- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

Indian authorities have formally charged suspected Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and five associates with attempting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
New Delhi Assistant Police Commissioner Rajbir Singh yesterday confirmed that indictments had been handed down Aug. 14 against bin Laden based on statements made by two men arrested in the Indian capital in mid-June.
Police said two of bin Laden's accomplices, one Indian and one a Sudanese national, were carrying explosives, detonators and timers when they were arrested. The two were apprehended after government officials received a tip that an attack was being planned.
Bin Laden, a onetime Saudi financier who operates from a base in Afghanistan, is considered by U.S. officials the most dangerous terrorist operating on the international scene. He is believed to have masterminded the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 persons, including several American diplomats.
The formal charges were first reported in yesterday's edition of the Times of India and confirmed by Indian security officials.
Four of the six suspects are being held in a New Delhi jail. Bin Laden remains in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic movement that rules the country. Abdul Rehman Safani, a Yemeni national whom Indian authorities believe oversaw the planning for the New Delhi attack, has fled the country.
The State Department yesterday said the U.S. government "appreciated" the efforts of Indian law-enforcement officials for pressing the investigation into the bombing attack.
"We continue to be in close touch with the government of India about this case," said State Department spokeswoman Eliza Koch. "The United States believes that terrorists should be brought to justice for their crimes."
The spokeswoman referred questions about details of the investigation to the Indian government.
U.S. officials have been circumspect in linking the June arrests directly to a planned strike by bin Laden against the American Embassy.
Asked about the arrests in mid-June, department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. officials had been in close touch with the Indian counterparts "over a long period of time" to protect American facilities from terrorist attacks.
But he added: "As a result of the investigation that they have carried out in this matter, we are not aware of any specific threat to the U.S. Embassy."
Bin Laden has been harshly critical of both the United States and India. Terrorist experts say bin Laden's network has established ties with Muslim armed groups battling Indian troops along the border with Pakistan in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir.
Bin Laden reportedly vowed to promote "religious terrorism" in India while declaring a joint "jihad," or holy war, against the United States and India in 1999.
Many of the details of the reported plan to attack the U.S. Embassy have come from Abdel Raouf Hawas, a 30-year-old Sudanese who told Indian investigators while in custody that he had visited the embassy site a number of times as part of the preparations for an attack. Before moving to Afghanistan in 1996, bin Laden used Sudan as a base for his international operations.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Hawas, who came to India eight years ago as a student, was trying to buy a car in which to place RDX, a powerful explosive substance used in military ordnance.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.


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