PATRICK COCKBURN in Washington: Gang believed to have links with group that bombed World Trade Center

THE FBI and New York police have arrested eight people for plotting to blow up the United Nations building, the FBI's New York headquarters and tunnels that carry thousands of New York commuters to Manhattan island every day. They are also suspected of planning to kill the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Senator Alfonse D'Amato.

Some of those arrested were allegedly in the act of mixing chemicals to make a bomb similar to that which killed six people and injured 1,000 at the World Trade Center in February. Five large drums filled with an explosive made from diesel oil and fertiliser were taken from the house of one of the men arrested. The FBI Director, William Sessions, said the explosive was of the same basic type used against the World Trade Center.

The plotters are believed to be loosely linked to Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim clergyman from Egypt whose followers were arrested for the World Trade Center bomb. The FBI believes the ringleader of the group arrested yesterday morning in raids in Brooklyn and Queens is Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali and say that five of the others under arrest have Sudanese passports.

James Fox, the head of the FBI in New York, said: 'As we entered the bomb factory, the suspects were literally mixing their witches' brew (of bomb-making chemicals).' They had a weapons cache and had made plans to leave the United States after the attacks. The FBI evidently knew everything the group was doing from an informer inside the group. On 7 May Mr Siddig allegedly told the informer that a car bomb should be exploded in the UN complex in Manhattan.

At further meetings over the next seven weeks Mr Siddig told the informer he took part in preparations for the World Trade Center attack. The FBI complaint says: 'Siddig participated in a test explosion conducted prior to the actual explosion of the World Trade Center bomb.' He said the earlier attack was a message that 'we can get you anywhere'.

The FBI complaint does not mention the plans to kill US and other leaders, but Mr D'Amato, the New York senator who was alleged to be one of the targets of the groups, said yesterday: 'I found out about it on 1 May when the intelligence people were told by the FBI about this possible plot.' He thought he had been singled out because he had called for the jailing of Sheikh Rahman while he was appealing against deportation, and had called for the death penalty for terrorists. Other targets for assassination included President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

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