Investigators in Europe Seek 14 Jet Pilots With Links to Taliban, Bin Laden : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Investigators in Europe Seek 14 Jet Pilots With Links to Taliban, Bin Laden

AP Attorney General John Ashcroft Monday, October 01, 2001

U.S. counter-terrorism officials and investigators on Monday were urgently seeking 14 jet pilots trained in Afghanistan who have fought for the Taliban or have ties to prime suspect Usama bin Laden, Fox News has learned.

Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Sunday of a 'very serious threat' of additional terrorist attacks within the United States.,2933,35467,00.html

Investigators were searching for the pilots, described as Muslim fundamentalists, in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, England and the Netherlands. They said the men were from Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as several Middle Eastern countries.

Authorities believe several of the pilots, trained by Ariana, Afghanistan's national airline, speak English very well, and that most if not all of them have fake U.S. passports.

The Taliban have helped bin Laden train pilots by allowing his terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, to use grounded Ariana jets as classrooms, U.S. officials said. Ariana has been grounded by a U.N. flight ban.

The Might-Have-Been 20th Hijacker

Investigators in Germany have discovered that hijacker Mohamed Atta received at least one phone call from Zaccarias Moussaoui, a suspect in U.S. custody since August 17, U.S. government officials told Fox News.

Officials said Moussauoi had manuals about jet aircraft in his apartment and would have been the 20th hijacker if he hadn't been under arrest.

Moussaoui had been under surveillance in the U.S. in August after European authorities alerted U.S. counter-terrorism agents that he had ties to Al Qaeda. He was arrested after he asked flight school instructors to teach him how to fly straight, rather than take off or land.

Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan origin, lived in Brixton, England, until July, where he associated with several people now known to have ties to bin Laden.

Atta, believed to be one of the key planners of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, traveled extensively in Spain right before that date, where he met with known associates of bin Laden. Atta shared an apartment with two other hijackers in Hamburg, Germany, until last year.

Man Charged With Helping Hijackers

A Virginia man has been charged with helping obtain false identification documents for two men accused of crashing a jetliner into the Pentagon Sept. 11, according to a criminal compliant unsealed Monday.

Luis Martinez-Flores, 28, of Falls Church, was charged Friday with falsely certifying that Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar lived at his Falls Church address.

Martinez-Flores was the second person charged in Virginia with assisting the hijackers with false documents. On Monday, authorities disclosed the arrest of Kenys Galicia, accused by the FBI of helping numerous people obtain false Virginia documents. The FBI said she admitted on Sept. 19 that she signed residency certification forms for two of the suspected hijackers, Abdulaziz Alomari and Ahmed Saleh Alghamdi.

Martinez-Flores' name first appeared Sept. 19 on a list of hijack suspects the FBI sent to banks looking for financial transactions.

Salvadoran national police director Mauricio Sandoval said last week that Martinez-Flores may have moved around with the terrorists in New York, Boston or Florida.

In the affidavit unsealed Monday, the FBI said Martinez-Flores was at a convenience store in northern Virginia Aug. 1 looking for day labor work when Almihdhar and Hanjour drove up in a van looking for someone to sign Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle forms for them.

Martinez-Flores, a Salvadoran immigrant, was taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service on Sept. 15. Officials said he has been living unlawfully in the United States since 1994, but since his detention, he has continued to speak voluntarily with the FBI.

Authorities last week arrested Herbert Villalobos on charges of helping Alomari obtain a false Virginia ID card on Aug. 2 by certifying that he was a Virginia resident. Villalobos was ordered held without bond after a detention hearing Sept. 26.

Suspect Extradited to Paris

A man said to be at the center of a plot to attack U.S. interests in France and linked to bin Laden has been extradited from the United Arab Emirates and jailed in Paris, judicial officials said Monday.

Djamel Beghal was being questioned by French anti-terrorism judges following his extradition Sunday, according to officials, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. French police have quietly linked Beghal to bin Laden.

Beghal, 35, a French-Algerian, was the second person extradited to France in connection with the plot.

