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Reports: Terrorist tie probed in New York bomb plot

FBT Assistant Director James Kallstrom

FBI won't comment on alleged Hamas connection

August 1, 1997
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A top FBI official would not confirm reports Friday that two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot had been linked to a militant faction of the Mideast group Hamas.

"I'm not going to comment on that," FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom told reporters during a midday news briefing in New York.

FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom
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A third man being held by authorities -- who was not linked to Hamas according to the reports -- provided the tip that led authorities to the explosives during a pre-dawn raid on a Brooklyn apartment on Thursday.

According to the reports, one man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani....
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At the same news briefing, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani confirmed that one of the suspects, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, indicated on an application for asylum in the United States that "he had previously been arrested in Israel and accused of being a member of a known terrorist organization."

The organization, according to the reports, was Hamas.

A militant faction of the Muslim group Hamas claimed responsibility for Wednesday's suicide bombings in Jerusalem that killed 15 people including two bombers.

Police Commissioner Howard Safir
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"We think this is going to be a long investigation ... and extend far beyond New York City," said Police Commissioner Howard Safir.

The New York suspects shot and wounded by police in the raid -- Abu Mezer and Lafi Khalil -- were probably "less than a day" away from pulling off a horrific suicide bombing that could have devastated a busy subway station nearby, authorities said.

Kallstrom reaffirmed that on Friday. "I think we were close to a disaster, but it didn't happen," he said.

In Gaza, a Hamas spokesman, denied Hamas had anything to do with the suspected plot to set off bombs in the subway system.

"We are not looking for any activity against American targets in America or around the world. We don't believe this story is true and we are denying Hamas involvement in this," said Dr. Mahmoud Aza'har.

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