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World - Africa

Sources: Terrorist base camps evacuated after embassy bombings

Bin Laden
CNN interview with Bin Laden which aired in May 1997  
August 13, 1998
Web posted at: 12:41 p.m. EDT (1641 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. national security officials have been briefed on unusual movements at terrorist base camps operated by Middle East financier Osama Bin Laden immediately after Friday's U.S. embassy attacks in Africa, U.S. sources told CNN.

There was "a dispersement of people away from Bin Laden's bases of operation within Afghanistan in the aftermath of the explosions," a U.S. official said.

The official, who asked not to be named, estimated "scores" of people evacuated the remote mountain camps, which he described as known terrorist training facilities. A second official familiar with the reports said the United States government found the mass departure from the compounds to be "interesting."

While no one contacted by CNN on this matter would say this movement was evidence of his involvement in the attacks, some said it added more weight to such a scenario. Bin Laden is a known terrorism sponsor who issued an open threat against the United States this past spring.

Osama Bin Laden: Holy Terror?
- a CNN/TIME special report

Bin Laden is a son of a wealthy Saudi Arabian family whose affiliation with extremist and terror groups led to his exile from Saudi Arabia and his later deportation from Sudan.

In addition to family wealth, Bin Laden has accumulated a substantial personal fortune through business and financial dealings and has dedicated himself to an anti-United States and anti-Western terror crusade, U.S. officials say.

He also raises funds from sympathetic, anti-Western Arabs.

U.S. government analysts believe Bin Laden was a sponsor of attacks against U.S. troops in Somalia during the 1993 United Nations humanitarian relief effort there, including the clash that killed 18 U.S. Army Rangers.

He also is suspected of being a backer and financier of the World Trade Center bombing in New York that year.

Bin Laden now runs a "global operation" from his secluded headquarters in Afghanistan, officials say, and is considered to be among the leading enemies of the United States. One U.S. official contacted by CNN said that Bin Laden was "high on the list of people for whom we have a low opinion."

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