British authorities extradited Kamel Daoudi, 27, on Saturday. Daoudi had fled to Britain as French police moved in on seven other people on Sept. 21.

Beghal confessed to authorities that there was a plot to attack American interests, including the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

French Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant said in a radio interview on Sunday that the plot to attack U.S. interests in France was not connected to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Authorities have now tied Beghal to others arrested in the Netherlands and in Belgium. Six Algerians being held in Spain are believed by authorities to have direct links with others arrested in Europe in connection with the plot to attack U.S. interests on the continent, Spanish officials said.

Terror Fund-Raising Continues

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that he has seen "incontrovertible" evidence linking bin Laden to the terror attacks on the United States.

"I have seen absolutely powerful and incontrovertible evidence of his link to the events of the 11th of September," Blair told the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Breakfast with Frost program.

Two days after bin Laden reportedly claimed that freezing his assets would not hurt him, Al Qaeda's fundraising has actually increased, government officials told Fox News.

One company named by President Bush as having had its assets frozen is still raising money, publishing a controversial newsletter and planning to circulate a picture of an unmanned spy plane that was allegedly shot down last week.

The "Al-Rasheed Trust," based in Islamabad, Pakistan, continues to be functional even though Pakistan has complied and frozen some bank accounts.

Government officials said Al-Rasheed is an unassuming set of offices just down the street from the presidential palace in Islamabad that takes donations with no questions asked.

Officials said Al- Rasheed is distributing a newsletter called "Sparks prelude of a big fire" that says Allah will "protect the nation from the fire which the Jews want to provoke."

Al-Rasheed is asking for contributions to help "Muslim causes" in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Pakistan, but government sources said the newsletter warns donors not to ask how their contributions will be used.

The Al-Rasheed Web site said "it is compulsory and a debt of Muslims to provide moral, political, military and financial support to the heroes of Islam."

Officials said Islamic radicals are "passing the hat" in Muslim communities worldwide to raise money for militant operations.

Sources said the efforts are particularly aggressive in Pakistan, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. In Europe, sources said the fundraising efforts are known in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, England and Sweden.

More Suspects, More Arrests

In Jordan, authorities arrested about a half-dozen suspected Muslim militants in a second sweep since the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said Monday.

The detained include Issam Barqawi, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent who was acquitted of conspiracy charges to carry out terrorist attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets during New Year's 2000 celebrations in Jordan.

Several people suspected of links to global terrorism were arrested over the past few days in Bosnia, including two who were found with box cutters near Sarajevo's airport, authorities said Monday.

In London Monday, police arrested a 43-year-old man under anti-terrorism legislation but refused to say whether he was suspected of links to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Authorities there also were continuing to hold a 36-year-old man who was arrested under anti-terrorism laws at London's Gatwick airport.

Separately, police continued to question Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot who prosecutors said is the first overseas suspect to be directly linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes.

Prosecutors have described Raissi, 27, as a flight instructor for some of the hijackers who flew a plane into the Pentagon. He denies any involvement in the attacks.

Court Hearing for 1986 Hijack-Slay Suspect

U.S. officials say Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini faces a court hearing in Anchorage, Alaska, today and is likely to be moved to Washington to face trial on a 1991 federal indictment for the murder of two Americans, stemming from the Sept. 5, 1986, hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Pakistan.

Twenty-two people were killed in that hijacking. Justice officials say Safarini appears to have no connection to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, since he was in jail in Pakistan for 14 years, but he was believed to be part of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization. Officials say the U.S. government took Safarini into custody in Pakistan after he was released after 14 years in a Pakistani jail.

Ashcroft said Safarini's arrest proves that the U.S. is determined to track down terrorists.

"Terrorism is a threat to the United States and the entire world and it will not be tolerated," Ashcroft said in a written statement. "This arrest demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. to track down persons charged with having committed terrorist acts against Americans, no matter how long it takes."

Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker wouldn't say whether Safarini's sudden appearance in U.S. custody should be taken as a sign of goodwill from Pakistan. "He's here, and that says a lot," Tucker said.

Fox News' Carl Cameron and Bryan Sierra and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 01, 2001

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