hunting bin laden
the suspects & charges
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Since the August 7, 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people and injured over 5,000, the United States government has attempted to arrest and bring to trial those responsible. The U.S. has issued a series of indictments against Osama bin Laden, the man they believe controls the international terrorist organization responsible for the bombings. As of May 2001, seventeen defendants have been charged in relation to the bombings. Of the seventeen, eight are still at large. Five have been arrested and are in custody in the United States or Great Britain.

In May 2001, four defendants were convicted after a nine-week federal trial during which prosecutors called over 90 witnesses, including al Qaeda informants and survivors of the bombings. Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed were convicted of conspiracy and murder and face the death penalty at their sentencing. Mohammed Saddiq Odeh and Wadih El Hage were convicted of conspiracy and both face life in prison. All of the defendants were represented by court-appointed attorneys and none testified on his own behalf. The jury deliberated for twelve days before reaching their verdicts on the 302-count indictment.

*Ali Mohamed, a 48 year old Egyptian native and former US Army sergeant, was the first person to plead guilty or be convicted of murder charges resulting from the embassy bombings. On Friday, October 20, 2000, Mohamed told Judge Leonard Sand of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan that at the request of bin Laden, he had conducted surveillance of US, British, and French targets in Nairobi, including the US embassy. He then delivered pictures, diagrams, and a report to bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan. He said that bin Laden looked at a photograph of the US embassy and pointed to the place where a bomb truck could be driven through. The targets were chosen, Mohamed said, to retaliate against the US intervention in the civil war in Somalia.

Mohamed confirmed that the larger objective of bin Laden and his association is to attack Western targets in the Middle East, in order to force Western governments to pull out of the region. He also detailed the relationships between bin Laden's organization, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. He is the first suspect to speak publicly about bin Laden's involvement in terrorist activities.

Mohamed pleaded guilty to five federal counts of conspiracy, which included plotting to kill US citizens, destroy US facilities, and murder US soldiers in Somalia and Saudi Arabia. His plea was a major victory for US prosecutors. Mohamed is a naturalized US citizen, who worked as a supply sergeant in a Special Forces unit in Fort Bragg, North Carolina from 1986 to 1989, before going to work for bin Laden.

*Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, a Jordanian, was arrested trying to enter Pakistan with a fake Yemeni passport on the day of the East African Embassy bombings. He was interrogated by Pakistani officials, and he eventually admitted being part of the embassy bombing conspiracy.

In May 2001, Odeh was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy in the Kenya bombing. Currently awaiting sentencing, he faces life in prison. His lawyers have said they plan to appeal his conviction.

*Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, a Saudi, was the passenger in the actual bomb truck. He got out of the truck and threw a stun grenade at the guards before fleeing the scene. Owhali survived the bomb blast and was arrested at the hospital.

In May 2001, Owhali was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy and 213 counts of murder, including 12 Americans, in the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya. He avoided the death penalty when sentenced in June 2001 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

*Wadih El Hage, an American citizen, was a known bin Laden associate who had been interrogated by FBI agents in Nairobi one year before the bombings. The FBI told him to leave Nairobi at that time, and El Hage took his family back to Arlington, Texas. Two weeks after the embassy bombings, the FBI interrogated him in Texas. They called him to New York to testify in front of the Grand Jury in early September and arrested him several days later for lying to the Grand Jury. Since then, they have charged him with conspiracy in the bombing plot.

In May 2001, El Hage was found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy and perjury. Currently awaiting sentencing, he faces life in prison.

*Mamdouh Mahmud Salim was arrested in Germany and charged with conspiracy in the bombings and with attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction for the Bin Laden organization.
*Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a Tanzanian, was arrested in South Africa and extradited to the U.S. in October 1999. Prosecutors claim that his house was used as a bomb factory and a base of operations for the bombing conspiracy.

In May 2001, Mohamed was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to kill Americans and 11 counts of murder in the bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania. He avoided the death penalty when sentenced in July 2001 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Three defendants are in custody in the United Kingdom:

*Khalid Al Fawaz was arrested in England and has been accused of running Bin Laden's public relations office. He has been indicted, and remains in custody in England pending extradition.
*Egyptians Adel Abdul Bary and Ibrahim Hussein Abdelhadi Eidaros, have been charged in a criminal complaint, but not indicted, as of March 2000. Both are charged with conspiring in the bombings. According to the complaint, fingerprints of both men were found on faxes of documents related to the East Africa bombings. The complaint also alleges that Eidaros secretly organized a terrorist cell in Afghanistan and has been involved in providing passports for and otherwise assisting fugitive terrorists. The two were arrested in England on July 11, 1999. The US is seeking their extradition.

The eight remaining defendants, including bin Laden himself, are still at large. Many are believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. The United States is actively pursuing all of them. They are: Osama bin Laden, Muhammed Atef, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (Haroun Fazul), Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.

last updated May 29, 2001

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