- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

U.S. authorities are tracking down 29 individuals who have entered the United States illegally on visas issued through the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar.

As part of Operation Eagle Strike, the FBI arrested 31 of 71 individuals who received visas that were issued by the Doha Embassy before September 11 and then resold, U.S. officials said yesterday.

"We are currently involved in a nationwide search to apprehend these individuals," said one U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the team includes representatives from the FBI, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They were searching for 29 persons who purchased the visas and were believed to be living in the United States.

The operation believes six of the remaining individuals have left the United States while another five are spouses or dependents of some of the 31 arrested.

These 31 individuals included Ramsi al Shannaq, a Jordanian national arrested in Baltimore last year and believed to have been a roommate of Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Hazmi, two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.

On July 2, Mr. Shannaq was charged by the Justice Department with obtaining a fraudulent visa and could face up to 10 years in jail. U.S. authorities also arrested Majed Ghazi Yusef Sarhan last week in Troy, Mich., as part of the operation.

U.S. officials said it would be premature to conclude that any of the 71 belonged to sleeper terrorist cells.

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