- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday said the terrorists who attacked America last week likely were "harbored, supported, sustained and protected" by unnamed foreign governments, and he vowed to "identify and punish" those involved.
Grim-faced following a tour of the heavily damaged Pentagon, Mr. Ashcroft said it was time governments who support terrorism "understand with crystal clarity" that the United States will not tolerate it.
"We will take every possible action to make sure that this kind of injury and assault on America and on its freedom does not happen again," he said.
Mr. Ashcroft did not identify any foreign governments as being involved. The State Department this year named Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, North Korea and Cuba as state sponsors of terrorism.
Yesterday, Israel's military intelligence service, Aman, said it suspected Iraqi terrorists were involved, including members of al Qaeda, the international terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden the prime suspect in the attacks on Sept. 11. One hijacker, Mohammed Atta, suspected of being the pilot aboard the jet that slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower, recently met with Iraqi intelligence officials.
Meanwhile, an army of 4,000 FBI agents sought to strengthen the government's case against bin Laden, tracking thousands of leads and gathering evidence against a widening band of terrorists and their accomplices in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
The probe has focused on the 19 air pirates who commandeered four planes, including information on where they lived, worked, trained and with whom they associated, federal authorities said. Agents also want to know whether more than four aircraft were targeted in the scheme and, if so, what happened to those would-be terrorists.
The investigation also is centering on questions of who provided the financial and logistical support needed to pull off the attacks.
The FBI, authorities said, has significant evidence tying last week's attacks to bin Laden based on intelligence data, information from witnesses, and evidence collected in raids on the homes, cars and businesses used by the hijackers. Most of the evidence gathered remains under seal. A federal grand jury in White Plains, N.Y., has been convened to review evidence and issue warrants.
FBI agents are still looking to question about 200 people believed to have information on the attacks. They are on a list of names sent to federal agencies, state and local authorities, the U.S. Border Patrol and the airlines. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has detained 75 others on immigration violations, all of whom are being questioned by the FBI.
While no foreign governments have been connected to the attacks, German intelligence officials yesterday said as many as 30 terrorist cells operate in that country, staffed by "sleeper agents" many believed to have ties to bin Laden. They have identified about 3,250 of the country's 3.1 million Muslims as "potential extremists."
Last week, German police found what they called "airplane-related documents" in a suitcase belonging to one of the hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, who was aboard the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. They said Jarrah, Atta, and Marwan Al-Shehhi, another hijacker, were associated with an Islamic fundamentalist group in Hamburg that planned attacks on U.S. targets.
Mr. Ashcroft said it was "premature" to discuss what evidence had been gathered so far in the FBI probe, adding it was "far too early" to know whether the FBI's arrests of three Detroit men Tuesday night was "some sort of major breakthrough in the case."
Members of the FBI's terrorism task force, pursuing "a series of leads," arrested Karim Koubriti, 23, Ahmed Hannan, 33, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 21, on charges of fraud and possessing false documents after agents found airport-related diagrams and documents about a military base and an unnamed "American foreign minister" in a house they used.
A five-page FBI affidavit said agents recovered from the Detroit house "handwritten sketches of what appeared to be a diagram of an airport flight line, to include aircraft and runways." None was charged.
The agents had gone to the house looking for a man named on the list of 200 "suspects, potential associates of the suspects and potential witnesses," the affidavit said. Authorities believe some of the men worked for a company that provided food service to airlines at the Detroit airport. Detroit Metropolitan Airport identification badges for food service workers were taken from the house.
FBI agents continue to search for a fourth man in the Detroit area identified as Nabil Al-Marabh.
Among the 75 being detained by INS are four who also are being held on material witness warrants issued by the grand jury. They are:
Ayub Ali Khan, 51, and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, 47, who were taken into custody in Texas after their flight from Newark, N.J., was grounded in St. Louis immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. They had $5,000 in cash and box cutters like those used by the hijackers when apprehended on an Amtrak train in Fort Worth.
Habib Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Algerian who was detained last month after he sought flight training in Minnesota and Oklahoma. One of the schools became suspicious and called authorities when he offered to pay cash and inquired about learning to fly a Boeing plane. The man has been in custody since Aug. 17.
Albader Alhazmi, 34, a Saudi national and Saudi-trained doctor who was doing a medical residency in radiology at University of Texas Health Science Center. He did not show up for work on Sept. 11.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide