- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

Federal prosecutors are preparing murder indictments against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, and they have targeted not only suspected accomplices and "sleeper agents" but a vast business empire used as cover for travel and the purchase of explosives, weapons and chemicals.
Law enforcement authorities said the FBI is gathering evidence against those al Qaeda officials believed to have taken part in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 5,000 people. Many of those targeted are overseas, but several are still in the United States, either in custody or in hiding.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has assembled a special task force of prosecutors to centralize information on terrorism and formulate indictments in the ongoing investigation, said Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden.
Called the "9/11 Task Force," the team consists of prosecutors from the U.S. attorneys offices in New York and Northern Virginia and from the Justice Department's terrorism and violent crimes unit. A federal grand jury in White Plains, N.Y., was convened after the Sept. 11 attacks and was reviewing evidence and issuing search warrants.
Those most likely to be indicted, authorities said, include bin Laden and his top lieutenants: Ayman al-Zawahiri, who serves as his second in command; Mohammed Atef, al Qaeda's military commander; and Mustafa Muhammad Ahmed, believed to have been the financier for the attacks.
In November 1998, bin Laden and Atef were indicted in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans. Al-Zawahiri, former head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, is the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Three men in custody in the United States, suspected of being "sleeper agents," also have been targeted and could face charges, authorities said. They are:
Zacarias Moussaoui, 33, a French Algerian arrested Aug. 17 in Minnesota after he offered cash at an Eagan, Minn., flight school for lessons on how to steer Boeing jetliners but not land or take off. Authorities believed he was the 20th hijacker who should have been aboard the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, 47, and Ayub Ali Khan, 51, who were detained at an Amtrak station Sept. 12 in Fort Worth, Texas, after police found box cutters, hair dye and $5,000 in their luggage. Some of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks carried box cutters.
A fourth man, Lotfi Raissi, 27, an Algerian pilot, also is the focus of the FBI probe. He was arrested by British authorities after the attacks and was facing an extradition hearing in London. A London prosecutor said Mr. Raissi's job in the attack was to "ensure" that the 19 suicide hijackers were "capable and trained."
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix yesterday unsealed an indictment naming Mr. Raissi on charges of making false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain his pilot's license. The indictment said he falsified a medical certificate and failed to disclose a 1993 conviction in London for theft. The indictment is not directly related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ongoing FBI probe includes an extensive examination of several businesses bin Laden has founded over the past 10 years, through which authorities said he has conducted substantial financial and business transactions on behalf of al Qaeda.
The transactions included vast expenditures for land and equipment for training camps in at least five countries; the purchase of warehouses to store equipment, including weapons and explosives; the purchase of communications and electronics equipment, including satellite telephones; and funding for the shipment of currency and weapons to members of al Qaeda worldwide.
Targeted in the probe, authorities said, are a holding company called Wadi al Aqiq based in Sudan, which operates several businesses; the Hijra Construction Co., which builds roads; Al Themar Al Mubaraka, an agricultural business; two investment and currency trading firms, Ladin International Co. and Taba Investments; and the Themar al-Mubaraka Co., an agricultural venture in the Sudan.
Authorities said bin Laden also has managed investments in Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, trading various commodities, including diamonds and seafood, and has used dozens of bank accounts, some under his own name, in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vienna, Dubai, Panama City, the Sudan and London, many of which are under active review.

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