- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

An FBI van carrying radio gear was stolen yesterday morning in Laurel, a community investigators have scoured in connection with last week's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
"The president wants us to get back to normal. I'm sad to report that things are returning to normal, as far as crime is concerned," FBI spokesman Peter Gulotta said yesterday.
Mr. Gulotta said the vehicle was a two-tone blue 1992 Dodge van. It was parked among other vehicles, unattended but locked, he said.
He said the agent using the van saw two black men in their 20s pull up in a white van beside the FBI vehicle. One of the men drove off in the FBI van, the other drove off in the white van about 4:30 a.m.
Mr. Gulotta declined to say why the agent did not attempt to halt the theft.
The van was carrying radio equipment and did not contain any weapons or evidence pertaining to the Laurel investigation, Mr. Gulotta said.
"We're not sending agents out looking for this thing," he said. "We have had vehicles stolen before."
The agency reported the theft to the Maryland State Police. The van was last seen heading south on Interstate 295 toward Washington, Mr. Gulotta said.
Meanwhile, a Muslim cleric living in Laurel, who has been scrutinized by the FBI over his ties to terrorist Osama bin Laden, held a news conference yesterday at the National Press Club to deny any involvement in last week's attacks.
"It is only God and God alone that knows the depths of the soul and the pain that I feel because of the tragic and criminal events of Sept. 11," Moataz Hallak said in a prepared statement. "I join my voice with the voice of the whole world in condemning these acts of terror."
Mr. Hallak's attorney, Stanley L. Cohen, said his client answered "every single question that was asked of him" by representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office during a three-hour session Wednesday.
"Simply, he has done nothing wrong. He has no information and he's withheld no information in this case," Mr. Cohen said.
"I am a U.S. citizen. I am a family man. I love this country. I love its people," Mr. Hallak said.
Mr. Hallak, 41, moved to Laurel about a year ago from Arlington, Texas, after disagreements with his local mosque's community.
Last Friday, the FBI arrested Mohamed Abdo, a former member of Mr. Hallak's Texas mosque, in connection with its terrorist-hijacking investigation. Mr. Abdo in recent years had an address in Beltsville, just a few miles from Mr. Hallak's residence, according to newspaper reports.
During the investigation of the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Mr. Hallak was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony before the grand jury. Wadih Hage, another former member of Mr. Hallak's Texas mosque, was convicted for his involvement in the bombings and is awaiting sentencing.
Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said during a hearing that Mr. Hallak had "served as a contact" between members of the bin Laden organization, which is believed responsible for the terrorist assaults on New York City and Northern Virginia.
Mr. Fitzgerald was among the federal authorities who questioned Mr. Hallak Wednesday.
Mr. Cohen said prosecutors showed Mr. Hallak photographs of the 19 men FBI agents believe hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Hallak was asked if he knew any of the men, had seen any of them, had helped any of them or had any prior knowledge of their attacks. He answered "no" to each question, Mr. Cohen said.
"If the FBI or any other federal authorities in this country thought my client had anything anything at all to do with these tragedies, do you think he would be here answering questions right now?" the lawyer said.
Mr. Cohen said the descriptions of the hijackers who were in Laurel in the days before the attacks contradict the spiritual lifestyle promoted by his client.
"These guys were getting drunk, eating pizza, looking around pornography shops, and worst of all, lifting weights alongside women in a local gym," he said.

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