- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

The Justice Department yesterday ordered armed air marshals to guard U.S. jetliners against possible new terrorist attacks, while the FBI expanded its search for accomplices who may have been planning a sustained, days-long campaign of attacks in America and Europe.

Fearful that associates of last week's air pirates who killed thousands may still be at large, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the government will add agents from the Justice Department as air marshals on domestic flights.

"These additional law enforcement officials from various federal agencies are being assigned to the FAA to ensure aircraft-passenger safety," he said during a briefing at FBI headquarters. The officers will augment the Federal Aviation Administration's force of 20 undercover agents nationwide.

Mr. Ashcroft also is sending 300 deputy U.S. marshals to FBI field offices around the country to assist in following up nearly 30,000 leads in the search for conspirators in the attacks, including associates of authorities' prime suspect, Osama bin Laden.

Echoing Mr. Ashcroft's concerns that more terrorists are in this country, law enforcement authorities said the investigation also has focused on information that last week's attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon were just the first wave of planned terrorist attacks in this country and Europe.

Although the identity of other targets was not clear, anti-terrorism investigators in Europe said recent arrests had uncovered plots by Islamic militants to attack U.S. interests in Europe. Intelligence officials in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands are investigating suspected plots.

FBI agents continue to search for those who aided the 19 hijackers, the number of persons now in custody has soared to 49 double the number reported over the weekend.

All are being held by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on various immigration charges, although more than 200 others are being sought for questioning worldwide, according to a list now being circulated to police agencies here and aboard.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III confirmed that the 49 detainees are being questioned, adding that some were cooperating with authorities but that others were not. Authorities said at least four are being held on material-witness warrants issued by a federal grand jury in New York, meaning they can be questioned without being formally charged.

Mr. Mueller declined to elaborate on the numbers, but said several material-witness warrants have been issued.

He also said that since last week's attacks, dozens of retaliatory hate crimes have been directed at members of the Arab-American community, including assaults, arsons, threatening communications "and two possibly and I say possibly ethnically motivated murders." He said many of the attacks had been directed at Muslim houses of worship and at community centers.

"I'll make it very clear: Vigilante attacks and threats against Arab-Americans will not be tolerated," he said. "Though we are all saddened by the recent acts of terrorism against our nation, such acts of retaliation violate federal law, and, more particularly, run counter to the very principles of equality and freedom upon which our nation is founded."

Mr. Mueller declined to discuss the possible homicides, although two men a Sikh in Phoenix and a Pakistani grocer in Dallas were killed in separate incidents. Both wore turbans similar to the one worn by bin Laden.

He said that 40 suspected hate crimes were under investigation, and that agents were reviewing other incidents to see if federal violations had taken place.

Mr. Mueller also said the FBI was not targeting Arab-Americans for questioning based solely on their ethnic background. He said those being questioned are those that agents believe "may have some information relating to the acts that took place last week."

Mr. Ashcroft said that the investigation, known as "Penttbom," is moving "vigorously," and that FBI agents had received 7,800 hot-line telephone tips and 47,000 potential leads over the Internet, in additional to the nearly 30,000 leads generated at the FBI field offices. He said anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation should call 866/483-5137 or contact the FBI at certainly

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