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Headline: Terror Plot Foiled; Bin Laden Operative Revealed Targets, Terrorists' Names

Source: ABC News, 27 September 2001


WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 An ambitious terrorist plot to attack a host of American interests overseas was foiled when a captured Osama bin Laden operative divulged the list of targets and the identities of his fellow conspirators, sources tell ABCNEWS.

Intelligence sources in Europe and the United States say the intended targets included the U.S. Embassy in Paris, the U.S. Consulate in Marseilles, France, buildings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France.

The outlines of the plan were known to French and American authorities before Sept. 11, but the attacks were not scheduled to take place until much later this year. Authorities had reportedly been surveilling the suspected terrorist cells for several weeks but moved in quickly after the attacks on New York and suburban Washington.

Sources tell ABCNEWS the terrorist ring was broken-up after key bin Laden operative Djamel Begal, an Algerian national, was captured this summer in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Begal, under interrogation by Dubai authorities, revealed the list of targets and the identities of other members of the ring.

Sources say the terrorist ring was made up of roughly 50 individuals, 30 of whom have been taken into custody in France, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. Twenty are still being sought in a manhunt across Europe.

Arrests made in connection with the plot include:

Six Algerian men arrested in Spain on Wednesday: Mohamed Belaziz, Mohamed Boualem Khnouni, Ocine Khouni, Madjid Sahouane, Yasin Seddiki and Hakim Zerzour.

Seven men arrested in pre-dawn raids in France on Sept. 21. All seven have been placed under formal investigation.

Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian man arrested in Belgium on Sept. 13, two days after the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Jerome Courtailler, a Frenchman arrested in the Netherlands also on Sept. 13.

New Arrests in Possible Truck Terror Plot

Amid heightened concern that terrorists may have been planning to use large tanker trucks for an attack in the United States, 10 individuals were arrested Wednesday on charges of fraudulently obtaining licenses to transport hazardous materials.

Four people Mustafa Al-Aboody, Haider Al-Tamimi, Hussain Sudani and Ali Al-Azawi, aka Al-Gazawi were arrested in Seattle; one man, Wather Al-Atabi, was arrested in Kansas City, Mo.; and four people were taken into custody in Detroit. The location of the 10th arrest was not immediately known.

All 10 are linked to a Department of Motor Vehicle agent in Pittsburgh who has admitted providing up to 30 fraudulent commercial driver's licenses to people of Middle Eastern descent between July 8, 1999, and Feb. 4, 2000, in exchange for bribes of $50 to $100. Court documents released Wednesday showed investigators had confirmed that 20 male individuals obtained licenses and 18 had obtained hazmat endorsements.

The string of arrests comes a week after the FBI arrested Nabil Al-Marabh, who also had obtained a hazmat license. Al-Marabh has been linked to Osama bin Laden's failed plot to kill American tourists in Jordan during the millennium celebration and investigators believe he has ties to at least two of the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks. He was taken into custody in Burbank, Ill., just outside Chicago.

Two of three men arrested at Al-Marabh's apartment in Detroit last week Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan had also attended a truck-driving school. Koubriti obtained a hazmat license. It was not known whether the men arrested on Wednesday also had ties to the hijackers.

The Department of Transportation has alerted the trucking industry to "be aware that numerous terrorist threats have been reported since Sept. 11, including unconfirmed reporting regarding potential use of chemical, biological, and/or radiological/nuclear [weapons of mass destruction]."

Suspects Held Without Bail

A Virginia security guard with suspected links to the hijackers who piloted a jet into the Pentagon was held without bail on Wednesday as investigators tried to determine whether he was involved in the attacks.

Though Mohamed Abdi was formally held for allegedly forging his landlord's checks, he was under the guard of four U.S. Marshals and denied bail because a federal prosecutor and FBI agent portrayed him as a potentially critical witness in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"He's a material witness to the most heinous crime ever perpetrated against America," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Spencer told U.S. Magistrate Curtis Sewell in Alexandria, Va. Were Abdi to be released on bond for the check-forging charges, Spencer said, the government would immediately charge him as a material witness in the attacks.

FBI agent Kevin Ashby testified that Abdi's phone number was found written on a road map in a car registered to one of the suspected hijackers. Agents also found four diagrams of a Boeing 757 jet cockpit, maps of New York and Washington, a check made out to an Arizona flight school and a box-cutter, like those believed used to subdue passengers and crew on the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11.

The car, which was registered to suspected hijacker Nawaq Al-Hazmi, was found parked at Dulles International Airport the day after the attacks. Al-Hazmi was believed to be one of the men who seized control of American Airlines Flight 77, a 757 airplane, after it took off from Dulles. The plane's crash into the Pentagon is believed to have killed 189 people: 124 on the ground and 64 on the flight. Two other flights were piloted into the World Trade Center towers in New York. The fourth crashed in a field outside Pittsburgh.

Asbhy also claimed to have found Adbi carrying a newspaper clipping about Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999.

A second man was held without bail on Wednesday in connection with the attacks. Judge Sewell granted the government's request to continue holding Herbert Villalobos, who is charged with helping five of the suspected hijackers fraudulently obtain Virginia driver's licenses. Though his defense attorney argued Villalobos was not involved in the hijackings, the judge ruled that "the defendant certainly unlawfully engaged in acts that contributed" to the attacks.

Abdi and Villalobos are two of more than 300 individuals arrested and detained by the federal government, often on charges unrelated to the hijackings.

ABCNEWS has learned investigators have recovered from at least one crash site and other locations tied to the hijackers, writings portraying their hatred for America and the glory of martyrdom. One law enforcement source tells ABCNEWS that given that level of hatred, authorities can afford to take no chances.

-- Andre Weltman (, September 27, 2001


"Djamel Begal, an Algerian national, was captured this summer in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Begal, under interrogation by Dubai authorities, revealed the list of targets and the identities of other members of the ring." 10 to 1 ODDS THEY DIDN'T ASK NICELY

-- Steve McClendon (, September 27, 2001.

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