Juanuary 18, 2007
By Curt Anderson
MIAMI (AP) — The pickup truck on which a pipe bomb was found and later detonated by authorities over the weekend belonged to a key witness in the federal case against jailed Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
The FBI had publicly identified the owner of the truck only as a witness in a federal criminal case. But two federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation, said Wednesday the witness was Gilberto Abascal, whose testimony is key to the U.S. case charging Posada with lying during immigration naturalization proceedings.
Posada is accused by Cuba and Venezuela of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people. Posada, a longtime opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, worked for the CIA for years and trained for the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
Posada has been held by immigration officials in Texas since his 2005 arrest in Miami, but a judge ruled he could not be deported to either Cuba or Venezuela. The new criminal case ensures he will not be released soon.
Abascal was the key informant in a separate case against Santiago Alvarez, a benefactor and supporter of Posada, and Osvaldo Mitat. Alvarez and Mitat pleaded guilty last year to federal weapons charges and were indicted again in the Posada case for failing to appear before a grand jury.
The pipe bomb was found Sunday after Abascal apparently noticed the device and drove his truck to Hialeah police headquarters. The bomb was detonated by the Miami-Dade bomb squad, with the investigation led by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Other details on the bomb and exactly when Abascal noticed it were unavailable.
FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said she could not confirm the witness' identity in the pipe bomb matter.
"I'm really limited about what I can say when it comes to confidential informants," she said.
Hialeah police also declined to comment.
A working, listed phone number for Abascal, 41, could not be located Wednesday.
Ben Kuehne, an attorney for Alvarez, said he could not confirm the reports but that "there is no possibility" that Alvarez was involved in any bombing attempt. Alvarez's lawyers had previously claimed in court papers that Abascal may have been a Cuban agent.
The indictment against Posada, issued last week by a grand jury in Texas, charges that Posada lied under oath when applying for naturalization to the United States in 2005 and 2006. Posada claimed he entered the U.S. by land near Brownsville, Texas, but authorities say he actually arrived on a boat manned by Alvarez, Mitat, Abascal and others.