FBI agents have established a possible link between the Jewish Defense League and the bomb blast that killed Arab-American scholar Alex Odeh and demolished the southern California office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, an FBI spokesman said today.
The statement by Lane Bonner in Washington was the first indication of progress in the four-week investigation to determine who placed a bomb apparently triggered by a tripwire when Odeh opened the door of his office on the morning of Oct. 11.
Bonner said the FBI's experts on terrorism had concluded "there is a possible link between the JDL and the California bombing."
FBI agents have also indicated that the JDL, which has denied responsibility for the bombing, may be linked to bombs exploded in New Jersey and New York in the last three months. The bombs were triggered in the same way and aimed at former Nazi Party members.
Arab Americans have sharply criticized the U.S. media and the White House for failing to give Odeh's death the type of attention paid to the recent murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew killed aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro that was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists.
JDL leader Irv Rubin, asked about the FBI report, said, "I really resent the fact that they are implying that without any evidence whatsoever. We had nothing to do with the death of Alex Odeh."
Shortly after the bombing, Rubin had noted that Odeh had appeared on a Los Angeles television news show the night before his death and praised Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat.
"I have no tears for Mr. Odeh," Rubin said then. "He got exactly what he deserved."
Today, Rubin said of the FBI suggestion of JDL involvement, "They can take their possible link and shove it . . . because it doesn't exist."
Former U.S. senator James G. Abourezk (D-S.D.), national chairman of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said he would not comment on the FBI statement.
The murder of Odeh, the ADC's West Coast regional director and a teacher of Arabic and Mideast history at two local colleges, occurred amid the hijacking uproar. The tripwire and charge directed toward the office door indicated that explosive experts were involved.
Odeh, 41, father of three daughters, also wrote poetry and essays touching on the Middle East. He was born to a Catholic Arab family on the west bank of the Jordan River and immigrated to the United States in 1972.
He died two hours after the explosion from massive injuries to the lower part of his body. The explosion in the second-floor office in Santa Ana, Calif., knocked out walls and showered the busy street below with concrete and glass. Seven people in adjoining offices were injured.
Bonner said FBI Director William H. Webster earlier noted similarities between the Santa Ana explosion and two East Coast bombings of accused Nazi war criminals.
On Aug. 15, a bomb fatally injured Tscherim Soobzokov, 61, a wartime member of the Waffen SS, at his home in Paterson, N.J. On Sept. 6, a bomb at the Long Island, N.Y., house of Elmars Sprogis, 70, injured a passerby. Sprogis, a police chief in Nazi-occupied Latvia in World War II, escaped injury.
Investigators said the bombs were triggered to explode when a door was opened.