Exploding U.S. cruise missiles sent terrified people screaming through a base in Afghanistan that Washington claims was used to train Islamic militants.
A Pakistani man who was at the camp on Thursday night, when the U.S. attacked, said he saw fire in the sky, then felt the missiles hit.
"There was panic and screaming, and people running everywhere. I remember nothing after that because I passed out," Muhammed Furqan said Saturday from his hospital bed in Mianshah, a border town.
He had wounds on his legs, chest and head that he said he suffered in the U.S. attack.
He said he was pursuing "religious studies" at the camp near Khost, 90 miles southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and just across the border from Pakistan.
However, other accounts tended to confirm the U.S. assertion that the camp was used for military training.
Badshah Gul, the base commander, said that when he heard the blasts, he thought his men were engaged in their usual drill of hurling bombs at targets.
"But the explosions were so big that they lit the sky for a while, and I began to realize what actually happened," Gul told the national Pakistani newspaper.
Mohammad Khalid, one of four Pakistanis brought to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, following the attack, decribed himself as an Islamic freedom fighter from Punjab. He said he had gone to the camp three weeks ago to get "religious training" and had not received any military instruction there.
Shaking with anger as he condemned the "cowardly" night-time assault by U.S. forces on "innocent people," he described seeing a fireball in the sky just as he and a dozen companions were going to bed.
"I heard a lot of noise, and I saw it coming. It hit our mosque and martyred it," he said.
"I was not part of the jihad (holy war) before, but now I will be," he vowed. "We will take our revenge against the enemies of Islam, and we will teach the children of America not to tangle with the Muslims. This cowardly attack will not go unanswered."
U.S. officials said the missiles were fired from ships in the Arabian Sea. Pakistani officials have said that no U.S. planes crossed their airspace for the attack.
The strike killed 27 people at the camp. Afghan officials initially put the toll at 21, but six people injured in the attack died Friday in hospitals in Pakistan, doctors said.
President Clinton said the strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan were aimed at rooting out extremists and at punishing the organization of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who has publicly advocated attacks on U.S. targets.
Bin Laden is suspected of financing the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 257 people.
In Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, a militant group that vowed revenge against the United States said the targeted base did not belong to bin Laden but was used by it to "educate young Afghans."
"We challenge the Americans to provide proof that these bases were used to train terrorists," said Fazlur Rehman Khalil, head of the Harkat-ul-Ansar group.
"We call for justice from the world. But if we don't get it, our religion gives us the right to retaliate, to defend ourselves," Khalil told reporters, as a guard with a Kalashnikov rifle stood behind him.
Officials of the Taliban movement that rules Afghanistan have said bin Laden survived the strikes, and he has since issued new threats against the United States.
Kuwait's Al-Watan newspaper, quoting unidentified sources in London Saturday, reported that Pakistan leaked word of the impending U.S. strike to bin Laden.
Also Saturday, the Pakistani government fired its intelligence chief, Manzoor Ahmed, for his handling of information about the bombings.
Pakistan initially said Friday that one of the bombs fired on the bases landed in Pakistan, killing at least five people. Hours later, the government retracted the claim.
Meanwhile, Sudan requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the U.S. attack on the alleged chemical weapons plant in Khartoum that it says was a pharmaceutical factory.
It also called for a fact-finding mission to investigate the U.S. claims that the plant produced precursors for chemical weapons. Sudan says the factory made antibiotics for children, anti-malaria drugs and other drugs for veterinary purposes.
A spokesman for Council President Danilo Turk of Slovenia said Sudan's request would be considered during closed-door consultations on Monday. Other diplomats said they did not expect the discussions to result in immediate action.