US Citizen Held in Jordan on Suspected Links to Osama Bin Laden
A US citizen reported to be involved with Osama bin Laden, who is wanted in the United States for 1998 embassy bombings, is being held in a Jordanian jail, a US State Department official revealed Monday.
The man identified as Raed Hijazi has been visited by a US consular officer from the US Embassy in Amman, said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.
But the official refused to provide any further information about the man or the circumstances surrounding his arrest, saying: "He has privacy rights he has not waived."
The comments followed an NBC News report earlier Monday, which said Hijazi was a prime suspect in the October 12 bombing of the US destroyer Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, which left 17 US sailors dead and 39 wounded.
The blast that blew a huge hole in the port side of the ship occurred when two suspected suicide bombers in a small boat pulled alongside the Cole while it was refueling and set off the explosives.
US President Bill Clinton has promised that the US government will not rest until those responsible for the attack are brought to justice.
According to NBC News, Hijazi was taken into custody by the Syrian government last month and was turned over to Jordan, where he has already been tried and sentenced to death in absentia for plotting attacks on US and Israeli targets during millennium celebrations.
Hijazi "personally trained and supported" those responsible for the Cole attack, the network reported, citing US government sources.
However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has dozens of agents on the ground in Yemen looking into the bombing, refused to publicly link Hijazi to the attack on the Cole.
"We checked with the people in our Counter-terrorism Division as to whether there are any developments with regard to the case," FBI spokesman Bill Carter told AFP. "They indicated that no, they were unaware of any arrests or developments with regard to the case."
He said he could not comment on the progress in the Cole investigation because it was an ongoing probe.
Last March, Hijazi was identified by Jordanian security officials as a close associate of Mohammed Abu Zubayda, a member of bin Laden's inner circle who was trying to mastermind a plot against Jordanian biblical sites.
Both Hijazi and Abu Zubayda were believed to have fled to Afghanistan after the plot was uncovered, according to these officials.
Bin Laden is wanted by the United States for his alleged role in masterminding the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
US officials say bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan, where he fought against invading Soviet troops in the 1979-1989 war.
The Clinton administration is considering a wide range of options, including military force, to punish bin Laden if investigators conclude that the Saudi dissident was behind the bombing of the Cole, the Washington Post reported Sunday, citing unnamed US officials – WASHINGTON (AFP)
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