NEW YORK (Mar. 28)
Protest over America’s support for Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East in general have emerged as the prime motive for the Feb. 26 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, according to new evidence revealed Sunday.
One of the five suspects arrested so far in connection with the bombing sent a-letter to The New York Times claiming responsibility for the attack, police disclosed.
The letter, sent by a group identifying itself as the Fifth Battalion of the Liberation Army, demanded that the United States cut all military, political and economic aid to Israel, as well as end diplomatic relations with Israel.
In a front-page news report Sunday, the Times said it received the letter four days after the bombing and turned it over to investigators.
Late last week, investigators concluded the letter was authentic and found evidence linking it to one of the suspects arrested in connection with the attack, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others.
“There is no question that the letter was prepared by a member of this cell,” the Times quoted a senior investigator as saying.
The evidence linking the letter to the suspects is “incontrovertible and it’s not speculation,” the investigator said.
The letter, written in sometimes incorrect English, is the first definite evidence that the bombing had a political motive.
“This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region,” read the letter, which was reproduced in the Times.
The group threatened to continue attacks “against military and civilian targets in and out the United States.”
The group also claimed to have more than 150 soldiers willing to carry out suicide attacks.
“The American people must know, that their civilians who got killed are not better than those who are getting killed by the American weapons and support,” the letter said.
GROUP NOT PREVIOUSLY KNOWN
Government officials said they had no previous record of the Liberation Army Fifth Battalion. A garbled return address in Arabic, and the name given at the letter’s bottom, was Abu Bakr al-Makee, with a rank of field marshal or major.
The name is the same as the Arabic political leader who succeeded the Islamic prophet Mohammed after he died more than 1,300 years ago. It is also the name of a mosque in Brooklyn where several of the bombing suspects were known to pray.
Robert Precht, a lawyer for Mohammed Salameh, the first of the five suspects arrested, said he doubted the authenticity of the letter.
Salameh, the chemical engineer Nidal Ayyad and Ibrahim Elgabrowny have all pleaded innocent to charges brought against them in connection with the case.
An innocent plea was also entered on behalf of Mahmud Abohalima, the man accused of masterminding the plot, who was brought back to the United States last week from Egypt, where he had been arrested earlier this month.
A fifth suspect, Bilal Alkaisi, 27, a Jordanian national living in New Jersey, has also been charged with aiding and abetting the bombing. He turned himself in to the authorities last week.
In a related development, Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of a direct-action group called AMCHA, the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, said he received a letter from a group calling itself the Arab-American Coalition for Liberation of Palestine that threatened a jihad, or holy war, until Jews and Israel relinquish control of what it called the homeland of the Palestinian people.
Weiss, who is also religious leader of an Orthodox synagogue in the Bronx, had picketed outside the Al Salam Mosque in Jersey City after it was revealed that several of the suspects had prayed there.