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|Doubts Emerge Over Identities of Hijackers|
|09/21/01 at 08:43:12|
|Doubts Emerge Over Identities of Hijackers in U.S. Attacks|
WASHINGTON, Sept 20 (News Agencies) - U.S. officials are investigating whether some or all of the 19 hijackers on the four hijacked aircraft used in last week's terror attacks used stolen identities, possibly complicating efforts to link them to Osama bin Laden.
The doubts started to emerge when at least four men with names matching those on an FBI list of the hijackers turned up alive in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, according to newspaper reports.
An unnamed senior U.S. official told Thursday's Washington Post that there was now uncertainty over the list of names. "There may be some question with regard to the identity of at least some of them," he said.
The Chicago Tribune spoke to an unnamed Justice Department official who said, "the names on the list are the best information that we have, [but] we are investigating the possibility of identity theft and fals! e identification."
Doubts grew when FBI agents, fanning out across the country and around the world looking for accomplices of the hijackers, arrested three suspects of Arab origins in Detroit on Tuesday, but were unable to immediately say from which country they came. The three were charged with possession of false documents.
Another four people have been arrested as material suspects - individuals believed to have information vital to the case - and the Immigration and Naturalization Service is holding between 75 and 115 people on immigration concerns who may also be able to help the investigation. Another 200 are being sought.
The Tribune said the FBI believed many of the hijackers had taken martial arts courses ahead of the attacks and reported that some gyms had handed over their records to investigators.
FBI director Robert Mueller said last week as he released what he said were the names of the hijackers that his bureau had "a ! fairly high level of confidence" that they were their true identities.
But at least one Arabic newspaper, the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat, said this week it had found two of the Saudis named on the list, Abdelaziz al-Omari and Said Hussein Gharamallah al-Ghamdi, alive and well.
Omari said he had been at work at the Saudi telecommunications authority in Riyadh when the September 11th attacks happened and had nothing to do with them, adding that his passport had been stolen in Denver, Colorado, in 1995.
He said that he could not be the man with pilot training the FBI claimed he was, saying "I am an electrical engineer and I have no idea how to fly a plane."
Ghamdi, a Saudi Arabian Airlines pilot reported to be in Tunisia, told the paper he saw his photograph on television - received by the FBI from a Florida flight school - but said he had been in Tunis for the past nine months, training with colleagues.
The Tribune said it had ! a report that another "hijacker", Waleed M. Alshehri, was also a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines and was still alive, according to his father.
It also said that the Saudi press had found Amer Kamfar, who the FBI was seeking as a suspect in the case, was a pilot living in Saudi Arabia.
There was confusion over the nationalities of the three men arrested in Detroit Tuesday, who the FBI named as Ahmed Hannan, 33, Karim Koubriti, 23, and Farouk Ali-Halmoud, 21.
"They stated they were Moroccan," FBI Special Agent Hank Glaspie said Wednesday, but added that under questioning they also said they were from Albania and Iran.
The men were arrested for possession of falsified documents, including U.S. immigration forms and a visa, and agents in Boston arrested a fourth man, Nabil Al-Marabh, who is on the FBI's watch list of suspects or potential witnesses related to the bombings.
Marabh "was arrested Wednesday night near Boston at 10:45 pm. He was on! the FBI watch list," one of more than 100 people wanted for questioning in conjunction with the attacks on Washington and New York, FBI spokeswoman Mary Muha said.
Muha said authorities also had issued a previous arrest warrant for Marabh, 34, for an alleged knife assault outside Boston in March 2000.
FBI investigators said Wednesday Marabh could be a link between the terrorists and Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born millionaire named by the U.S. government as its primary suspect behind the deadly strikes.
A state spokeswoman said Marabh holds a commercial driver's license, originally obtained using Canadian identification documents, allowing him to drive trucks and transport hazardous materials.
A search of the Detroit house where the other three were arrested uncovered materials believed to belong to Marabh, including diagrams of that city's international airport and information about a U.S. military base in Turkey.
Federal agents, who are ! sifting through more than 96,000 leads in their search for the perpetrators of last week's attacks, believe the four hijacked airplanes which terrorists turned into guided missiles, were only the beginning of an onslaught on U.S. targets.
"We cannot rule out that additional aircraft were targeted," Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday while touring the Pentagon crash site, where 189 people are confirmed to have died.
To facilitate the investigation, Ashcroft revised regulations governing the detention of immigrants, giving the Immigration and Naturalization Service 48 hours to decide whether or not to charge an immigrant in custody or "additional reasonable time, if necessary," instead of the previous 24.
Habib Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national of Algerian background, was detained in Minnesota on August 17th for illegally entering the United States.
Moussaoui had enrolled at a number of pilot training schools, including one in Oklahom! a where he appeared more concerned with learning how to steer a plane than being taught how to land. The FBI has asked France for information about Moussaoui, who had traveled several times to Afghanistan, where bin Laden is in hiding.
Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, detained in Texas and transported to New York when they were found carrying $5,000 in cash and box cutters, have also been booked as material witnesses, and are suspected to have been foiled in an effort to hijack a fifth aircraft.
Saudi-born radiologist al-Bader al-Hazmi was also detained. He is believed to have provided technical or financial support to the five hijackers who crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon. He shares a surname with two of the men identified as having hijacked that flight.
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