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Deliberations in bombings trial head for 7th day

Kenya embassy bombing
Workers look for survivors in the rubble of the bombed U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998.  

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jurors finished their sixth day of deliberations Thursday in the trial of four men accused of participating in a worldwide terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans after having asked to review documents outlining such a goal.

The documents include statements by alleged terrorist leader Osama bin Laden targeting Americans and faxed claims of responsibility for the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, which bin Laden allegedly organized.

The jury sent the judge five separate notes for trial exhibits and information on Wednesday, its fifth day of deliberating the 302-count case against four men -- Wadih el Hage, Mohamed Odeh, Mohamed al-'Owhali and Khalfan Mohamed.

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Shattered Diplomacy: The U.S. Embassy Bombings Trial
An in-depth special report on the trial of four men charged with the embassy bombings
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All but el Hage are accused of direct roles in the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured thousands. El Hage is accused of facilitating and managing the terrorist cell.

Among 30 new documents the jury requested were translated copies of claims of responsibility for the bombings from the "Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places."

The claims pledged "to pursue American forces" and "strike Americans everywhere" until various conditions were met, chief among them the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest cities.

Prosecutors told the jury the claims -- faxed from London to media outlets in Qatar, United Arab Emirates and France -- were sent by London operatives of al Qaeda, bin Laden's militant Islamic group.

Bin Laden's antagonism toward the United States stemmed from the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War on August 7, 1990, exactly eight years before the embassy bombings.

"In our religion, it is not permissible for any non-Muslim to stay in our country," the Saudi-born bin Laden told CNN in a March 1997 interview. "We declared jihad against the U.S government."

The jury, which was shown the interview during trial, requested the transcript Wednesday.

The jury also requested a copy of a February 1998 religious decree, or "fatwah," in which bin Laden said "to kill Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim" in order to "liberate" the holy mosques "from their grip" and "for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam."

The claims said "two men of blessed Mecca" carried out the Kenya truck bombing and an Egyptian driver carried out the Dar es Salaam truck bombing.

Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden  

Defendant al-'Owhali is a Saudi who according to witnesses rode in the passenger seat of the Kenya truck in what was supposed to be a martyrdom mission. The driver, another Saudi, died in the blast.

FBI agent Stephen Gaudin, who interrogated al-'Owhali after his arrest, testified al-'Owhali told him that in June 1998 he made a home video with the deceased driver to celebrate their forthcoming mission, claiming credit on behalf of the "Army for the Liberation of Islamic Holy Places."

The group's name nearly matches that of the group that issued claims of responsibility for the bombing. The home video was never found.

Gaudin also said al-'Owhali explained the reasons the embassy in Kenya was picked: It was an easy target with a large American staff, including a female ambassador whose death would generate more publicity.

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya in 1998, Prudence Bushnell, was in the building next door to the embassy when the explosion occurred and suffered only minor injuries.

The jury asked the court to read back that portion of Gaudin's testimony during Thursday deliberations.



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