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Using Photos, Agents Seek Additional Bombing Suspects

By Gebe Martinez
and John J. Goldman

Los Angeles Times


Federal agents, seeking to determine whether the World Trade Center bombing was the result of an international conspiracy, showed photographs of potential suspects Monday to neighbors and acquaintances of Mohammed A. Salameh, the only person charged so far in the explosion.

At the same time, investigators seized an automobile owned by Salameh and scoured it for traces of bomb-making chemicals, fingerprints or other clues. The four-door 1978 Chevy Nova was discovered in a body shop in Woodbridge, N.J. It reportedly had been badly damaged in a traffic accident several weeks before the blast.

Sources said the pictures of suspects of Middle Eastern origin being shown in New Jersey and elsewhere included some U.S. citizens with possible links to Middle East terrorist organizations. They were not identified. One photograph displayed by FBI agents was of a group of about eight people.

"We hope residents will be able to tell us if any of these people have been seen in the neighborhood," a federal agent said.

"It's very elusive," the agent added when asked about the dimensions of any bombing conspiracy. "We suspect a conspiracy ... but we don't know the size. We don't know how many there were. We don't know whether they were allied with a foreign power or what their motive was."

As the inquiry continued, a heavy crane was brought in to remove an estimated 2,500 tons of rubble from the devastated garage of the Trade Center. Explosive experts were trying to match residue from the blast with highly volatile bomb-making chemicals recovered from a storage shed Salameh rented in Jersey City, N.J.

A federal judge has kept sealed the results of police and FBI searches after the bombing as well as chemical analysis of materials obtained. Once all searches are completed, the court papers may be unsealed, authorities said.

FBI agents visited Pedro Texidore, the superintendent of a building on Virginia Avenue in Jersey City where Salameh, a 25-year-old Palestinian whose family fled the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, lived in an apartment for about two weeks in January.

Texidore said the agents showed him pictures of about 12 men to identify. He recognized a person in one of the photos whom he believed to be Salameh. The superintendent said the agents also searched the building's basement, roof and took fingerprint samples.

"They left a mess in that apartment,." he said. "They fingerprinted with black stuff all over the door in the hallway."

Investigators said people who may have seen Salameh were shown a series of photos -- like a police lineup -- which contained some figures unrelated to the case.

Records showed that Salameh received a parking ticket at a loading zone just up the block from the Al Salam Mosque in Jersey City where he practiced the Islamic faith. The description on the ticket, dated Jan. 20, matches the car the FBI impounded Monday.

The auto's registration carries the address of the Islamic Center of New Jersey, where a spokesman denied any connection with Salameh.

When Salameh rented the van believed to have been used in the Trade Center expolosion -- which killed 5 people and injured more than 1,000 on Feb. 26 -- he also listed the Islamic Center as an address.

"This is a public building. Anybody could use this address," said Abdul Luh Mamaed, who said he had known Salameh "for a long time."