Africa bomb suspect identified as a Palestinian with 2 aliases FBI, Kenyan officials say he has not confessed nor implicated others

August 18, 1998|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, the suspect extradited from Pakistan for questioning here about the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, operates under two aliases, according to investigators, and has been identified as a Palestinian.

Odeh, 32, is being questioned by agents of the FBI and Kenya's Criminal Investigation Division in Nairobi, who said he has not admitted responsibility for the attacks nor implicated anyone else, although reports from Pakistan at the time of his extradition said he had confessed and named his partners.

Kenya television reported last night that Odeh is a Palestinian, born in Jordan and married to a Kenyan.

He was extradited from Pakistan after being picked up for traveling on a false passport and suspected of being a drug smuggler en route to Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities arrested Odeh after he arrived on a flight from Nairobi on Aug. 7, the day of the near simultaneous attacks on the U.S. embassies here and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The two aliases Odeh has used are Abdull Bast Awadh and Mohammed Sadiq Howaidi, authorities said. Sadiq Howaidi was the name the Pakistanis used in announcing his extradition on Aug. 14, a week after the bombings left 257 dead -- 12 of them Americans -- and more than 5,000 injured, according to a statement issued by investigators.

Reports from Pakistan originally said Odeh had confessed and implicated Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian militant believed to be a leading sponsor of anti- American terrorism who is based in Afghanistan.

Odeh is one of at least six people under interrogation.

Yesterday, Peter Mbuvi, deputy director of Kenya's CID and Sheila Horan, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, said: "Mr. Sadiq Odeh has not admitted any responsibility in the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, nor has he implicated anyone else in those events."

U.S. and Kenyan officials would not comment on reports that he had confessed earlier, nor on his national origin. Pakistani press and Kenya television have identified Odeh as a Palestinian.

"There are indications he had been here for a while," said Kenya's foreign minister, Bonaya Godana without giving details.

"The investigators are on a very promising track in this respect," he said. "You can imagine that something of this magnitude can't be done by two or three people who just land from outer space.

"The fact that there were two explosions clearly means there was some major networking, major terrorist group contacts on the ground," Godana said. "Once we get on the right track we will be able to get more of them."

The Clinton administration has offered a $2 million reward for information leading to the arrest and trial of the bombers.

Godana said the trial should be held here, but did not rule out the possibility of its being transferred to the United States.

"The fact that the crime took place here, on Kenyan soil, within the jurisdiction of Kenyan courts, the fact that so many Kenyans sufferered, makes it necessary that they be tried in this place," he said. "But we are prepared to discuss with the American government -- if they have a better case -- the possibility of sending them elsewhere," he added.

Godana said the issue of a U.S. contribution to the medical and material cost of the bombing damage would be on the table today when Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright visits the bombed capitals to inspect the sites, talk to the embassy staffs, visit the injured and meet local leaders.

"This was not an American act, but an act of terrorists who targeted the Americans and apparently didn't care about the consequences for Kenyans," he said.

But Godana noted that Kenyan lawyers had announced publicly that they were investigating the possibility of suing the U.S. government for damages.

"You can't ignore that public feeling," he said.

He declined to suggest an appropriate sum of any U.S. contribution, but noted that early estimates of material damage ran into hundreds of millions of dollars. The Kenyans, he said, appreciated the strong U.S. support in the United Nations Security Council for an international assistance package.

"It would not be very fair to tell Secretary Albright when she comes, 'Come on, give us this much.' We have no desire to exploit the tragedy," Godana said.

He distanced himself from the anti-American tone of the news media here since the bombings. Newspapers have criticized the Marine guards for giving priority to securing the damaged embassy building over helping Kenyan victims outside the perimeter, condemned Ambassador Prudence Bushnell for saying the Marines were concerned about looters, and objected to the initial travel advisory issued by the State Department but withdrawn a week later.

The Marines, he suggested, were following their training, and Kenyans did not understand the sensitivity of material inside the embassy.

"The ambassadors reference to looters, however, was most unfortunate," he said. "I would wish to think she didn't mean looting by Kenyans. I think she meant the Marines were there to protect whatever was inside the embassy from being damaged or accidentally moved without bad intentions."

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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