On August 20 1998, the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, was destroyed in cruise missile strikes launched by the United States in retaliation for the August 7 truck bomb attacks on U.S. embassies which killed 225 people and wounded 4000 in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya (see: 1998 U.S. embassy bombings).
The U.S. Administration of President Bill Clinton justified the attacks on the grounds that the al-Shifa plant was involved in producing chemical weapons and was linked to the violent Islamist al Qaeda group of Osama bin Laden, which was believed to be behind the embassy bombings. The US action of August 20 also hit al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, where bin Laden had moved on his May 1996 expulsion from Sudan.
The Khartoum attack was noted for its outstanding precision, as successive missiles all but levelled the al-Shifa works with minimal damage to surrounding areas. But the factory is today widely thought to have been unconnected with weapons-related activity, or with bin Laden. It was, however, Sudan's principal source of anti-malaria and veterinary drugs, and its destruction is alleged to have caused thousands of otherwise preventible deaths during the malaria epidemic which hit the country in 1999.
The strikes were criticised by many as being motivated at least in part by a desire to deflect attention from President Clinton's ongoing domestic troubles in the Lewinsky scandal.