- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

A Middle Eastern man arrested when he tried to fly into Chicago on Sept. 11 with false passports and two airline uniforms was traveling with at least four accomplices who still may be at large, say other passengers on the flight.

FBI agents in Chicago have been questioning passengers this week from Lufthansa Flight 430, from Frankfurt, Germany, which was diverted to Toronto in the wake of terrorist attacks on the United States. Agents reportedly are seeking a laptop computer shared among at least five men aboard the flight.

On Wednesday, the FBI issued a subpoena for the cellular phone billing records of a Chicago area resident whose phone was borrowed by the apparent leader of the group of suspects after the plane landed in Toronto.

Witnesses aboard the aircraft have told the FBI that when the pilot announced that the flight would be forced to land in Toronto because of an unspecified "catastrophic event" in the United States, Nageeb Abdul Jabar Mohamed Al-Hadi and others apparently traveling with him produced a bottle of wine from carry-on luggage and shared celebratory sips with each other as they huddled near a midcabin restroom.

"They were very upbeat," said one passenger who sat near two of the men in the group. "They seemed in a really good mood, which seemed odd under the circumstances."

Al-Hadi is jailed in Toronto, awaiting extradition to the United States. Neither the FBI nor the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would comment on whether other passengers have been detained or are being sought. Speaking for Canada's Ministry of Justice, Irene Arseneau said yesterday that once a person is arrested officially in Canada, it becomes a matter of public record, so "one could infer" that no other arrests have been made from that flight.

Another justice ministry source, asking not to be named, said Wednesday that no other passengers from the flight have been detained and the whereabouts of those traveling with the arrested man remain unknown.

The man initially identified as Al-Hadi was detained after airport officials found him in possession of three different Yemeni passports, all with his photograph, but each with a different name and passport number, and various dates of birth in 1966. He also had a fourth Yemeni passport for another individual, a Michigan driver's license, an application form for U.S. citizenship and a Detroit marriage license.

His checked luggage, which arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport aboard an earlier Lufthansa flight, apparently in violation of common airline security practices, was seized and opened. Inside were two Lufthansa crew jackets and sewn into the lining of one pants pocket a piece of paper with apparently random numbers written in Arabic.

The Toronto Star reported yesterday that the man arrested was not named Al-Hadi, but had substituted his own photograph on passports with similar names issued to other people. Citing a record of a Sept. 14 court hearing, the Star reported that the man's U.S. visa was a forgery and authorities did not yet know his real name.

Witnesses have told the FBI that the man who claimed to be Al-Hadi conferred and shared a laptop computer with at least four and perhaps five other men sitting in various locations aboard the Lufthansa flight, and that they frequently stood in the aisles to have whispered conversations among themselves.

"The guy across the aisle from me was using a laptop," one passenger said. "He was very secretive, very careful to turn the screen so I could not see it. He would walk up to the first-class section with the computer, then come back without it. Later, he would go up there again and come back with the laptop. They were all passing it among themselves."

The passenger said the two men seated near him told him the group was in a rock band from Hamburg, Germany.

Later, when the pilot made announcements in German and one of the men in the group asked him to translate, he thought it "odd that they would live in Germany and not speak the language."

After landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto, but still aboard the jet, the passenger and two business acquaintances were standing together when the one of the men approached and asked him if he could use his cell phone to make a couple of calls.

"The guy who seemed to be in charge wanted to borrow my phone, but my battery was shot, so I couldn't help him. So he asked the guy standing next to me, who offered him the phone. This older fellow was perspiring. He even told us he was nervous. He asked one of the others to dial the numbers for him because he was too nervous, and repeated the numbers."

He made two calls, both to area code 708, each no more than a minute in duration, the witness said.

"On each call, he would step four or five feet away from us and turn his back so we couldn't hear what he was saying," he said.

In affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the FBI charges that the false passports seized from Al-Hadi are similar to those taken from Nabil Al-Marabh, a former Toronto resident now jailed in Chicago and identified by investigators as a "close associate" of Osama bin Laden. Among the papers seized from Al-Marabh and Al-Hadi were identical phone numbers from the Chicago area and elsewhere.

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