- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania yesterday indicted four Middle Eastern men on charges of falsely obtaining licenses to haul hazardous materials across the country. None has been linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Named in indictments handed up in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh were Haider Al-Tamimi, 28; Hussain Sudani, 33; Mustafa Al-Aboody, 29; and Ali Alazawi, 29. The four were arrested last week in Washington state, along with 17 others across the country, as part of the FBI investigation into the attacks.

Prompted by concern about possible biological or chemical attacks, the arrests came as the FBI maintained a close vigil on those who had obtained phony licenses. The 21 arrests were tied to an examiner for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in Pittsburgh who is accused of issuing fraudulent licenses in exchange for payoffs.

Federal authorities said none of the men took the required tests; some had suspended licenses. The unidentified examiner reportedly dealt with a man named in court records as Abdul Mohammed, who brought several men to Pittsburgh for their permits. Mr. Mohammed later was identified as Elmeliani Benmoumen, 36, who has been charged with illegally obtaining the documents through the Transportation Department.

The examiner was fired but not charged. He reportedly is cooperating with authorities.

At the height of the search for the men, the FBI asked state and local law enforcement authorities to watch closely for any suspicious activity among those who haul radioactive waste, biological agents or other hazardous materials.

The first arrest occurred two weeks ago in Chicago when FBI agents took into custody Nabil Al-Marabh, a former Boston cabdriver. He had obtained a Michigan license to haul hazardous materials, and authorities suspected he had ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

Last December, Al-Marabh a native of Kuwait was convicted in a Boston court of assault and battery with a knife. He had failed to show up in March to begin serving his sentence and had been a fugitive.

Federal law enforcement authorities said Al-Marabh may prove to be "critical" in any attempt by the FBI and others to link the attacks to al Qaeda.

Three men also were arrested at Al-Marabh's apartment in Detroit, and were found to have sketches of flight lines, references to the airport in Jordan and possible plans to bomb a U.S. base in Turkey. The three Karim Koubriti, 23; Ahmed Hannan, 33; and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 21 were charged with having phony passports, identification and immigration papers.

They were arrested by members of the FBI's terrorism task force on charges of fraud and possessing false documents.

A five-page FBI affidavit said agents recovered from the Detroit apartment "handwritten sketches of what appeared to be a diagram of an airport flight line, to include aircraft and runways."

The agents had gone to the apartment looking for Al-Marabh. Authorities believe some of the men worked for a company that provided food service to airlines at the Detroit airport. The agents found airport identification badges for food service workers at the apartment.

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