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Saudi Arabia says Khobar bombing probe not over
Riyadh, 26 February 2001

Saudi Arabia is still investigating the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and is still not sure who was responsible, Interior Minister Prince Nayef said yesterday. Prince Nayef was responding to a CBS News report on Friday that said U.S. investigators had identified a senior Iranian official as one of some two dozen suspects in the bombing of the military complex.

"We are not concerned with what others say. We insist that since the incident happened in the kingdom, we are the ones concerned with it," Prince Nayef told a news conference. "We cannot say, until now, that a specific side was behind that incident. There are basic and important elements that need to be investigated...And once that is done we will announce the results." CBS, citing unnamed sources, said federal investigators had identified Ahmad Sherif, a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, as one of those responsible for planning and carrying out the attack in Dhahran. CBS said several of the suspects linked to the attack were believed to be in Iran. The FBI could not be reached for comment on the report.

In January, Prince Nayef said a handful of Saudi nationals had been detained for links to the bombing but that the main suspects were still at large. He confirmed suspected links between Saudi dissident Hani Al Sayegh - extradited from the United States - and the bombing. The Saudi interior minister has repeatedly refused to point a finger of blame in the bombing of the military complex housing U.S. troops, saying that the kingdom needed to complete its investigation first. Prince Nayef also said the kingdom had information on the people who ordered recent bombings in Riyadh that killed a Briton and injured several others.

He told a news conference that three detained Westerners - who appeared on Saudi television earlier this month confessing to the two bombings in November - had given information that would lead to those who ordered the blasts. "What the bombers have said indicates that there are definitely parties, who could be individuals of other nationalities, behind this act," Prince Nayef said.

"We have at hand (information) that will enable us to arrive at (the identity) of these parties. God willing, we will know all the facts of these two bombings and we will then reveal all that we know," he added. The three Westerners - a Briton, a Canadian and Belgian man - said in their televised confessions that they received orders to carry out the bombings, but did not say who gave the orders or why.

They face execution if convicted under Saudi Arabia's Islamic sharia law, which normally stipulates public beheading of murderers, rapists and drug smugglers. Some Saudi newspapers have linked the bombings to illegal activities, including trading in alcohol, which is banned in the kingdom.

SOURCE: Gulf News

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26 February 2001 06:46:15 PM

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