Investigators sifted through the rubble of a pro-Arab group's offices in Santa Ana Saturday seeking clues in a bombing the previous day that killed the organization's director, an attack condemned by the White House and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast that ripped the headquarters of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and killed Alex M. Odeh, 41, the group's West Coast regional director. But group members and Odeh's family said they believe the bombing was linked to Odeh's defense of the PLO in two television interviews the night before he was killed.
"The Administration deeply deplores this tragic event and condemns in the strongest possible terms the criminal use of violence and terrorism to achieve political ends," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said in a statement released Saturday.
President Extends Condolences
"To think even for a moment that there exists a justification for such heinous acts does grave injustice to the principles of political freedom upon which this country was founded.
"The President extends his sincere condolences to Mr. Odeh's widow, Norma, and his three small daughters, as well as to other members of the family."
Arafat told a news conference Saturday in Dakar, Senegal, that the bombing of the Arab organization offices and the U.S. interception of an Egyptian plane carrying four Palestinians suspected of hijacking the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro were "both terrorist acts."
"I want to denounce the attack in California against pro-Palestinian activists," Arafat said. "This was carried out by a band of terrorists protected by the American Administration. As yet, the United States has not arrested these criminals."
In his statement, Speakes said the President "has instructed that appropriate federal authorities provide the fullest possible support to the local police investigation now under way."
Message From King Hussein
Sami M. Odeh, the slain man's brother, said he had received a telephone call Saturday from Mohammed Kamal, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, conveying the condolences of King Hussein. "We hope that the authorities find out who did this, and that he's punished," Odeh said. "That's all we can do at this time."
Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Norbert's Catholic Church, across the street from the victim's home, but no speakers for the services have been confirmed. Lisa Odeh, the victim's sister-in-law, said she expected that a memorial service would be held, although details had not yet been worked out.
Throughout the day, female relatives and friends gathered at Sami Odeh's house in Orange, while the adult men went to Alex Odeh's home, several miles away. The atmosphere at both residences was subdued, with the telephone at each ringing constantly, but the gathering of the men seemed somewhat more relaxed.
"People come in, reflecting on Alex," said Samir Bazlimit, a longtime friend. "It's a warm, supportive culture."
Federal and local authorities probing the bombing of the committee's offices on the second floor of a three-story stucco building at 1905 E. 17th St. would not say Saturday if there were any significant developments in the investigation.
Specialists with the Orange County Sheriff Department's hazardous devices team sifted through the rubble of the blast Saturday and were expected to return to the scene again today. Santa Ana police, agents for both the FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department's anti-terrorist division also were at the building.
FBI Takes Charge
FBI spokesman John Hoos said his agency "has assumed investigative jurisdiction regarding the bombing matter." He said the investigation was "aimed at determining if a terrorist group is involved."
"The crime scene search is being headed up by the Orange County sheriff's office and the FBI," Hoos said. "The evidence will initially be analyzed by the Orange County sheriff and then sent to our lab in Washington, D.C."
But Santa Ana Police Lt. Bob Jorden said his department is investigating the matter as a homicide with assistance from the FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the county Sheriff's Department hazardous devices team and the Los Angeles Police Department's anti-terrorist division.
Neither Hoos nor Jorden would comment on whether any suspects would be prosecuted under state or federal criminal statutes.
Odeh, a Palestinian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was struck with the full force of the blast as he opened the door to the offices at 9:11 a.m., investigators said. But investigators said they have few details about the type of bomb used in the incident.
Seven Others Injured