Jordanian Extradited to U.S to Face Charges in Trade Center Bombing
NEW YORK (AP) _ A man was extradited from Jordan to the United States this morning to stand trial for allegedly driving a rental van packed with 1,200 pounds of explosives into a World Trade Center parking garage in 1993.
Eyad Ismoil was involved in ``the planning stages, execution, and particularly in the transportation of the bomb″ that killed six people and injured more than 1,000, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said at a news conference today.
White alleged that Ismoil was the driver of the yellow van used to carry the terrorist bomb into the skyscraper. The van was blown to bits in the Feb. 26, 1993, blast; Ismoil allegedly left the United States only hours later.
The White House praised the arrest.
``The United States is determined to bring to justice those who perpetrate terrorism directed against Americans,″ Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry said. ``The president applauds the law enforcement authorities involved for their very deft handling of this case.″
Attorney General Janet Reno said the government was sending the message that for its effort to capture terrorists, ``no ocean is too wide, no distance too far, no time period too long and no effort too great.″
In Jordan, the justice minister identified the suspect as Iyad Mahmoud Ismail Nijm, 24, a resident of the town of Jerash. The name is apparently a longer version of Eyad Ismoil.
A new federal indictment, unsealed today, said the alleged mastermind of the bombing, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, telephoned Ismoil at a Dallas grocery from a pay phone in Jersey City, N.J., on Feb. 9, 1993.
The indictment alleged that he flew from Dallas to New York on Feb. 21 and then just hours after the bombing on Feb. 26 flew from Kennedy International Airport in New York to Amman, Jordan.
Ismoil and Yousef, who allegedly grew up in the same town and attended the same school in Kuwait, will be tried simultaneously, White said.
Ismoil was extradited to the United States from Jordan and was flown aboard a U.S. government aircraft to Stewart Air Force Base, then processed at FBI headquarters in Manhattan.
Reno thanked the Jordanian government for helping apprehend him and commended U.S. agents for ``a job well done.″
Jordanian Interior Ministry sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was a Palestinian who lived in Kuwait until the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the emirate. The sources said he fled Kuwait to the United States in late 1990 and stayed there until shortly after the World Trade Center blast.
The Jordanian justice minister, Hisham Tal, said that, acting on an American request, Jordanian police apprehended the suspect on Tuesday at his Jerash home and that he later told a Jordanian court that ``he wants to surrender to U.S. authorities.″
``He claimed to be innocent and that he wanted to clear himself of the charges in the United States,″ Tal told The Associated Press.
The U.S. government has offered rewards of up to $2 million for information on fugitives from the indictments already brought in the case, using the worldwide Internet computer network to advertise them. Among those sought is Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was born in Bloomington, Ind., and moved to Iraq in the 1960s. He possesses a U.S. passport issued in Jordan in 1992.
Yasin fled the United States immediately after the bombing to avoid arrest, the government says. He was named in an indictment made public earlier.
Yousef was arrested in Pakistan in February and returned to New York for trial.
Four of Yousef and Yasin’s co-defendants were convicted of federal charges on March 4, 1994, in the World Trade Center bombing: Mohammad Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Mahmud Abouhalima and Ahmad Mohammad Ajaj. They each have been sentenced to 240 years in prison without parole.
The public indictment in the case charged that Yousef and other co-conspirators mixed chemicals in a Jersey City, N.J., apartment to produce explosive materials that were driven to the garage in a rented Ryder truck.
Michael J. Sniffen, Associated Press Writer in Washington, contributed to this report.