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U.S.: Wealthy Saudi may have had role in Khobar bombing


An investigation is under way

From Correspondent Peter Arnett

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An elusive Saudi dissident is being investigated by U.S. officials for possibly inciting violence against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, CNN has learned.

On June 25, 1996, 19 American servicemen died in a terrorist bombing at Khobar Towers, a U.S. military complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. government has not determined who was behind the blast.

But American officials would like to know what Osama Bin Ladin, a Saudi multimillionaire now living in exile in Afghanistan, might know about the bombing.

Bin Ladin has denied any connection to the blast.

But a criminal investigation is being conducted by the U.S. attorney in New York City, CNN has learned. Bin Ladin has made statements to two newspapers and CNN's Impact program, calling for a holy war against U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.

"We declared a Jihad -- a holy war -- against the United States government because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical," Bin Ladin told CNN in the Impact interview that aired last month.


U.S. looking for possible conspiracy

The alleged crime that Bin Ladin is being investigated for is conspiracy to "commit offense against the United States."

"The crime of conspiracy is often used. It just requires the prosecutor to prove that there was an illegal agreement," according to CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack.

"In fact, you don't have to prove that anything actually happened. You just have to prove that two or more people had an illegal agreement."

U.S. officials publicly describe Bin Ladin as one of the principal sponsors of Islamic extremism around the globe, and tie him to terrorist groups in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Bin Ladin shielded by Taliban

Bin Ladin's call for holy war is taken seriously, because he has deep pockets and thousands of followers who fought beside him in an earlier holy war -- the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

There's little chance that Bin Ladin will ever appear in a U.S. court. He remains in Afghanistan under the protection of the ultra-Islamic Taliban sect that dominates much of that country.

In a related development, CNN has learned from a leading Saudi opposition figure that large numbers of dissidents inside Saudi Arabia have been arrested inside Saudi Arabia in the last two months.

Those dissidents, many of whom fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, were allegedly planning to attack U.S. targets inside the desert kingdom.


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