FBI Acknowledges Identities Of Some Hijackers Are In Question

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FBI Acknowledges Identities Of Some Hijackers Are In Question

WASHINGTON (AP) 9.20.01, 10:40a --

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged today that authorities have questions about the identities of several of the 19 hijackers whose names the FBI released last week.

"We have several hijackers whose identities were those of the names on the manifest, we have several others who are still in question," Mueller said in Shanksville, Pa., at the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.

"The investigation is ongoing and I am not certain as to several of the others," he said.

Saudi officials have questioned whether some of the hijackers stole the identities of Saudi citizens. A list of 21 hijacking suspects sent to banking officials Wednesday by the FBI also suggested that one of those identified may still be alive.

Mueller, touring the crash site with Attorney General John Ashcroft, also called the passengers aboard Flight 93 "absolute heroes" for their actions during the flight, the only one of four hijacked planes that did not strike a terrorist target. He said authorities are working to transcribe and translate voices recorded in the cockpit just before the crash.

Ashcroft vowed to "leave no stone unturned" to ensure there's no recurrence of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Several of the passengers on Flight 93 made cell phone calls saying they planned to attack their captors.

Meanwhile, the FBI said that Nabil Al-Marabh, 34, who is on the list of people wanted for questioning, was taken into custody Wednesday night outside Chicago.

FBI spokeswoman Mary Muha said he was being held on a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service request and a warrant issued in Boston for assault with a knife.

Federal agents had been looking for Al-Marabh since at least Monday. That day, they raided a Detroit house with his name on the mailbox and arrested three men after discovering false visas, passports and other ID, as well as what appeared to be a diagram of an airport flight line.

The FBI list that Al-Marabh is on includes suspects, potential associates of the suspects, and potential witnesses related to the attacks, the FBI said.

In Massachusetts, where Al-Marabh lived from at least 1989 to 2000, he had worked for the Boston Cab Co., according to state driver's license records.

State records also show Al-Marabh holds a commercial driver's license, is certified to transport hazardous materials and is licensed to drive trucks and other large vehicles.

With the number of people detained on immigration charges for questioning in the probe rising to 115, the FBI sent a list of the alleged hijackers to banks Wednesday asking bank officials to search for any financial transactions involving 21 people wanted in connection with the terrorist attacks.

"The FBI is requesting that all financial institutions check their records for any relationships or transactions with the named suspects," said a "Special Alert" dated Sept. 19 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"Any financial institution that identifies such a relationship, such as a bank account, or a transaction, such as a wire transfer, with any of the named suspects should complete and file a suspicious Activity Report ... and immediately contact" the FBI, the alert added.

The list mostly included the names of 19 Middle Eastern men previously identified by the FBI as the suspected hijackers. But the list identified one of those, Khalid al-Midhar, as possibly alive.

Saudi officials have told U.S. officials that as many as four people in their country with similar names or identical names to the hijackers are alive and that some fear their identities may have been stolen. The FBI is investigating, but hasn't reached any conclusions.

In August, al-Midhar was placed on a watch list after U.S. intelligence received information that a man with that name had been seen meeting with associates of accused terrorist Osama bin Laden in Malaysia, officials have said.

By the time al-Midhar's name was added to the list, U.S. officials believed he already had entered the country. His name was listed on the manifest of the American Airlines jet that crashed into the Pentagon.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were exploring several possibilities. One was that al-Midhar never entered the country and his name was simply used as an alias by one of the hijackers who died. Another possibility was that he allowed his name to be used on the flight by another hijacker, so that U.S. officials might assume he died, giving him time to escape the country. A third was that he did in fact die in the crash as a hijacker.

The Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed law enforcement official in Thursday's editions as saying FBI and CIA officials were advised in August that as many as 200 Islamists with terrorist leanings were slipping into this country and planning a major assault on the United States.

The advisory, passed on by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, cautioned that it had picked up indications of a large-scale target in the United States and that Americans would be very vulnerable, the official said. The paper said it is not known how U.S. authorities reacted to the warning.

The CIA denied that Thursday. "That is utter nonsense," said spokesman Bill Harlow.

The list sent to banks suggested one of the hijackers may have had a connection to Minnesota, where an Arab man was detained three weeks before the attacks after seeking flight training.

Banks were given three possible addresses to check for Abdulaziz Almomari, who was believed to be on an American Airlines flight out of Boston that crashed into the World Trade Center. One address was in Saudi Arabia, another in Vero Beach, Fla., and the third in St. Paul, Minn.

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), September 20, 2001

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