- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

The FBI investigation into the Sept. 11 attack on America has focused on five men now in custody and has expanded to include a global search for a dozen other would-be hijackers trained in Afghanistan as pilots.
At the center of the probe, law enforcement authorities said, are Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot detained in London; Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Algerian arrested in Minnesota; Mohamed Abdi, a security guard arrested in Virginia; and Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, apprehended on an Amtrak train in Fort Worth, Texas.
The FBI search also has targeted a dozen Islamic radicals trained at an air base in Afghanistan to fly Boeing jets, the airplanes used in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Authorities said they believe the men are in hiding in this country and Europe, using phony passports and identities.
Rasul Parvaz, a senior pilot for Ariana, the Afghan state-owned airline, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat, an Arabic newspaper, that the Taliban ordered him and four others to train the men, whom he described "dedicated Muslim fanatics."
He said the men, who authorities believe left Afghanistan last year after obtaining their pilot's training, were native to various Middle Eastern countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, and spoke fluent English.
The FBI has declined to comment on the specifics of its investigation, but Attorney General John Ashcroft on Sunday restated warnings he issued two weeks ago that new terrorist attacks remain a possibility.
Meanwhile, two persons were ordered held without bond yesterday pending hearings this week on charges of helping some of the hijackers obtain false identification papers. Magistrate Barry Poretz ordered Luis Martinez-Flores, 28, of Falls Church, and Kenys Galicia, who works in Falls Church, detained after a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
An FBI affidavit said Mr. Martinez-Flores falsely certified on state registration forms that Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar lived at his Falls Church address. The FBI said Mrs. Galicia helped several persons obtain false documents, including hijackers Abdulaziz Alomari and Ahmed Saleh Alghamdi. The certifications allowed the men to obtain state identification cards.
Authorities say Alomari was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center; Alghamdi was aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the south tower; and Hanjour and Almihdhar were aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon.
Among the five men in custody, authorities said Mr. Raissi, a 27-year-old Algerian pilot, traveled to Arizona to train four of the hijackers and attended "strategy" meetings in London with 11 of the 19 hijackers. They said he obtained his pilot's license in April 2000 during a 14-month visit to Phoenix.
Now detained in London, Mr. Raissi faces an extradition hearing. He is accused on an arrest warrant issued in Phoenix of using phony identification papers to obtain a pilot's license. A London prosecutor said Mr. Raissi's job was to "ensure" that the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks "were capable and trained."
Mr. Moussaoui, a 33-year-old French Algerian, was arrested in Minnesota a month before the Sept. 11 attacks. Officials at a Minneapolis flight school called authorities when he offered to pay cash to learn how to fly a Boeing jetliner but was interested only in steering the aircraft, not in landing it or taking off.
German police said Mr. Moussaoui made at least one telephone call to Mohamed Atta, named as the pilot aboard the jet that struck the World Trade Center's north tower. Atta, 33, an Egyptian, has been described as the leader of the 19 hijackers and has been connected by German police to an Islamic fundamentalist group in Hamburg that planned attacks on U.S. targets.
Mr. Khan, 51, and Mr. Azmath, 47, were detained at an Amtrak railroad station in Fort Worth, Texas, after police found box cutters, hair dye and $5,000 in their luggage. Some of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks also carried box cutters. Authorities said the two men flew on Sept. 11 from Newark, N.J., on a flight bound for San Antonio, but were forced to land in St. Louis after the attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr. Abdi, 44, described as a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was ordered held without bail after prosecutors said his name and phone number were found in a car belonging to Nawaf Alhazmi, a Saudi national identified as one of the five men who commandeered the jet that hit the Pentagon.
FBI agents located Alhazmi's 1988 Toyota at Washington Dulles International Airport the day after the attacks, finding a D.C. road map with the name "Mohumed" written on it and the phone number of an apartment rented by Mr. Abdi. Authorities said Mr. Abdi has been unable to explain to agents how his name and number turned up on the map, and has offered conflicting explanations.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide