Leads emerge in Oklahoma blast

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Moving swiftly to solve the worst U.S. bombing in nearly 70 years, the FBI announced yesterday it is looking for two men suspected of renting the truck that was packed with a half-ton of explosives and blown up outside the federal building.

In London, a third man, described by U.S. officials as a possible witness in the attack, was put on a plane back to the United States for questioning. Italian officials said his bags, seized in Rome, contained possible bomb-making tools.

With the death toll remaining at 36 for most of the day, rescue teams suspended the search for survivors so they could shore up the broken concrete and steel of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Building, ripped apart by a car bomb Wednesday morning.

FBI Agent Weldon Kennedy said arrest warrants have been issued for two white men suspected of using aliases to rent the truck used in the bombing. The men's identities were not known, he said.

Investigators said the truck was rented April 17, packed with fuel-and-fertilizer explosives and parked outside the building, where the blast tore away half the structure and blew a crater eight feet deep and 30 feet across.

An axle believed to have come from the vehicle was found about two blocks from the bombing scene, said a police source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A federal law enforcement official, demanding anonymity, said investigators believe the van was rented in Kansas and are checking fertilizer dealers in that state to try to trace the purchase of common chemicals used in the bomb.

Dave Russell, a Ryder Truck Rental official, said the FBI had contacted his company about a truck rented from Elliott's Body Shop in Junction City, Kan., about 270 miles north of Oklahoma City. Russell said he could not comment further.

In Washington, Attorney General Janet Reno announced a $2 million reward for information leading to arrests in the case.

CNN reported that three men were arrested two in Dallas, one in Oklahoma City on immigration charges and were being mid

questioned in connection with the bombing. The men had stopped to ask an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer for directions Wednesday, and the officer was suspicious enough to write down their car's license plate number which turned out to be registered to a rental car and not the vehicle they were driving, the network said.

However, an official at the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington denied INS had anyone in custody in Dallas or Oklahoma City.

The man taken into custody in London was detained because he had ''some incriminating stuff in his baggage'' that apparently escaped notice at the airport in Chicago, said a U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Italian officials said the three duffel bags contained electrical tape, silicone, a hammer, tweezers and a photo album with pictures of missiles and other weapons.

Before the rescue workers at the federal building pulled back for their own safety, squads using dogs, fiber-optic cameras and listening devices looked for signs of life in the rubble. Fire officials said they had targeted areas where people may be alive.

''We're hoping and praying we do have survivors,'' said Jon Hansen, assistant fire chief.

The dead included at least 12 children. Two toddlers were burned beyond recognition, and one was decapitated; the bodies of others were mangled.

More than 400 people were injured in a blast that sent glass flying, pierced lungs, slashed one man's throat and cut another 100 times. Many were buried under doors, walls and concrete beams. One woman had her leg amputated so she could be freed.

Gov. Frank Keating reported a firefighter told him: ''You find out whoever did this. All I've found in here are a baby's finger and an American flag.''

Volunteers told of hearing little children screaming, seeing tiny faces covered with blood and plaster.

''I'm 33 years old and I have lived my life. ... They haven't even started theirs,'' Robert Buckner said. ''I would have gladly given my life for one of those lives ... just one child.''

''This is the time to focus on the mission,'' said Steve Gullett, a Missouri rescue-squad member who found a child's finger in the debris. ''It's mission first, emotion second.''

No one knows how many people were in the building when the bomb went off at 9:05 a.m., but officials expect to find more bodies. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., estimated there were 810 people 560 employees and 250 nonemployees.

More than 700 people have called special telephone numbers to notify authorities that they were safe.

The government has received calls from several people saying they were from various Muslim groups and claiming responsibility for the bombing, the deadliest on U.S. soil since 1927, when a man fearful he couldn't pay his property taxes lined a school near Lansing, Mich., with dynamite and blew it up. Forty-five people, 38 of them children, were killed.

Some Arab-American organizations expressed concern about a backlash and said it was unfair to implicate Muslims.

''Whoever did this, regardless of their religion or ethnic background, is no more than an animal,'' said Nihad Awad, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. ''Crimes have no lineage.''

In Washington, President Clinton called on Americans not to ''jump to any conclusions'' about the culprits. ''We should not stereotype anybody. What we need to do is to find out who did this and punish them harshly,'' he said.

Clinton also announced he has ordered new steps to protect thousands of federal buildings nationwide and said: ''Make no mistake about it, this was an attack on the United States, our way of life and everything we believe in.''

About 200 FBI agents and more than 100 other investigators have joined state and local law enforcement officials on the case.

Much of downtown remained closed, offices were deserted and the area around the bombed building remained cordoned off as 60 members of rescue teams from Phoenix, Sacramento, Calif., and Oklahoma City crawled up stairwells with electronic detection gear.

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