Canadian immigration officials have detained two Saudi Arabians in connection with the bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, last summer that killed 19 U..S. airmen and injured 500 others, and one has emerged as a focus of FBI attention, U.S. and Canadian officials said Saturday.
Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh was detained in Ottawa on Tuesday as a security risk to Canada, said Benoit Chiquette, spokesman for Canada's immigration minister.
Chiquette said he could not elaborate on the reasons for the detention, but said there was enough concern about Sayegh for Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard and Solicitor General Herb Gray to sign documents ordering his arrest.
In Washington, the FBI issued a statement saying it hoped to question Sayegh, 28, about the June 25, 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, home to American military personnel and others stationed in Saudi Arabia.
The FBI statement indicated that Sayegh's arrest was the result of cooperation among U.S., Saudi and Canadian investigators in identifying and finding him.
An official with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said the arrest certificate was based on the agency's belief that Sayegh had committed a criminal act abroad, had been involved in an act of terrorism and was a member of a terrorist organization.
Under Canadian law, the arrest certificate will be reviewed by a federal judge; if it is found to have been warranted, a deportation hearing would begin.
When and whether the FBI can interview Sayegh while his immigration case is pending is an issue Canadian and U.S. authorities must work out, the official said.
The second Saudi, Fahad Shehri, also is in the custody of Canadian immigration officials. Immigration authorities said he arrived in Canada in December, claiming refugee status. As he was being interviewed by Canadian authorities, he said he needed protection in Canada because he was being sought in Saudi Arabia in connection with the bombing and feared for his life.
The FBI has made no public comment about their possible interest in Shehri as a suspect in the case. Both men are being held in the Ottawa Detention Center. It was not known if the men are Shiites. Saudi officials have said they think the attack was carried out by Saudi Shiite extremists who were trained in Lebanon and acted with the support of the Iranian government.
Sayegh's arrest and the Canadian and Saudi assistance in tracking him "represents another positive step forward in our mutual efforts to solve this tragic act of terrorism," the FBI statement said.
U.S. Justice Department officials have been openly critical of Saudi Arabia for shutting FBI agents out of active participation in the investigation. Assistant FBI Director Robert Bryant told Congress last month that the FBI had "ongoing and serious concerns" about lack of Saudi cooperation in investigating the bombing.