4 Followers of Bin Laden Indicted in Plot to Kill Americans

By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 1998

A federal grand jury in New York returned a massive indictment yesterday charging four disciples of Islamic militant Osama bin Laden with participating in a terrorist plot to kill Americans. The plot allegedly included the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7 and the training of militias that attacked American soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

The 238-count indictment represents the most comprehensive account so far in the U.S. law enforcement campaign against bin Laden's network of Muslim extremists and marks the first official allegation that an American citizen participated in his violent conspiracies. Wadih el Hage of Arlington, Tex., a former personal secretary in Sudan to bin Laden who was charged with perjury last month, was indicted yesterday for his alleged involvement in the plot.

The indictment continues the Justice Department's efforts to portray bin Laden as the man in the middle of international terrorism, alleging that notorious Middle Eastern terrorist groups such as Gamaa Islamiya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad "operated under {the} umbrella" of bin Laden's lesser-known al Qaida. The document also names as unindicted co-conspirators Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al Zawahiri, Gamaa leader Ahmed Refai Taha and former Gamaa leader Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who provided spiritual guidance to the World Trade Center bombers and is now serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up several New York City landmarks.

All four suspects indicted yesterday had been subjects of unsealed criminal complaints. Still, the document does formally accuse al Qaida of training and supporting the Somali tribes who killed 12 American soldiers in Mogadishu, hints that al Qaida had a hand in attacks on American soldiers in Saudi Arabia and alleges that bin Laden has tried since 1989 to recruit Americans to travel around the world delivering messages and making deals.

The indictment also provides new details about the East Africa bombings, which killed 264 people and wounded more than 5,000 others. For example, it alleges that Mohammed Rashed Daoud al Owhali and a co-conspirator named Azzam "filmed a videotape to celebrate their anticipated martyrdom' " and claimed credit on behalf of a fictitious organization before driving the truck that blew up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

Azzam apparently died in the blast, but al Owhali was arrested in a Nairobi hospital and is now in jail in New York. So are el Hage and Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, who was also detained in August and indicted yesterday. Fazul Abdallah Mohammed, a native of the Comoros Islands who had been referred to as Haroun Fazil, remains at large; the State Department has offered a $2 million reward for information leading to his arrest. A fifth alleged co-conspirator, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, was indicted last month and is awaiting extradition from Germany. All could face the death penalty if convicted.

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