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Report: Saudi Bomb Probe Languishes

June 21, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The U.S. investigation of a 1996 terrorist bombing that killed 19 American servicemen in Saudi Arabia has languished due to mutual mistrust, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said FBI Director Louis Freeh has quietly pulled out dozens of agents the agency sent to investigate the truck bombing. Only a single FBI agent _ acting as a legal attache and as a liaison to the Saudis _ remains behind, the paper reported.

The U.S. has vowed to continue the investigation, though U.S. officials have acknowledged that they are a long way from determining who was behind the bombing.

The June 1996 bombing occurred at the Khobar Towers apartment complex after a fuel truck carrying tons of explosives detonated outside. About 500 people also were injured.

In the ensuing two years, both U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and Freeh have publicly criticized Saudi Arabia for lack of cooperation.

Federal officials complain that Saudi government officials have refused to allow them to interrogate dozens of suspects arrested by the Saudis or to review critical evidence.

An FBI spokesman reached Saturday by The Associated Press would neither confirm nor deny the Times story.

Sources close to the Saudi government told the paper that the Saudis have been equally frustrated with the FBI. The Saudis have complained about the FBI’s high-handed manner and the agency’s refusal to share information it had gathered.

Saudi investigators say they have evidence suggesting the attack was carried out by Saudi dissidents with the help of Iran. U.S. investigators have complained that the Saudis have only inconclusive evidence that would not hold up in a U.S. court.

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