- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

MIAMI (AP) Saddam Hussein's stepson has been arrested on immigration charges after enrolling in a flight school that had been used by one of the September 11 hijackers, federal authorities said.
Mohammed Nour Din Saffi, a citizen of New Zealand who has worked in commercial aviation, planned to attend classes at Aeroservice Aviation Center, said James Goldman, an Immigration and Naturalization Service assistant director for investigations.
FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said one of the September 11 hijackers trained at the flight school. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel identified the hijacker as Ziad Jarrah, who is believed to have commandeered the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
According to the INS, the Iraqi leader's stepson was traveling as a tourist and had not applied for a student visa that would have allowed him to take courses.
There was no evidence that Mr. Saffi was connected to any terrorist group.
Mr. Goldman said Mr. Saffi was seeking recertification training at the flight school. The FBI said he is employed by an airline in New Zealand.
Mr. Saffi, 36, also failed to tell customs agents of his intent to take courses when he arrived Tuesday in Los Angeles on a flight from New Zealand, Mr. Goldman said.
Phone calls to Aeroservice Aviation Center seeking comment were not answered.
Miss Orihuela, the FBI spokeswoman, said Mr. Saffi was tracked Wednesday as he flew from Los Angeles to Miami International Airport. He was taken into custody at a motel shortly after he arrived.
Mr. Saffi was at Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County and is being processed for deportation to New Zealand, Mr. Goldman said.
The Weekend Herald, a newspaper in New Zealand, reported in December that Mr. Saffi was employed by Air New Zealand as an engineer and had lived in the country six years.
They said officials in New Zealand had investigated Mr. Saffi after September 11 when they learned he was Saddam's stepson. No action was taken, the paper said.
Mr. Saffi had declined to discuss his relationship with the Iraqi leader when asked by the paper. The Miami Herald reported that Mr. Saffi denied any family tie to the Iraqi leader and denied it to federal agents.
Air New Zealand declined comment, citing privacy concerns.
Mr. Saffi is the eldest son of Samira Shahbandar, Saddam's second wife. His father is Nour Din Saffi, an aviation engineer and former head of Iraqi Airways.
According to well-placed sources in Baghdad and in Iraqi exile circles, Saddam forced Nour Din Saffi to divorce Mrs. Shahbandar in the late 1970s before Saddam married her. He has since married again.
Mohammed Saffi is believed to have left Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war first to neighboring Jordan and then to New Zealand after an argument with his mother. The reason for the argument was not clear, but according to rumors in Baghdad, he and his father were afraid of Saddam's wrath. The father is believed to be living in exile in Jordan since Saddam fired him from his airline post.


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