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  Parts of Bomb Vehicle Uncovered in Kenya

Tractor carries wreckage A U.S. marine on Thursday escorts the wreckage of a car destroyed in the Nairobi embassy bombing. (Reuters Photo)

By Stephen Buckley and T. R. Reid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 14, 1998; Page A30

Investigators have discovered parts of a vehicle they believe contained the explosives that killed 247 people in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi last Friday morning, an FBI official said yesterday.

"We have been able to successfully identify certain parts of the vehicle, yes," FBI Special Agent Sheila Horan, the lead investigator in the probe to find who committed the bombing, said at a news conference this morning.

Horan declined to provide more information about the vehicle, but U.S. Embassy security guards and others who saw the attack have described it as a 3.5-ton Mitsubishi truck. Other witnesses have described a small pickup truck.

Horan also declined to say whether investigators have found the vehicle's engine, as reported by a local television station.

In Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, where a bomb killed 10 people at nearly the same moment as the Nairobi attack, the chief U.S. diplomat confirmed that officials are still searching for a missing embassy employee who had regular access to the water truck on which the bomb was evidently hidden.

"As far as I know, the assistant to the driver of the truck is not accounted for," said U.S. charge d' affaires John E. Lange. "His body has not been found."

The missing assistant, identified as Saidi Rogati, 49, has become a focal point of the investigation into the Dar es Salaam bombing. Under normal circumstances, he would have been sitting next to the driver at the moment the truck exploded at 10:39 a.m. Friday.

The mangled body of the truck's driver has been found, but there is no sign of the assistant's body. Neither the FBI nor Tanzanian police have tracked him down, officials said.

In Nairobi, Horan declined to give many specifics about the investigation of the deadliest attack on a U.S. embassy.

She did say that FBI agents, along with Kenyan police, are now conducting "massive amounts of interviews." They are interviewing people injured in the bombing, citizens who have called with information and people who live and work near the downtown embassy.

FBI agents will debrief more than 700 witnesses in Nairobi and more than 200 in Dar es Salaam, many in hospital beds. In Washington, FBI Assistant Director Thomas Pickard, head of the agency's criminal investigative division, said he expects the examination of the crime scene to last about four more weeks.

Horan repeatedly emphasized that the investigation involves full cooperation between the FBI and the Kenyan police, with each FBI agent teamed with a Kenyan counterpart. Also at the news conference was Peter Mbuvi, deputy director of Kenya's Criminal Investigations Division.

Tractor carries wreckage A U.S. marine on Thursday places barbed wire around the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. (AFP Photo)

Mbuvi said that the Kenyans were questioning five people in connection with the bombing. He said police had taken them in over the past few days and decided to hold them for "suspicious activities." He declined to disclose their nationalities.

In addition, Horan said, agents "are literally sifting through tremendous piles of debris" from the blast, which leveled the five-story Ufundi Cooperative Building next to the embassy.

Likewise, investigators in Dar es Salaam are trying to piece together the shattered water truck to learn something about the bomb that damaged the embassy there. A green tarp outside the building holds piles of battered parts: a radiator belt, an oil gasket, half of a reduction gear.

"One of the key elements of the search is to find the nature of the bomb," said Lange, who is in charge there because the United States has not had an ambassador to Tanzania for 10 months. "They want to know what kind of explosive it was and how it was set off."

The FBI will fly swabs of suspected explosive residue and other evidence back to its forensic laboratory in Washington. Laboratory director Donald Kerr said the samples will begin arriving this weekend.

A growing FBI team in Dar es Salaam has begun checking into people here who might have some knowledge of the attack. Among other things, they are questioning a local employee of a Dubai-based fishing company. In an interview, the employee said he had been asked by his bosses in Dubai to acquire "a bomb that could shift a house, even one as big as the U.S. Embassy."

Buckley reported from Nairobi, Reid from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Staff writer Michael Grunwald in Washington contributed to this report.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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