04 November 1998
(Terrorists will be tracked down, officials say) (920) By Judy Aita USIA Staff Writer New York -- Usama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef were indicted November 4 in Manhattan federal court for the August 7 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and for conspiring to kill Americans outside the United States. US Attorney Mary Jo White and Assistant director of the FBI office in New York Lewis Schiliro -- accompanied by a group of other federal, state and local officials involved in the investigation -- announced the indictments at a press conference. Ambassador David Carpenter of the US Department of State also announced rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the arrest or conviction of bin Laden and Atef. "Usama bin Laden and his military commander Muhammad Atef are charged with plotting and carrying out the most heinous acts of international terrorism and murder," White said. "Their alleged victims include the hundreds of African and American citizens who tragically lost their lives in the embassy bombings in east Africa on August 7, 1998, and the thousands more who were seriously injured. In a greater sense, all of the citizens of the world are also victims whenever and wherever the cruel and cowardly acts of international terrorism strike," she said. "It is up to the authorities of the world to respond vigorously and relentlessly to such terrorist attacks. This investigation is continuing worldwide and will continue until all of those responsible are brought to justice," White stressed. Schiliro said that the indictment demonstrates the "resolve and determination of the entire law enforcement team to bring to justice all those who were responsible for the murder of innocent Americans, Kenyans, and Tanzanians on August 7." "This investigation has been given the highest priority," the FBI official said. "Our investigative strategy is clear: We will identify, locate, and prosecute all those responsible right up the line from those who constructed and delivered the bombs to those who paid for them and ordered it done." "Though far from complete, in three short months much has been accomplished due to the dedication and determination of the investigators and prosecutors and also because of the professionalism and total cooperation of the governments of Kenya, Tanzania, and the Comoros Islands," he said. The investigation deployed the largest contingent of FBI agents abroad and included members of the multi-agency joint terrorist task force -- New York City Police Department detectives, US customs agents, US Secret Service, the New York State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. "The work they have done in recovering physical evidence at the crime scene and developing other leads that will assist in this investigation cannot be overstated," Schiliro said. "Their resolve and determination to identify all those involved should not be underestimated." New York City Police Chief Howard Safir said that the indictment "sends a very clear message that terrorists will be held accountable no matter where they commit their acts." Both White and Schiliro stressed that the investigation will not end with the current indictment and is continuing. The 238-count indictment charges, among other things, that bin Laden and Atef along with co-defendants Wadih el Hage, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al'Owhali, acted together with other members of "al Qaeda" -- the worldwide terrorist organization led by bin Laden -- to murder US nationals, including members of the American military stationed in Saudi Arabia following the Gulf War and in Somalia as part of UN Operation Restore Hope, as well as those employed at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. They established front companies, provided false identity and travel documents, and provided false information to authorities in various countries. Bin Laden's "al Qaeda" organization functioned both on its own and through other terrorist organizations, including the Al Jihad group based in Egypt, the Islamic Group also known as el Gamaa Islamia led at one time by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and a number of other jihad groups in countries such as Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. Bin Laden, White charged, engaged in business transactions on behalf of Al Qaeda, including purchasing warehouses for storage of explosives, transporting weapons, and establishing a series of companies in Sudan to provide income to al Qaeda and as a cover for the procurement of explosives, weapons, and chemicals, and for the travel of operatives. According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. "In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said. Beginning in 1992, bin Laden allegedly issued through his "fatwah" committees a series of escalating "fatwahs" against the United States, certain military personnel, and, eventually in February 1998, a "fatwah" stating that Muslims should kill Americans -- including civilians -- anywhere in the world they can be found. Bin Laden and Atef, both of whom are fugitives, if convicted, face maximum sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole or death, White said.