Witnesses identify truck parts in bombing trial
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The bomb that blew up at the U.S. embassy in Kenya in August, 1998 was carried in a used Toyota Dyna pickup truck capable of transporting more than a two-ton load, government witnesses told a jury on Monday.
The witnesses provided vivid detail on the circumstances of the bombing on August 7, 1998 in Nairobi. But they did not specifically implicate any of the trial's four defendants in acquiring the bomb truck, which was purchased for $10,000 cash from a Kenyan poultry farmer. The four men have been charged with conspiracy in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in African in 1998.
FBI Special Agent Donald Sachtleben, who led the evidence recovery team, told jurors that at least 50 of nearly 600 pieces of metal recovered from the Nairobi bomb scene had been part of the bombed vehicle. A few dozen samples of the twisted metal parts lay before the jury on a long table while Sachtleben testified. A few times the jurors, wearing white gloves, just like the witness, handled the evidence themselves.
"My conclusion was a very large quantity of explosives had been detonated in the parking area behind the embassy," Sachtleben said. "It was a Toyota truck that had carried the explosives to the bomb site," he said.
The truck's rear axle was thrown more than 700 meters to a railway station, landing about five meters from a worker who testified last week. Part of the truck's engine, steering assembly, and chassis were also found.
Sachtleben, who arrived in Nairobi on August 9, 1998, two days after the bombing, returned to the FBI lab in Washington on August 28 with a cargo plane full of evidence. He said he later went to Japan to consult with Toyota on the recovered auto parts.
Junichi Miyagi, the designer of the Dyna model, told the court that the Dyna was a manual transmission vehicle with a wood-lined bed. It was built to support a two-ton load, with a pair of tires on each of the truck's rear two wheels.
Sachtleben, who also led the evidence recovery team at the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing, declined to say whether the Kenya truck bomb would have done more damage to the Kenya embassy it had exploded in the building's garage, instead of the rear parking lot. He said the embassy had "extremely sturdy" construction that would have "probably withstood a fairly good-sized blast."
The blast blew out every window and caused major structural damage but did not topple the embassy. However, a seven-story building next door was reduced to rubble, causing many Kenyan casualties. A total of 213 people died in the Kenya bombing, including 12 Americans and 29 Kenyans who worked at the embassy.
The Toyota pickup used as the bomb truck was bought by Sheikh Ahmed Swedan, an indicted fugitive in the case, according to the next witness. said Omar, a poultry farmer who lives near the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, told the jury that Swedan paid him $10,000 for the truck in late June or early July, 1998. It was a cash transaction, in Kenyan shillings, with no paperwork signed, Omar said. The deal was profitable one for Omar -- he got double what he paid for the Toyota just two months earlier.
Swedan is one of five men accused by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York of direct involvement in the second bombing of August 7, 1998, a coordinated attack at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where 11 people were killed. Prosecutors believe Swedan had a role in buying both bomb trucks.
Swedan was originally charged in the embassy bombings case in December 1998, along with Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, one of four defendants in the trial underway for the past two months at the U.S. District Courthouse in Manhattan.
Mohamed, a 27-year-old Tanzanian, could face the death penalty for his role in the Tanzania bombing. Another defendant, Mohamed al-'Owhali, a 24-year-old Saudi, could also face capital punishment for his alleged role in the Kenya bombing.
Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, a 36-year-old Jordanian standing trial, is also accused of plotting the Kenya bombing. The trial's fourth defendant, 40-year-old naturalized American Wadih el Hage, is accused of participating in the conspiracy behind the dual attacks but not of playing a direct role in the bombings.
Swedan is one of 13 fugitives in the alleged conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy government property, a conspiracy allegedly led for the past decade by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who the U.S. government has said is hiding in Afghanistan.
The jury heard Monday that another fugitive in the case, alleged Kenya bomber Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, rented the house where the Kenya bomb was assembled. Prosecution witness Tamara Ratemo, a Kenyan, told the court she rented Fazul her 10-room house outside Nairobi starting May 1, 1998.
"He said he had a family and he had some business people who would come to visit frequently," Ratemo testified.
The house, #43 Runda Estates, is surrounded by a perimeter wall and has four bedrooms, Ratemo said, adding that she never saw Fazul put any furniture in it. He paid $1,000 a month on a six-month lease, but Fazul broke the lease by leaving Kenya on August 8, 1998, the day after the embassy bombings.
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