US and Europe Deepen Probe into Terror Suspects, Seek Bin Laden Link
"Some very probable terrorists" were being held in the United States, the Washington Post on Saturday quoted a US official as saying, as the global probe into last week's attacks netted more arrests.
Abroad, French and British anti-terrorist police between them detained 11 suspects, while Germany has issued two arrest warrants, as European forces investigate both planned attacks on US interests and links to the September 11 hijackings.
Yemen launched a crackdown on Arabs believed to have links to bin Laden, while Venezuela was investigating the bank account activity of some 11 people suspected of having ties to those involved in the US attacks.
In the United States, at least four people are being investigated as material witnesses, believed to have information vital to the case, and another 80 who may be able to shed light on the attack are being held on immigration concerns.
In addition, the FBI has extended to 237 the number of people it wants to question in connection with the suicide attacks in New York and Washington, an agent said Friday.
The Washington Post quoted an unnamed US official saying that many of the people detained in the country may well end up being cleared of any involvement.
But he also said: "There's a belief that we have some very probable terrorists in the group."
Investigators hope they can find links between the atrocity and the man Washington believes orchestrated it: Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden.
The New York Times reported Friday that detectives were trying to trace an older man who was allegedly seen visiting some of the suspected hijackers in at least two states prior to the September 11 assault.
"If you are preparing such an operation from overseas, you will want a sort of higher commander to coordinate the operations on the ground," said Peter Crooks, a former FBI agent who is an expert in the fight against terrorism.
"So there would have to be someone that has an overall understanding and who would be in touch with all the individuals involved," he said, adding that such a key figure would have the complete trust of the terrorists' leaders.
He would have to be "someone with a blood tie to bin Laden or a relative," or a fellow veteran who served with him in the Afghan campaign against the Russians," Crooks said. "This guy has to be from the inner circle of bin Laden."
US officials suspect that such a controller was used in the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, an attack for which Washington has indicted bin Laden.
The US probe into last week's attacks is the largest in US history, involving 7,000 investigators, including 4,000 federal agents.
Some of them were Friday quizzing 34-year-old Nabil Marabh, arrested near Chicago on Wednesday on suspicion of having aided the 19 Middle Eastern men who the FBI has said hijacked the planes.
Officials have reportedly tied Marabh to close associates of bin Laden, which could implicate the Afghan-based extremist in the attack. But investigators are facing major problems in solving the complex riddle.
FBI chief Robert Mueller has conceded that at least some of the 19 hijackers may have used false identification to board the planes, making it tougher to identify them and their associates and to finger bin Laden's involvement -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)