Terrorism without a cause baffles the FBI

A terrorist act is, by definition, political, but when a bomb goes off in the United States, or a bomb conspiracy is uncovered, the authorities do not appear to know exactly who is behind it or why.

Initial police reports last Thursday said that two Palestinians arrested on suspicion of plotting to bomb the New York subway belonged to Hamas. Now Federal Bureau of Investigation and White House officials are saying they have no reason to believe the two men are connected to Hamas or any other Middle Eastern group. More perplexingly, US authorities do not yet know the political identity of those responsible for the blast at New York's World Trade Centre four ago, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000.

The trial was expected to begin yesterday in Manhattan of Ramzi Yousef, who is accused of having been the mastermind behind the World Trade Centre blast. But not only do prosecutors have no idea whether Mr Yousef belongs to any terrorist organisation, they do no even know what nationality he is.

The timing of last week's suspected plot appears so far to be the only clue suggesting Hamas might be targeting New York. Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer and Lafi Khalil were arrested in a Brooklyn apartment, allegedly in possession of a batch of pipe bombs, only 24 hours after the suicide bombing in Jerusalem which killed 15 people and for which Hamas did claim responsibility.

The FBI are also exploring the hypothesis that Mr Mezer and Mr Khalil might have intended their alleged bombing plans to coincide with the start of Mr Yousef's trial, indicating that he is also a member of Hamas.

For now, the evidence appears just as strong, however, that Mr Abu Mezer and Mr Khalil were acting on their own. Hamas released a statement at the weekend denying any connection with the two arrested Palestinians. "Hamas does not consider the American people an enemy and it does not target any of its communities," it said.

According to relatives of Mr Abu Mezer and Mr Khalil, it was laughably off the mark to suggest the two men belonged to Hamas. Their involvement in the Palestinian cause was said to be minimal and neither was particularly religious.

The FBI have not ruled out the possibility that the two, who are in their early twenties, are freelance fanatics in the manner of the US's home- grown Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh. And the FBI still do not know who planted the bomb in Atlanta during the Olympic Games a year ago, much less what their agenda might have been.

New York (Reuter) - Opening arguments in the trial of the accused mastermind of the World Trade Centre bombing were postponed yesterday due to the illness of one juror and the dismissal of an alternate juror. The judge said the opening arguments would begin today.

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