A confession to Pakistani authorities by a suspect in the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa was a key factor in President Clinton's decision to order strikes against alleged "terrorist" sites in Afghanistan and Sudan, Newsweek magazine said Sunday.
Newsweek said that another factor providing Clinton with the evidence he wanted of alleged involvement by militant Saudi exile Osama bin Laden in the Aug. 7 bombings was an intercepted mobile phone conversation between two of bin Laden's lieutenants that implicated them in the bombings.
In its edition out today, Newsweek said that before ordering the military action, Clinton sought firm evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the bombings.
Thursday's missile attacks hit paramilitary training camps allegedly run by bin Laden organizations in Afghanistan and a plant in the Sudanese capital Khartoum that Sudan said was making pharmaceuticals but U.S. authorities believed was making an ingredient for a deadly nerve agent.
Mohammad Sadik Howaida, a 33-year-old Palestinian, was arrested Aug. 7 when he arrived in the Pakistani city of Karachi from Nairobi. He reportedly told Pakistani authorities he was involved in the bombings and said he was working for bin Laden. He was later flown back to Africa for questioning by Kenyan police and the FBI in Nairobi, where he retracted his confession.
Newsweek said Howaida told Pakistani investigators that "he built a bomb for the embassy in Tanzania on orders from Ali Saleh, an Egyptian extremist long linked to bin Laden."
"He said the attack on the Nairobi embassy was organized by Ali Saleh and four other men; an Egyptian named Abdur Rehman, a man from the Comoros named Haroon and two Kenyans of Yemeni extraction named Fahd and Sheik Babamand."
He also named people involved in organizing the Tanzania bomb.
In a meeting Aug. 12 of the so-called Small Group of senior military and security officials involved in planning the strikes, "Clinton had set a tough standard of proof," the magazine said. It added he wanted it to be evidence that the Small Group members "would regard as conclusive."