US soldier confesses to embassy bombings

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The Independent US

A former sergeant in the US Army admitted charges stemming from the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa yesterday, and he identified Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of the attacks.

A former sergeant in the US Army admitted charges stemming from the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa yesterday, and he identified Osama bin Laden as the mastermind of the attacks.

Ali Mohamed, 48, born in Egypt, is the first suspect to plead guilty. His admissions and his statement detailing his work for Mr Bin Laden over many years is an important breakthrough for the US prosecutors.

Mohamed, who was warned by US District Judge Leonard Sand in New York that he faced a term of 25 years or more, named Mr Bin Laden as the force behind a massive conspiracy by members of an Islamic jihad to attack US installations and embassies worldwide. He said he joined the conspiracy in the early Nineties because he believed America and its allies should be forced out of the Middle East.

"The objective was to attack any Western target in the Middle East," said Mohamed, who retired from the US Army in 1989. "The goals of the conspiracy were to bomb US embassies and kill US employees."

The former sergeant, who had taught Muslim culture to special forces, also admitted he had helped to smuggle Mr Bin Laden from Pakistan to Sudan and had been involved in training members of his terrorism organisation, al Quaeda.

Two years ago, two powerful explosions ripped almost simultaneously into the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people. Among the victims were 12 Americans and the Clinton administration vowed to hunt down those responsible.

There are 17 people facing charges in the US for alleged participation in the bombings. Many remain at large, including Mr Bin Laden, a Saudi-born millionaire living in Afghan-istan as a "guest" of the ruling Taliban. The US has a $5m bounty on Mr Bin Laden.

US prosecutors have launched a parallel investigation into last week's bombing in Yemen of the USS Cole, which killed 17 Americans. They suspect Mr Bin Laden may have also orchestrated that plot.

The President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, told the CNN network that Islamic veterans from the 1980s war in Afghanistan might have been behind the attack on the USS Cole. The veterans had supported the US-led campaign to eject the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, but have since turned against the US.

When President Saleh was asked if he thought Mr Bin Laden may ultimately have been responsible for bombing the ship, he replied: "Maybe." But he went on: "We cannot point our fingers at anyone ... unless the investigation is completed. We hope that next week we will be able to say more."

In Pakistan, an Iraqi believed to be linked with Mr Bin Laden was arrested on the Afghanistan border.

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