U.S. Indicts Saudi Arabian for Terrorism
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 20, 1997 The indictment here of a suspected Saudi Arabian terrorist may not speed the U.S. investigation into last year's Khobar Towers bombing, but "it will certainly be helpful," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said.
A federal grand jury indicted Hani al-Sayegh June 18 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for conspiring with a terrorist group actively promoting violence against the United States. U.S., Canadian and Saudi Arabian officials suspect al-Sayegh is connected to the June 25, 1996, bombing that killed 19 Americans at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
"We will have access to information," Cohen said. "It may prove reliable; it may prove contradictory to other evidence. It is too early to say. ... We will have to wait and see and weigh his statements against what we have acquired from the Saudis and other sources." He said it remains to be seen how truthful al-Sayegh may be or if any information he provides will contribute to the investigation.
Reporters asked Cohen if he will uphold former Defense Secretary William J. Perry's vow to take strong action if the investigation reveals the involvement of a third country. Cohen replied: "We should not make any prejudgment at this point. ... The evidence is still incomplete."
The United States will not take any precipitous action, he said, but, "Our record is very clear that when our interests are struck by other countries, it does not go without some response. The United States has demonstrated in the past, whenever there has been a threat to our interest, we have not hesitated to resort to strong action."
Action can come in a variety of forms, Cohen added. "A lot will depend upon the degree of substantiation there is of the evidence. It is something we will look at very carefully."
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested al-Sayegh in Canada in March on an immigration charge. Canadian officials turned him over to the United States.
The indictment charges that "from in or about January 1994, continuing to in or about December 1995, outside the United States, and within the District of Columbia, the defendant Hani al-Sayegh, together with one or more persons known and unknown to the grand jury, knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to kill nationals of the United States ... ."
The indictment states al-Sayegh was paid a stipend by a terrorist organization conspiring to kill Americans living in Saudi Arabia. Sometime around December 1995, the indictment charges, al-Sayegh traveled to Jizan, Saudi Arabia, "to determine the availability of buying weapons and explosives" to be used against the United States.
The Khobar attack sparked a major campaign to improve force protection throughout the U.S. military.