Report: Bin Laden Operative in Jordan Linked to Suspects in US Attacks
A report by the New York Times on Monday said that federal investigators are examining a possible link between the hijackers who crashed into the World Trade Center and alleged operatives for Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden who plotted to attack US and Israeli targets in Jordan on January 1, 2000.
Two of the suspected hijackers, Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam al-Suqami, have been identified by federal agents as being tied to a former Boston cab driver who is now on trial as a suspected ringleader of the millennium bomb plot, which was foiled by the Jordanian authorities, said the paper, citing officials.
US President George Bush and other officials have described bin Laden as the prime suspect in last week's attacks, but the link between the hijackers and the former cab driver, Raed M. Hijazi, is among the first specific pieces of evidence that connect the hijackers to important associates of bin Laden, said the officials.
It is also one of the first indications that the hijackers might have been linked to operatives of bin Laden who were previously known by the authorities to be living in the United States, they added.
Federal officials would not discuss the nature of the ties between the hijackers and Hijazi, other than to say that all three of them shared a relationship with a suspected operative for bin Laden who also lived for a time in the Boston area.
That man, Nabil al Marabh, 34, had been linked to Alghamdi and Suqami as part of an earlier investigation by the United States Customs Service, one official said. A Customs Service spokesman, Dennis Murphy, said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the inquiry.
The two hijackers were on separate flights that left Boston for Los Angeles last Tuesday, sources told the paper.
Suqami, who was said by an official to have entered the United States on May 26, was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, the first one that crashed into the trade center complex.
Alghamdi, who neighbors said lived in Pensacola, Fla., until last August, was on United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the South Tower of the trade center.
Two other suspected hijackers who have also been linked to bin Laden's network, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhamzi, had been sought by the federal authorities before last week's attacks.
Officials said the two men, who flew into the United States through Los Angeles on June 29, had been detected by the Central Intelligence Agency at a meeting of operatives for bin Laden in Malaysia in January 2000, the paper said.
Midhar's name had also emerged as part of an investigation by American intelligence officials into the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen in October 2000, an official said.
American officials said law enforcement officials had developed evidence linking other suspects in the Sept. 11 plot to people involved in previous attacks that the United States government has blamed on bin Laden, including the 1998 bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa.
The plot in Jordan was one of a series of actions that American officials said were planned around the world by members of bin Laden's network to coincide with celebrations of the millenium.
According to the Jordanian authorities, who foiled the plan, associates of bin Laden had planned to blow up holy sites, a major tourist hotel and other targets in Jordan.
In September of last year, Hijazi was convicted in absentia of being one of the two men who planned the attacks.
He was arrested in Syria one month later and was subsequently sent to Jordan, where he is now being tried on the same charges by a military court. His lawyer, Jalal Darwish, has said he is not guilty.
American officials said that after Hijazi was imprisoned in Jordan, he began to cooperate with investigators there and identified Marabh as an operative in the United States of Al Qaeda, the group that bin Laden, a Saudi-born multimillionaire, founded in Afghanistan 13 years ago to wage holy war throughout the world – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)