sudan was mistaken.

The case may provide damaging details of the errors the US made and the attempts to hide them afterwards. The New York Times reported last year: "Some senior officials moved to suppress internal dissent. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ... encouraged State Department analysts to kill a report being drafted that said the bombing was not justified."

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