Archive for Sunday, September 23, 2001

Boxcutters found on grounded flights

Discovery lends to suspicion that more than four airliners were targeted for hijackings

September 23, 2001


— Box-cutting tools like those used by hijackers were found on airliners grounded by the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities said Saturday, as investigators linked a man arrested in London with one of the terrorist pilots.

The discoveries could indicate that attackers planned to commandeer more than the four planes that crashed into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and a field in western Pennsylvania, said the president of a traveler's advocacy group.

"We don't know how many of the hijackers that actually died were pilots, but there was suspicion that a lot more planes were going to be hit," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Assn.

A law enforcement source said one of four people arrested Friday in England took flying lessons at the same Arizona school, and at the same time, as a terrorist in the Pentagon attack.

The 27-year-old man left the United States before the hijackings, said the investigator, who is familiar with the probe but insisted on anonymity. The man, his wife, 25, and his brother, 29, were arrested in west London by Scotland Yard.

A fourth man, in his 40s, was arrested in Birmingham, north of London.

Their names were not released.

The 29-year-old man was released from custody Saturday, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said.

The individuals in custody had not been cooperating with authorities, the law enforcement source said.

"They have direct connections to the suicide pilots," a second law enforcement source, also involved in the terrorist investigation, told The Associated Press Saturday.

The FBI has identified a Hani Hanjour as one of the terrorists who attacked the Pentagon. FAA records show a Hani Hanjoor as receiving a commercial pilot's license in 1999, listing a post office box in Saudi Arabia as his address.

T. Gerald Chilton Jr., a corporate officer for CRM Airline Training Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., said a man named Hani Hanjoor received pilot training there for three months in 1996, and in December 1997.

He put down a $100 deposit toward additional training in 1997, but did not attend more classes.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller confirmed that box-cutting tools were discovered when planes were scoured for evidence after airliners were ordered grounded just after the attacks.

Miller said he couldn't confirm how many box-cutters were found or the routes the planes were flying. But another government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were discovered on two planes.

The Washington Post said the tools were found under adjoining seat cushions on a flight that originated in Boston, and in the trash bin of another plane that was bound for Brussels from Atlanta.

Before the attacks, federal regulations allowed knives with blades up to 4 inches, although state and local laws could be more restrictive

l Airline pilots, flight attendants rethink safety measures. Page 8A.

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