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FBI Probes Possible Hezbollah Connection to Saudi Bombing

By Barton Gellman
The Washington Post
BAALBEK, Lebanon

The question that is currently preoccupying U.S. law-enforcement officials is whether Saudi investigators are right in asserting that the builders of last June's truck bomb in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. military personnel, received training and support from the Hezbollah.

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, after complaining angrily about Saudi refusals to share the evidence on which they based that claim, went to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last week with what one U.S. source described as a written promise from King Fahd of complete access to Saudi investigative files.

After Freeh left, the FBI issued a statement saying that he was "pleased with the efforts and thoroughness" of Saudi authorities in their investigation, and that close co-operation between the FBI and Saudi authorities would continue.

One intriguing piece of circumstantial evidence, corroborated by a local witness here and officials in Beirut and Tel Aviv, was the arrival last month in Baalbek of Hussein bin Mubarak, a leader of Saudi Hezbollah, along with about 20 followers.

If the Saudi bombers did get help here, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a case recently uncovered in Israel offers a picture of how the system may have worked.

After months of interrogating a Lebanese man who maimed himself while preparing a bomb in Jerusalem in April, Israeli security officials now say they can trace his movements from Hezbollah's Janta training camp.

According to the Israeli account, their prisoner, Muhammad Hussein Mikdad, was one of seven Lebanese Shiites trained simultaneously at Janta - all chosen for foreign-language skills and looks enabling them to pass as Westerners. None of Mikdad's classmates has yet been accounted for.

Hezbollah representatives consistently refuse to discuss any operational activity except their war of attrition in the southern Lebanese strip of hills occupied by Israel.

He described the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia as "naked aggression whose main goal is petroleum, to put all the resources under American surveillance and control."

An aide, Ibrahim Musawi, said the Americans who died in June "paid the price of their interference."

But both men denied a connection to the Dhahran bombing or any other armed activity outside Lebanon.