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FBI frees two suspects in Oklahoma inquiry


in Washington

The search for "John Doe No 2", the mysterious second suspect in the Oklahoma City explosion, is back to square one following the unconditional release yesterday of Gary Land and Robert Jacks, arrested on Tuesday morning at a cheap motel in south-western Missouri.

Land and Jacks, it emerged after 18 hours of FBI questioning, were no more than a pair of drifters with petty criminal records and a fondness for drink - but whose movements over the past few weeks from Arizona to Oklahoma and finally to Missouri happened to have virtually mirrored those of Timothy McVeigh, the ex-serviceman being held as the main suspect.

However, despite some physical similarities on the part of Mr Land, neither was John Doe No 2, the figure described by the FBI as ''stocky, tanned and muscular'', said to have rented with Mr McVeigh the truck used in the blast.

Both said they had never known Mr McVeigh and had passed lie detector tests "with flying colours". "We didn't do it. We're clean," Mr Jacks said.

Thus, despite some 13,000 tips and leads, the investigation reverts to where it was 10 days ago, with Mr McVeigh in a maximum security prison cell refusing to answer questions and the two Nichols brothers, Terry and James, in custody charged with conspiracy to detonate bombs in Michigan, but thus far are no more than "material witnesses" to what happened on 19 April.

Yesterday, a fortnight after the blast, rubble removing machines moved into the wreckage of the Alfred P Murrah federal building, where almost 150 people are known to have died, with dozens more still missing.

In Washington, President Bill Clinton asked Congress for $142m in special funds to cope with the bombing's aftermath. The request is part of a package of anti-terrorism proposals Mr Clinton is sending to Capitol Hill, including 1,000 specially trained agents, a new single anti-terrorism centre under the aegis of the FBI, and mandatory tracing markers for explosives sold in the US.

Louis Freeh, the FBI Director, told a House sub-committee yesterday that the administration accepts that the bureau has the right to infiltrate any organisation - including private militias - that advocate illegal violence and seem to have the means of carrying it out.