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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK


World: Africa

US 'charged' bin Laden before bombings

Osama bin Laden is believed to be in Afghanistan

The exiled Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, was reportedly charged with inciting attacks on US targets prior to the East Africa embassy bombings which Washington accuses him of masterminding.

American government sources told CNN, the Washington Post and the AP news agency that weeks before the explosions in Kenya and Tanzania a grand jury in New York indicted Osama bin Laden with soliciting violence against US citizens.

The indictment was not made public as it was sealed by the grand jury.

According to CNN, the jury was also shown evidence that the Saudi millionaire had financial links with an Islamic group called Al Mahajirou which has members in London and New York.

Linked to attacks

The sources did not confirm which attacks Osama bin Laden was allegedly linked with. However, the grand jury was set up more than a year ago to examine the activities of Islamic groups after a bomb killed 19 US service personnel at an American military housing complex in Saudi Arabia in June 1996.

The AFP news agency reports that at a secret briefing at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, US officials told western diplomats that Osama bin Laden was linked to 18 separate attacks in recent years.

Inciting violence

Under US law the charge of solicitation to murder can be brought against someone who may not be directly involved in the crime but who may have incited others to commit the offence.

The charge was used to convict the blind Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York.

A US Government spokesman refused to comment on the reports that Osama bin Laden had been indicted.

Washington has accused Osama bin Laden of masterminding the embassy bombings, branding him "one of the most significant sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today".

Last Thursday the US launched missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan that it believed were part of Osama bin Laden's "terrorist" network.



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