- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2001

An Algerian pilot detained in London trained four of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on America and is believed to have attended "planning meetings" in that city with 11 of the 19 hijackers, U.S. and British authorities said yesterday.
Officials at Scotland Yard said Lotfi Raissi, 27, also visited the United States with his French wife, Sonia, on several occasions this year including stops in Las Vegas and Arizona to ensure that the pilots he had trained were capable of conducting their missions.
Mr. Raissi was taken into custody last week by Scotland Yard detectives under the Terrorism Act of 2000 and ordered to an extradition hearing Thursday after his rearrest on an international warrant charging him with making false statements in obtaining a pilot's license.
He faces questioning by the FBI in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which killed more than 6,000 people.
During the hearing, British prosecutor Arvinda Sambir said in open court that Mr. Raissi "was a lead instructor of four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings." She added that British authorities believe he visited in the United States the hijackers who crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 194 persons.
"We say he was there to ensure that the pilots were capable and trained for this purpose," Miss Sambir said during the hearing.
London Magistrate Nicholas Evans ordered Mr. Raissi held without bail pending a second court hearing scheduled for Oct. 5.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III yesterday declined comment on Mr. Raissi during a briefing at FBI headquarters.
But U.S. and British authorities said evidence gathered during massive investigations in both countries shows that several of the hijackers spent several days in the London area in June and July plotting and discussing the air strikes during secret meetings at several locations. They said Mr. Raissi played a key role at those meetings.
Detectives from Scotland Yard spent two days searching Mr. Raissi's apartment in Berkshire, west of London, seizing a number of items including flight manuals.
They said they believe Mr. Raissi attended the same flight school as four of the hijackers before qualifying as a pilot in 1997.
A pilot's logbook found at the home appears to have been tampered with, and British prosecutors said several pages had been torn out.
Mr. Raissi has denied any involvement in the attacks and his London attorney, Richard Egan, said he was "confident he would be absolved of all involvement." Information that 11 of the hijackers had traveled to Great Britain was first reported last week by the Times of London.
Mrs. Raissi, 25, was also arrested, but released without charges. Mr. Raissi's brother, Mohameed Raissi, 29, who also lives near London, also was taken into custody but later released without charges.
The FBI, according to the Times of London, also has asked Scotland Yard to discover who sheltered and funded the hijackers during their stay in Britain. U.S. authorities are trying to discover if any of the men had ties to various terrorist cells operating out of Britain connected to al Qaeda, the organization founded and funded by Osama bin Laden. Efforts have been under way to determine hotels or other places the men stayed.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Algerian being detained in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, also lived in London and has been identified by French authorities as a member of bin Laden's terrorist network. He was arrested Aug. 17 after he sought flight training in Minnesota and Oklahoma.
Detectives from Scotland Yard also have also searched Mr. Moussaoui's former London apartment.
He was arrested after one of the schools became suspicious and called authorities when he offered to pay cash and inquired about learning to fly a Boeing jetliner. Officials at the school said Mr. Moussaoui was interested only in learning how to steer the aircraft, not practice takeoffs or landings.
U.S. and British authorities believe the 11 hijackers who attended the London meetings included: three on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower; three on United Airlines Flight 175 that hit the Trade Center's south tower; three on United Airlines Flight 93 that slammed into a Pennsylvania field; and two on the airliner that hit the Pentagon.
They said evidence gathered so far in a massive investigation shows that the eight other hijackers, three of whom are believed to have been involved in a terrorist cell in Germany, joined the others in the United States.
Meanwhile, the FBI has arrested two more men in connection with fraudulent driver's licenses to haul hazardous materials. Fadhil Al-Khaledy was arrested Thursday night in Chicago and Raad Al-Malfky was taken into custody at about the same time in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Neither man has been tied to the Sept. 11 attacks, but the FBI has maintained a close vigil on those who have obtained phony licenses in an effort to prevent further attacks.
A total of 20 men of Middle Eastern descent have been linked to a Pennsylvania examiner who is accused of issuing the fraudulent licenses in exchange for payoffs.
Also, Mr. Ashcroft said the FBI has received nearly 120,000 tips in its ongoing probe, and that more than 480 people have been arrested or detained.
None of those in custody has been charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.
The attorney general said prosecutors were "making progress in the investigation," but he was not yet ready to announce any indictments.

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