Jury hears day-by-day account of embassy bombings
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A prosecutor recounted for jurors Wednesday the government's version of how three defendants carried out the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and how a fourth facilitated the attacks.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Karas spent a second day offering a closing argument for the case against the four men who have been on trial since January: Wadih el Hage, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, Mohamed al-'Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed.
Karas completed his chronology of an alleged decade-long conspiracy to kill Americans led by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden by reviewing, sometimes day by day, the testimony and evidence surrounding the August 7, 1998, dual bombings.
A total of 224 people, including 12 Americans, died in the bombings, and more than 4,500 people were injured.
Karas also argued the conspiracy can be traced, in part, in a series of telephone call records in evidence.
Karas said al-'Owhali, 24, a Saudi, arrived in Nairobi on August 2 and stayed at the Nairobi house where the bomb was built. He rode in the bomb truck, fired stun grenades to disperse security guards and then, instead of dying in the explosion as planned, ran away just before the blast, Karas said.
"He was able to do something 213 people were not able to do -- survive ... leaving behind chaos, death and horror," Karas said. The truck driver died in the explosion.
Karas told the jury that telephone records showed al-'Owhali made phone calls after the bombing to a friend in Yemen, who then called bin Laden's satellite phone in Afghanistan in an attempt to rescue al-'Owhali. A witness has testified al-'Owhali received a wire for $1,000 but al-'Owhali was arrested in Kenya two weeks later.
Karas said that Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian, rode in the Dar es Salaam bomb truck after grinding the TNT and helping load it. A flour mill used to grind the TNT and gas canisters like the tanks used to enhance the explosion were on display while Karas spoke.
In June 1998, Karas said, Mohamed had rented the house where the Tanzania bomb was built and purchased a Suzuki Samurai the conspirators used to ferry bomb materials.
"It's as if someone took the Suzuki and dipped it in TNT," Karas said, referring to FBI lab reports.
On August 7, Mohamed left the bomb truck well before it reached the embassy in Dar es Salaam and went back to clean up the house, Karas said. The defendant then fled for South Africa, he said, "leaving behind death and destruction."
Eleven people died in the Tanzania bombing.
Odeh, 36, a Jordanian whom Karas called a "technical adviser" to the bombings, arrived in Nairobi on August 4, registering under a fake name with a fake passport at the hotel where the cell leader and the bomb engineer were staying, according to Karas.
The fake passport led to Odeh's arrest in Pakistan three days later. Odeh later told the FBI he had been told to leave the country "because something big is going to happen," Karas said.
Sketches found in Odeh's home near Mombasa, Kenya, were physical evidence that established his role, Karas said. The two drawings bear a striking resemblance to the Nairobi embassy compound and street.
In reviewing the bombings, the government explained in the clearest way yet how phone records offer additional proof that the two attacks were coordinated.
Mustafa Fadhil, a fugitive from bombing in Tanzania, who according to government evidence rented the Dar es Salaam house with Mohamed, made a mobile phone call in June to the house used by the suspects in Nairobi, Karas said. On August 6, there were three calls from that house to the hotel where some alleged bombers, including Odeh, were staying, Karas said.
On August 5 and 6, calls also were made from the house to a Yemen telephone -- the same number al-'Owhali would call for help after the bombings, Karas said.
Phone records helped identify the driver who died in the Tanzania explosion as Hamden Khalif Allah Awad, according to Karas' account. On August 6 and 7, he called his family in Alexandria to tell them he was about to "leave this life," Karas said.
Wadih el Hage, the fourth defendant, was not involved in the bombings but had aided the East Africa cell until he left Kenya in 1997, Karas said. El Hage, 40, a naturalized American from Lebanon, was questioned before a grand jury and federal agents before the attacks and denied contacts with bin Laden and his associates, including Odeh.
"He did it as his contribution to the conspiracy, to protect the conspiracy from discovery by American officials," Karas said. "He didn't merely share in the tragedy of the embassy bombings, he added to it."
Claims for the embassy bombings -- in the name of the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places -- were transmitted from bin Laden's Afghanistan base to a cell in Baku, Azerbaijan to a London cell, phone records showed. The claims protested U.S. troop presence in Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest Muslim cities, Mecca and Medina.
"The reason bin Laden said Americans had to be killed," Karas told the jury.
The claims -- faxed early on August 7 to international media -- said two Saudis carried out the Kenya truck bombing and one Egyptian carried out the Tanzania attack.
"Which you know from the evidence is exactly what happened," Karas said.
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