- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The FBI is investigating whether Iraq provided cash, phony documents and other logistical support to Mohamed Atta during secret meetings the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 attack on America had with Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague.
Authorities said agents working with Czech police have focused on meetings this year between Atta and Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Alhani, an Iraqi diplomat later expelled as an intelligence agent, and with Farouk Hijazi, Saddam Hussein's former director of external security who also met privately with Osama bin Laden.
The probe has also targeted several business connections Atta is believed to have established in the Czech Republic under a variety of aliases, including a Prague-based firm called Electric Construction Co. and a trading company known as ANS Holding.
Investigators want to know how money was funneled to Atta, including whether international bank accounts were used, how wire transfers figured in the scheme, what documents could have been provided and what efforts were made to set up financial contacts for Atta in this country.
Several U.S. and foreign bank accounts are being examined, as are the records of numerous wire transfers, authorities said.
Law enforcement officials suspect that Atta not only directed the attack but arranged its financing through well-heeled connections who are tied to bin Laden's al Qaeda network in this country and abroad.
Atta, 33, was named as the pilot aboard the American Airlines flight that first struck the World Trade Center's north tower in an attack killing around 5,000 people. The Prague meetings are part of what investigators believe was a series of clandestine sessions between Atta and Iraqi intelligence agents concerning the Sept. 11 attacks.
Iraq is one of the nations on the State Department's list of "state sponsors" of international terrorism. It has denied any role in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but Iraqi state television applauded the attacks for demonstrating the vulnerability of the United States.
Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross confirmed earlier this month that Mr. Alhani was expelled from Prague on April 22 for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status. He also said Atta met with the Iraqi intelligence agent in the weeks before Mr. Alhani was asked to leave the country.
Asked Sunday on ABC about possible Iraqi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said there was "no question" Iraq committed and sponsored terrorist acts, but the government's investigation of the attacks had not yet been completed.
He said the investigation included a look into the meetings in Prague, which he described only as "something notable."
Atta, who traveled regularly between the United States and several other countries, used an Egyptian passport. At one point, he was registered as a student at the Technical University in Hamburg and made numerous trips to the Czech Republic.
Czech authorities said Atta arrived in Prague on June 19, 2000, met with Iraqi officials and left the next day for the United States, arriving at Newark International Airport. Investigators are also trying to determine whether Mr. Alhani met in the Czech Republic with at least one of the other hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Concerns about Mr. Alhani were raised last year when Czech intelligence officials began to suspect that he was not a diplomat but an Iraqi intelligence agent. The meetings with Atta were confirmed after Czech intelligence officials had put Mr. Alhani under 24-hour surveillance because they suspected he was involved in plotting an attack on the headquarters of Radio Free Europe.
The FBI investigation of Atta has also focused on Germany, where Atta is believed to have planned the Sept. 11 attacks as a member of a terrorist cell based in Hamburg. Two other men identified as hijackers in the attacks, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah, lived with Atta in Hamburg.
Alshehhi was named as the pilot aboard the United Airlines flight that crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower. Jarrah was described by authorities as one of the hijackers aboard the United Airlines flight that crashed in western Pennsylvania.
Iraq has maintained close ties to bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. Over the past several years, authorities said, Iraq has vigorously recruited al Qaeda to carry out the suicide attacks in the United States. Bin Laden has been named in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the attack in Yeman on the USS Cole.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide