More terrorism feared : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread MORE TERRORISM FEARED

Investigators rush to round up nearly 200 for questioning


Federal authorities are scrambling to round up nearly 200 people with potential knowledge of last week's attacks amid concerns that terrorists connected to the plot may have planned further attacks as soon as this weekend.

One key strand of the investigation is focusing on four men who bought tickets for Saturday on two United Airlines flights, Flight 1429 from San Antonio to Denver and Flight 1185 from Denver to San Diego.

One of the men, a Saudi physician doing a residency at a University of Texas hospital in San Antonio, has been taken into custody and flown to New York for questioning. The other three men were being sought.

The physician, Albadar Al-Hazmi, 34, had an ``association'' with American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, according to a federal law enforcement list of people investigators want to question. The list, a copy of which was obtained by The Herald, provides few other details.

But the federal document shows investigators are examining whether Al-Hazmi may have used as an alias the name of Flight 77 hijack suspect Khalid Al Midhar. Two other suspected hijackers on that flight, Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Salem Al-Hazmi, have the same last name as the doctor, the document indicates.

Investigators say they are concerned about the possibility that attacks were planned for this weekend, particularly Saturday.``Yes, we have heard something about Sept. 22, but nothing specific,'' one source close to the investigation said. ``We have information that leads us to believe that there could be more attacks very soon. The same murky sources that indicated something might be coming in the weeks before the attacks have indicated something may be happening this weekend. It is our hope that we can stop it.''

Another official familiar with the investigation said preventing further attacks has become their first priority. So far, the FBI has detained 75 people and arrested four as material witnesses.``We are hunting down these people before something else happens,'' the source said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday investigators are looking into the possibility of other planned attacks. He said the FBI is checking the possibility that suicide hijackers were on board a fifth cross-country flight on Sept. 11 that was canceled minutes before its scheduled 8:10 a.m. departure from Boston due to a mechanical problem.

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate's intelligence committee, said Tuesday in an interview that he was told in briefings about the possibility of ``a series of terrorist attacks inside and outside the United States in forms that would probably be other than hijacking airplanes.''

But Graham warned against assuming that everyone on the federal list is necessarily a suspect. Some of the people on the list may have had no more than ``very casual relationships'' with the hijackers, he said. Investigators also believe some hijackers may have assumed other people's identities.

Although the list doesn't always specify why an individual is included on it, some on the list are linked to suspected hijackers or Internet addresses used by them. Others are Florida flight students from the Middle East and people linked to a thwarted terrorist plot in Jordan planned for millennium celebrations.

The list even includes a former antiques peddler in Boca Raton. Hady Omar Jr. was arrested in Arkansas the morning of the attacks, after flying from Palm Beach County to Houston. Federal authorities say he bought airline tickets using the same Internet log on as Mohamed Atta, who was on the first jet to hit the World Trade Center.

Another former Florida man sought for questioning, Nabil Al-Marabh, has alleged ties to Osama bin Laden, whom President Bush has identified as the ``prime suspect'' in last week's attacks. He shared a phone number with a hijacker on the jet that crashed into World Trade Center Two.

Vero Beach is the town most cited on the list. The Central Florida resort was home at one time or another to 27 of the 68 people who have known addresses on the list. Almost all of the Vero Beach men wanted for questioning are current or former Saudi Arabian Airline flight students. Vero Beach is home to a school run by FlightSafety International, but it was unclear whether any of the people on the list were enrolled there.

A spokesman for the school said the FBI told the school that there was no apparent connection between the hijackings and any past or present students at the academy.``They've talked to half the people on that list, but they don't bother to publish a list of the people they've cleared,'' the FlightSafety spokesman said. ``They just went down a list of the current class. Someone in the current class either had their ID stolen, or it was a case of mistaken identity.''

Investigators are keenly interested in Al-Hazmi, the Texas doctor, in part because they arrested two men in San Antonio on the day after the attacks. Ayub Ali Khan, 51, and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, 47, left the Newark, N.J., airport aboard a flight headed for San Antonio about the same time as the hijackings. When their flight was grounded in St. Louis, they boarded a train to San Antonio. Authorities who detained them found they were carrying box cutters, hair dye and thousands of dollars in cash, investigators say. Khan holds a commercial pilot's license, according to the federal list.

Meanwhile, the FBI and other federal investigators continued serving warrants at locations where the suspects or their possible associates may have stayed or done business. Agents also continued interviewing neighbors who may have known the hijackers or their associates.

On Tuesday afternoon, FBI agents searched an apartment at Grand Flamingo on South Beach after receiving a tip from Miami-Dade police who were serving an eviction notice on two men. Officers found box cutters and flight magazines. Judy Orihuela, FBI spokeswoman in South Florida, declined comment.

The FBI visited a Delray Beach gym where administrators believe as many as five suspected hijackers worked out in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. Gym employees pointed out three suspects from photographs Tuesday and said they recognized the men as members: Nawaf Al-Hazmi, Hamzah Saleh Al Ghamdi and Marwan Al Shehhi.

FBI agents also interviewed a martial arts instructor at US-1 Fitness in Dania Beach, where suspected hijacker Ziad Jarrah learned street-fighting techniques. The gym is less than a mile from the apartment where Jarrah lived on Harding Street in Hollywood.

Jarrah had a two-month membership to learn martial arts in July and August. When asked by gym instructors if he wanted another two-month membership in August, Jarrah reportedly told them he only needed one more month, according to a law enforcement source.

Herald Staff writers David Kidwell, Alfonso Chardy, Daniel de Vise and Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report.

-- Swissrose (, September 19, 2001

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