In a closely held operation, the FBI on Wednesday brought back from Jordan a heretofore unknown suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, government sources disclosed.
Eyad Ismail Najim, a Jordanian national, allegedly rode with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef in the bomb-packed van when it was driven into the underground parking lot of the trade center in New York City. Yousef, the alleged bomb-maker and mastermind of the attack, is scheduled to be tried in the fall.
Najim was a participant in, but not an organizer of, the attack, law enforcement sources said. But he had to know of the bombing because of the massive size of the material in the back of the van, they added.
Like Yousef, he left the United States shortly after the bomb went off on Feb. 26, 1993. The explosion killed six, injured more than 1,000 and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. Yousef was brought back to the United States from Pakistan in another FBI covert operation last February.
The two seizures of prominent suspects in the worst international terrorist attack ever to take place inside the United States rank among the biggest counterterrorism successes ever achieved by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
President Clinton is expected to issue a statement today heralding the U.S. victories against international terrorism, White House sources said.
Najim has been under sealed indictment since shortly after the other suspects were arrested and indicted, according to government sources. U.S. intelligence has long known where to find Najim but the FBI was unable to request extradition until a treaty was worked out with Jordan in March, the sources said.
The final instruments of extradition were completed and exchanged last Saturday, allowing the FBI to proceed. The indictment had been sealed to ensure that Najim would not learn that he had been identified and try to flee again.
While in Jordan, he was enrolled in school. Like many of the other trade center defendants, Najim is described as fairly young. “He thought he got away with it,” one law enforcement official said.
Najim was flown from Amman, the Jordanian capital, aboard a U.S. government plane and was expected to arrive at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., a former Air Force base, and then be taken to the FBI’s New York office for processing.
He is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy in New York City today, according to law enforcement officials. Duffy has handled many of the trade center bombing cases.
The apprehension of Najim leaves only one known World Trade Center bombing suspect at large, Abdul Rahman Yasin, an American-born Iraqi. After initial questioning by the FBI, Yasin returned on March 4, 1994, to Baghdad, where his family lives, and is believed to be there still.
On March 4, 1994, four defendants, Mohammed A. Salameh, Ahmad Mohammad Ajaj, Nidal Ayyad and Mahmud Abouhalima were convicted for their roles in the bombing. Two months later, each was sentenced to 240 years in prison.