- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

U.S. intelligence agencies are looking for a missing Sudanese air force pilot who is said to be planning to hijack an airliner and fly it into the White House.
The pilot was trained in Afghanistan and is linked to the al Qaeda terrorist organization, The Washington Times has learned from U.S. intelligence officials.
An intelligence report on the missing pilot was sent to U.S. policy-makers last week. The report said the pilot had entered Canada last week and was in that country preparing for the attack.
Canadian authorities, however, had no records indicating the pilot had entered the country. The name of the pilot is known to U.S. intelligence, but officials declined to disclose the pilot's name.
Spokesmen for the CIA and FBI would not comment on the matter.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, said U.S. intelligence agencies receive a "blizzard" of intelligence reports from around the world. The problem is trying to verify the information, he said.
Intelligence officials have said that one potential target of the hijacked jetliner that crashed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11 was the White House. The hijackers also may have planned to fly the aircraft into the Capitol or the Pentagon.
Sudan is on the State Department's list of state sponsors of international terrorism, although the Khartoum government condemned the September 11 attacks and pledged to cooperate with the United States in fighting terrorism.
A State Department annual report on terrorism said Sudan "stepped up" counterterrorism cooperation with U.S. agencies. However, the report stated that "a number of international terrorist groups including al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and Hamas continued to use Sudan as a safe haven, primarily for conducting logistics and other support activities."
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was based in Sudan until his expulsion from the country in 1996 and resettlement in Afghanistan.
The report on the Sudanese pilot comes as U.S. authorities say al Qaeda is decentralizing its leadership. Al Qaeda cells in up to 60 nations are said to have authority to conduct terrorist attacks with relative autonomy from the leadership, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Meanwhile, the FBI on Wednesday sent a notice to law-enforcement agencies around the country warning that terrorists may attempt to hijack airliners using new methods.
Officials said the missing Sudanese pilot and the FBI notice are not related.
The FBI also said al Qaeda is attempting to find new ways to sneak bombs onto aircraft using undetectable explosive material.
The notice was sent despite the fact that the information was obtained before the September 11 attacks.
The FBI said there is no new information indicating that terrorists are planning attacks.
The FBI notice said al Qaeda members had talked about "hijacking a commercial airliner using Muslim extremists of non-Arabic appearance" to avoid scrutiny by security personnel.
The FBI said the information was based on discussions among 10 to 20 Chechen Muslims linked to the al Qaeda network who are living in the United States.
The terrorists spoke of sitting in the first-class cabin and then taking control of the aircraft by overwhelming the crew.
The terrorists also spoke of smuggling liquid explosives onto aircraft by mixing the fluid with coffee and carrying it on board in hand-held baggage.
Officials confirmed the details contained in the FBI notice after it was first reported by ABC News.

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