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Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Investigation dragnet widens

Two black boxes located; international agencies check leads

September 14, 2001


— U.S. investigators pressed Thursday to identify terrorist collaborators who may still be in a position to strike more Americans, and agents located critical "black boxes" from two of Tuesday's hijacked planes.

Four U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that authorities are investigating the possibility that some terrorists involved with Tuesday's plots are still at large.

A police car stands in front of a house in Hamburg, northern
Germany, while agents search an apartment where two men believed to
be linked to the terror attacks in the United States once lived.
The apartment has been uninhabited since February.

A police car stands in front of a house in Hamburg, northern Germany, while agents search an apartment where two men believed to be linked to the terror attacks in the United States once lived. The apartment has been uninhabited since February.

Five men who tried to board a plane Thursday in New York were being questioned, officials said. One of the men had a false pilot's identification. The five were identified as the same men who had tried to board a plane around the time of Tuesday's hijackings, but were turned away.

The FBI sent the airline industry a list of 52 people wanted for questioning. Airlines were asked to alert agents if any of the individuals were spotted.

The FBI searched the country and abroad for possible suspects who had recent flight training, ties to the hijackers or their backers, or attempted to enter the United States recently, said these officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Agents have been examining manifests of flights that were not hijacked on Tuesday, to find matches with people who fit this profile, the officials said.

The concerns are also being driven by fresh intelligence suggesting a continuing threat, the officials added.

The information "suggests we haven't seen the end of this current threat," one U.S. official said. He cited concerns terrorists may strike in a different manner now that airport security has been beefed up.

Immigration violations

A number of people questioned in connection with the plot have been arrested for immigration violations and were in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a Justice Department official said.

The department had previously said people were detained, including at least a half dozen in Massachusetts and Florida, because of immigration problems. But it wasn't until late Thursday that officials revealed that those people had been arrested.

The INS has 48 hours after arrest to charge someone violating immigration rules. Some of those detained could be charged today, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In Minnesota, the possibility emerged that the FBI knew before Tuesday's attack of at least one Arab man seeking the type of flight training the hijackers received.

U.S. officials confirmed that a few weeks ago the FBI detained an Arab man in Minnesota when he tried to seek flight simulator training for a large jetliner. Those who hijacked the four airliners received similar training.

Officials said the FBI had no reason to charge him at the time and instead began deportation proceedings. Those proceedings were ongoing when the attacks took place Tuesday, and he was re-detained. He was not cooperating with the FBI.

Black boxes found

Investigators recovered a black box flight recorder from the hijacked plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and picked up a signal from the recorder in the jet that slammed into the Pentagon.

The recorders could contain information about the last minutes of the hijacked commercial jetliners.

FBI Special Agent Bill Crowley said the recorder in Pennsylvania was found at about 4:20 p.m. EDT in the 8-foot crater caused by the crash. Crowley said the recorder would be analyzed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

"We're hoping it will have some information pertinent to what happened on the plane," Crowley said. "This development is going to help a lot."

The FBI has a transcript of communications between the pilots and air traffic controllers for a portion of the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, but has not yet released it, officials said.

International assistance

Overseas, German authorities said three of the terrorists who died in the suicide attacks were part of a group of Islamic extremists in Hamburg who have been planning attacks on the United States.

Hamburg investigators said two of the terrorists were Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Alshehhi, 23, whose training at a Florida flight school has been the focus of intense FBI interest this week. The German investigators said the two were from the United Arab Emirates.

Acting on a tip from the FBI, police in Hamburg detained one man and were seeking another. The police did not say how the detainee might have been linked to the attacks.

An FBI official was headed for the Azores Islands to interview two Iranians detained a week ago after they tried to travel to Canada with fake passports, authorities said. Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Rafael Macedo said officials are searching the country for at least nine people who may have helped plan the attacks.

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