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Background: The Search for Suspects

September 30, 1998 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: Within hours after terrorist bombs went off at U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7th, a full-scale investigation by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies was underway across several continents. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright vowed to prosecute those responsible.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: (August 7th) Our investigation has already begun. We are not going to rest until the cowards who committed this crime are found, caught and punished.

MARGARET WARNER: FBI agents and other U.S. security forces were promptly dispatched to the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, where the simultaneous attacks had killed more than 260 people and injured more than 5,000, most of them local passersby. Twelve Americans were among the dead in Nairobi. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the day of the bombings one suspected was arrested in Pakistan shortly after arriving on a flight from Nairobi. The man was, later identified as Mohammed Saddiq Odeh.

Two days later, a second man was arrested in Nairobi. Authorities say that Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al Owhali was riding in the truck that delivered the bomb to the embassy there. Authorities said both men had ties to the al Qaida terrorist network created and financed by exiled Saudi Arabian millionaire Osama bin Laden. Earlier this year bin Laden called for a holy war, or Jihad, against the United States. Even before the bombing bin Laden was under investigation by the CIA, FBI, and Justice Department. A federal grand jury had issued a sealed criminal indictment charging him with being involved in previous terrorist attacks on U.S. targets.

On August 20th, President Clinton launched air strikes against sites the administration said were connected to bin laden. The first was a cluster of training camps in Afghanistan — thought to be bin Laden’s headquarters. Several buildings were destroyed, but bin Laden was reportedly not harmed.

The second site hit by U.S. Cruise missiles was a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, and U.S. officials said the factory was also producing components for chemical weapons, a claim that has generated considerable controversy since then. U.S. Officials said the factory had been at least indirectly financed by bin Laden. In the weeks since the U.S. strikes, authorities have arrested many suspected associates of bin Laden — 18 people in Uganda, seven in London and one in Germany.

Still others have been apprehended and charged with being actually involved in the embassy bombings. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim was arrested September 20th, near Munich, Germany. The U.S. attorney’s office in New York filed a sealed complaint against him in connection with the embassy bombings. Last Monday, the two men arrested in Nairobi and Pakistan immediately after the bombings were indicted in New York on twelve counts of murder – one for each American killed in the attack – plus conspiracy and weapons charges.

A U.S. citizen living in Arlington, Texas—Wadih el Hage – described as bin Laden’s former personal secretary — was indicted for perjury in connection with the investigation. He’s in custody in New York. In addition, a federal warrant has been issued for this man — 26 year old Abdullah Mohamed Fadul. The FBI believes Fadul — also known as Haroun Fazil — played a “significant role” in the Nairobi bombing; he remains at large. Finally, Tanzanian authorities have charged two other men with murder in connection with the embassy bombing in Dar Es Salaam.