WASHINGTON

FBI was slow to act on Nichols tip

The FBI initially dismissed a tip that convicted bomber Terry Nichols had hidden explosives and they might be used for an attack this month coinciding with the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

While the FBI has found no evidence supporting the idea that an attack is in the works for the April 19 tenth anniversary, the information that explosives had been hidden in Nichols’s former home in Herington, Kan., turned out to be true.

The tip came from imprisoned mobster Gregory Scarpa, 53, a law enforcement official said this week. Scarpa is an inmate in the same maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo., where Nichols is serving life sentences for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah federal building that killed 168 people.

Timothy McVeigh was convicted of federal conspiracy and murder charges in the bombing and executed in 2001.

Scarpa learned about the explosives from Nichols, mainly through notes passed between them, said Stephen Dresch, a Michigan man who is Scarpa’s informal advocate.

 

NEW YORK

Four indicted for oil-for-food corruption

Four more people were charged yesterday in the scandal surrounding the U.N. oil-for-food program, including a Texas oil executive and a South Korean businessman who was at the center of a 1970s corruption case involving Congress.

The indictment also suggested that money skimmed from the oil program might have ended up in the hands of two U.N. officials. Their names were not released.

The oil-for-food program was created in 1996 to help Iraqis cope with a U.N. embargo imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime. The program let Saddam’s government sell oil, provided the proceeds were used to buy food and medicine for Iraqis.

But authorities allege that the program was rife with corruption.

U.S. Attorney David Kelley called the new charges “two more pieces in the oil-for-food puzzle” and said the investigation is not over.

“We’re going to wring the towel dry,” he said.

One of the indictments announced yesterday charges a Texas oil company owner and two oil traders with paying millions in secret kickbacks to Saddam’s regime to secure oil deals, thus cheating the program out of money for humanitarian aid.

 

UIGE, Angola

Virus outbreak forces extreme precautions

Fearful of a deadly virus that has killed at least 210 people, inhabitants of this northern Angolan town have given up their tradition of greeting friends and acquaintances with a hug.

Instead, they tap right legs — avoiding all skin contact — a new custom devised to help check the spread of the Marburg virus, which is passed by contact with bodily fluids and has no known cure.

An elderly woman visiting Uige’s main market yesterday, where there was plenty of produce but few shoppers, said she had little hope of surviving the outbreak.

“We don’t know if (the virus) was sent by God or the devil, but we’re helpless either way,” she told The Associated Press, conveying the deep sense of dread here.

 

CAIRO, Egypt

Motorcycle bomber destroys bazaar

An explosion apparently set off by a bomber on a motorcycle hit a tour group shopping in a historic bazaar yesterday, killing at least two people and wounding 20 — the first attack targeting foreign tourists in the Egyptian capital in more than seven years.

The dead included a French woman, and 11 Egyptians and nine foreigners were wounded, said Brig. Gen. Nabil al-Azabi, head of security in Cairo. He said the second person killed may have been the bomber.

Many of the wounded had severe wounds from nails packed in the bomb, doctors said. Among the wounded foreigners were three Americans, four French, and a Turk, the Interior Ministry said.

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