WASHINGTON – U.S. teams in Iraq have uncovered some signs that a participant in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (search) may have received help from the government of Saddam Hussein after the bombing, Bush administration officials say.
Vice President Dick Cheney (search) first asserted that one of the bombers -- a U.S. citizen and one of the FBI's most-wanted terrorists -- received help from Iraq, although he offered little detail. Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said while some evidence has been uncovered, it was too soon to reach any conclusions.
Cheney, speaking Sept. 14 on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" program, did not mention the suspect by name. Other officials have confirmed he was speaking of Abdul Rahman Yasin (search), who is accused of mixing the chemicals in the bomb used in the 1993 attack.
"And we have learned subsequent to that, since we got into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government, as well as safe haven," Cheney said.
Yasin fled the country after the 1993 bombing. He is the only man wanted for that attack who is still outside U.S. custody.
Saddam's regime said it had imprisoned Yasin since arresting him in 1994, and that offers to turn him over to the U.S. government were rebuffed in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
In 2002, he was interviewed on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" at an Iraqi prison. He thus far has not turned up in postwar Iraq.
The U.S. official said some Iraqi intelligence files indeed suggested Iraqi support for Yasin after the 1993 bombing. But the official said it was too early to conclude what, if any, support he received.
Other U.S. officials contacted by The Associated Press would not expound on Cheney's assertion. Cheney's office did not return a call seeking comment.
Cheney said the man was Iraqi. In fact, Yasin, 43, was born in Indiana and holds U.S. citizenship, according to the FBI. He is of Iraqi heritage and moved there as a child, returning to the United States in 1992, according to the FBI.
Cheney's description of Yasin came after "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert asked him about Iraqi connections to Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which destroyed the World Trade Center.
"Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in '93?" Cheney said. "We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did in fact receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact."
But the first World Trade Center bombing is not precisely considered an Al Qaeda operation by American counterterrorism officials.
At the time, Al Qaeda was in its formative stages in Sudan, and officials said they know of no conclusive evidence that ties either Usama bin Laden or the Iraqi government to the attack.
Instead, some of the terrorists who carried out the bombing would later ally themselves with bin Laden's organization. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, was connected financially to the 1993 attack; he and bomber Ramzi Yousef would later receive financial support from bin Laden's brother-in-law.
U.S. officials also offered no evidence Yasin took part in terrorist activity after he went to Iraq following the 1993 bombing.
The Bush administration has often tried to rhetorically link Al Qaeda with Iraq, particularly as it made its case to invade the country. President Bush, though, said last week there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the 2001 attacks.