- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

U.S. authorities have detained a Sudanese pilot suspected of plotting to fly a hijacked airliner into the White House, U.S. officials said yesterday.
The Sudanese national is being held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at an undisclosed location in the southern United States, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"At this point it really isn't clear what his intent was," a U.S. official said.
The official said investigators are trying to determine whether the Sudanese man was planning to hijack an aircraft and fly it into the White House.
"That's a possibility, but we're still trying to get to the bottom of it," the official said.
Authorities told The Washington Times that intelligence agencies were looking for a man identified in intelligence reports last week as a missing Sudanese pilot who is suspected of being a member of the al Qaeda terrorist group trained in Afghanistan.
According to officials, the man was planning to hijack an aircraft and use it to attack the White House. The man was said to have traveled to Canada and into the United States.
At the White House, a senior administration official sought to play down the arrests. "We have several Sudanese in custody," the official said.
This official said the report in The Times yesterday was inaccurate in stating that U.S. intelligence was looking for the pilot.
The senior official said the Sudanese pilot and an unspecified number of other Sudanese nationals had been arrested several days ago.
"As far as this information about the White House, we are questioning these people, but we do not know their intention," the senior official said. "I think the White House was a stretch."
But other officials challenged the White House official's account and said the intelligence report on the Sudanese pilot indicated his target was the White House and that he was suspected of being a member of al Qaeda who was trained in Afghanistan.
A U.S. law enforcement official said no criminal charges had been filed against the Sudanese man while investigators look into whether the plot accusations are true.
Asked about the report in The Times, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing intelligence information.
Disclosure of the suspected Sudanese al Qaeda terrorist came as the FBI issued an alert to 18,000 law enforcement agencies earlier this week, warning that terrorists might use non-Arab men in attacks to avoid being detected by security personnel.
The arrest of the pilot also followed earlier intelligence reports indicating that al Qaeda's leadership is decentralizing its structure and giving more autonomy to cells in some 60 countries to carry out terrorist attacks.

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