FBI chemist: Defendant's clothes had bomb residue
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Clothing found in the travel bag of Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, accused in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya, contained traces of explosive material, a government witness told a federal jury on Tuesday.
Three items inside Odeh's bag -- a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a cloth described as a bed sheet -- tested positive for either TNT or PETN, said FBI forensic chemist Kelly Mount.
Those are the same explosive materials used to construct the truck bomb that blew up behind the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998, killing 213 people, including 12 Americans, and injuring more than 4,000 other people.
Odeh left Kenya the day before the attack, according to travel records introduced into evidence, taking a Pakistani International Airways flight that landed in Karachi just a few hours before the bombing occurred. When a Pakistani immigration official noticed that Odeh's Yemen-issued passport was a fake -- the picture did not match -- Odeh was arrested.
Odeh later admitted to an FBI agent who interrogated him that he was in the company of the men who allegedly carried out the bombing of the embassy in Kenya, but he denied having a role in the plot.
Odeh's FBI interview and hotel records indicate that he stayed at Nairobi's Hilltop Hotel, the same hotel prosecutors say the other alleged conspirators used, in the days before the attack. His fingerprint was lifted off the door of a hotel room where the man suspected of being the terrorist cell leader stayed, according to prosecutors.
The clothing introduced at trial on Tuesday as laden with bomb residue is the strongest physical evidence directly linking him to the bombing. Before it was introduced, the prosecutor's best piece of evidence against Odeh may have been a handwritten sketch found in his Kenyan home that bore a striking resemblance to the targeted embassy compound.
On cross-examination, Mount said it was possible but not probable that investigators who were at the Kenya bomb scene, and who also handled Odeh's clothing, could have transferred bomb residue.
"We're talking about microscopic particles that are easily transferred," said Odeh attorney Edward Wilford.
Mount told the court there are ways to determine the source of the bomb residue. Several Pakistani and Kenyan police officers who handled Odeh's travel bag before it went into U.S. custody did not wear protective gloves, he said.
Although he maintains his innocence, Odeh has admitted to the FBI that he felt a moral sense of responsibility for the Kenya bombing because he belonged to al Qaeda, the Islamic militant organization run by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden is accused of ordering the bombing in Nairobi and a nearly simultaneous bombing of the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 11 people and injured dozens more.
Odeh, 36, a Jordanian, and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, 24, a Saudi, are standing trial for the Kenya attack. Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian, is on trial for the Tanzania attack.
The jury was shown Tuesday that a telephone number Mohamed had written on a "to do" list recovered in his last residence matches the known phone number for the man suspected of designing the embassy bombs. Mohamed admitted his own role in the bombings to the FBI agent who conducted his post-arrest interrogation.
Wadih el Hage, 40, a naturalized American citizen, is standing trial for terrorist conspiracy for his alleged role in organizing the Nairobi cell and for allegedly acting as a conduit for messages from bin Laden.
On Tuesday, the jury heard additional transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations that showed el Hage, when living in Nairobi, spoke as recently as September 1997 to Mohamed Atef, the man the U.S. government identifies as bin Laden's military commander.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case on Wednesday.
Jury hears how defendant fled Kenya before attack
U.S. State Department
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