Canada detains two who may be linked to Dhahran bombingMarch 24, 1997
Web posted at: 5:35 p.m. EST (2235 GMT)
From Correspondent Anthony Collings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI believes that a Saudi national being held in Canada may have been one of the drivers in last year's Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, CNN learned Monday.
"There's a good solid possibility he is one of the drivers, either of the truck or the getaway vehicle," one law enforcement source said.
The June 25 terrorist bombing at the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, injured 500 people and killed 19 Air Force members.
The FBI announced Saturday that it hopes to question Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein Al-Sayegh, 28. Al-Sayegh was arrested last week by Canadian authorities on the grounds that he represented "a security risk to Canada," said Benoit Chiquette, spokesman for Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard.
The FBI refused to say publicly whether he is suspected of taking part in the bombing. Another law enforcement official said only that "it would be a major breakthrough" in the FBI investigation if Sayegh had played a role in the incident.
However, in an interview with Reuters, Al-Sayegh said he was not in Saudi Arabia at the time of the bombing, and had documentation to prove it.
"I was astonished to be accused, and especially to be accused of being the driver of the (getaway) car," he said through a translator.
Canadian intelligence sources tell CNN Al-Sayegh was arrested last Tuesday, March 18, because Canada had received information implicating the suspect in terrorism abroad. The sources say a second Saudi suspect, arrested earlier, was picked up on other charges, unrelated to terrorism.
U.S. officials say efforts are under way to have Canada deport Al-Sayegh to the United States, a legal process that could take several weeks as hearings in Ottawa determine whether his deportation would be merited.
The process will have to pass a number of legal tests, but Robillard has indicated a willingness to deport -- or "remove" -- people who are security risks even if there was a possibility that they could face the death penalty abroad.
"The minister was asked that question on Friday, and her answer was very clear, that obviously we always look at the personal risk related to removing an individual, but the most important issue at stake in making decisions about removal is always the safety and security of Canadians," Chiquette said.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen declined to comment on the case, as did Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who leaves office next week.
One Canadian official says it could be 2-3 weeks before a formal "inquiry," at which Al-Sayegh would be permitted to defend himself. Only after the hearing would deportation becomes a possibility.
FBI officials have expressed frustration about a reported lack of full cooperation by Saudi officials in the investigation. The FBI has not had direct access to any suspect detained in Saudi Arabia.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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