Two suspects in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya have been brought to the United States for trial, U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said today.
The first suspect, Khalid Salim, was flown by the FBI to New York, according to U.S. officials here and in Nairobi who spoke on condition of anonymity. The exact date of Salim's arrest was not known. He had been identified as a Yemini, but Yemini officials denied it.
Later, another suspect, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, was flown to New York, according to a diplomatic source in Nairobi. Odeh has been held by Kenyan authorities since Aug. 14, a week after his arrest in Karachi, Pakistan, on the day of the bombing. Odeh is said to be either a Jordanian or Palestinian who obtained Kenyan citizenship in 1994.
Officials here said others among the several suspects in custody in Kenya also could be sent here for trial.
Salim and Odeh will be tried in the United States, officials here said.
Local reports have said witnesses identified Salim as the man who witnesses said hurled a hand grenade at embassy guards just before the blast.
Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh called a news conference this afternoon to discuss developments in the case.
The decision to try Salim, and perhaps others, in this country also represented a swift resolution of a potentially thorny problem of whether Kenya or the United States would handle the first prosecutions from the bombing that killed 247 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 5,000. A nearly simultaneous blast at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 11 people.
Kenyan officials were said to be eager to seek justice for the hundreds of Kenyan victims but also wary that a trial there for an attack on a U.S. target might invite new terrorist assaults on Kenyan targets.
Although the U.S. law criminalizing such attacks on Americans abroad provides for trial in Washington, officials have said there is an existing, sealed indictment in New York against Islamic militant financier Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. officials have blamed for the virtually simultaneous bombings at the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
A superseding indictment in that New York case might add the embassy blasts to the older charges against bin Laden and attach the new defendants as well.
Meanwhile, bin Laden was quoted today as saying the United States trained and armed his men to fight in the 1980s Afghan war.
In a 1995 interview with the French daily France Soir, bin Laden said U.S. and Pakistani officers trained volunteers he had recruited at his base in Pakistan to fight Soviet and Afghan troops.
In a related development, Britain announced today it is withdrawing its ambassador from Sudan and warned Britons to stay away from that country following the U.S. bombing of a suspected chemical plant.