- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

The FBI's manhunt for the terrorists who attacked America expanded yesterday to U.S. banks, as agents began tracking the money trail of those who financed the scheme, while a multiagency task force investigates whether some of those involved benefited financially in last-minute stock trades.
In seeking to answer the question of how the plot was financed, the FBI asked banks nationwide to search for financial transactions that may have been made by the 19 hijackers who commandeered the four jetliners used in the attacks, along with others now being sought.
"The FBI is requesting that all financial institutions check their records for any relationships or transactions with the named suspects," said an alert sent to banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt told a Senate committee yesterday the FBI-led task force is reviewing records to determine whether terrorists or their accomplices attempted to profit from the attacks by betting in the financial markets that the stocks of those companies targeted would fall.
Records show a highly unusual amount of activity in put-option contracts on the stock of AMR Corp. (American Airlines), UAL Corp. (United Airlines) and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in the days before the terrorists crashed American and United airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Morgan Stanley was one of the biggest tenants of the trade towers demolished in the attacks.
The stocks of all three companies fell precipitously when trading resumed this week. The put-option contracts, which rise when a stock falls, enable investors to profit from a stock's decline. It is estimated that the holders of United and American put-option contracts made millions of dollars.
"If there is any possibility that any nefarious activity took place in our markets, you and the American public can be sure that we are going to pursue it and bring anyone who is involved with it to justice," Mr. Pitt told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
The FBI, which has detained 115 persons and is seeking to question 190 others in the attacks, arrested Nabil al-Marabh, a man identified as having the same name as a known associate of Osama bin Laden. The FBI's Terrorism Task Force is trying to determine whether the man, taken into custody in Chicago, is the bin Laden associate.
Al-Marabh is being held on a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service request and a warrant issued in Boston for assault with a knife.
He pleaded guilty in Boston in December to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and received a suspended sentence of six months, but later violated his parole.
Following Attorney General John Ashcroft's comments this week that the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington likely were "harbored, supported, sustained and protected" by foreign governments, police across Europe yesterday reported a number of arrests and detentions of suspected accomplices. Police in Germany, Belgium, France, Poland and Spain continued to trace the movements of several persons suspected of having ties to bin Laden's al-Qaeda organizations.
German officials have said that 100 guerrillas trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan may be living undercover in Germany. Belgian police arrested two men in Brussels they described as North Africans who belonged to "a radical Islamic movement" with ties to al-Qaeda, and police in Poland said they had evidence that a "significant element" of the scheme to attack the United States originated in that country.
Mr. Ashcroft, who yesterday toured the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in western Pennsylvania, paid tribute to the passengers who overpowered the hijackers on that United flight. The crash killed 40 passengers and crew members, along with the four hijackers.
"In the midst of this tragedy is a testimony of the American spirit, of individuals who bravely and courageously were willing to endure additional risks and pay an ultimate price so that others would be more secure," he said while standing on a hillside overlooking the crash site 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
The FBI is also focusing on reports that some of the hijackers already named publicly may have used stolen identities. Saudi officials have told U.S. authorities that as many as four Saudi citizens with similar or identical names as the hijackers have expressed concern that their identities were stolen. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the names of several of the hijackers are known, but others "are still in question."

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