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Saturday, September 15, 2001    High 89°F   Low 72°F    Local Forecast & More Weather  




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 Terrorist Tragedy
 
Published Saturday, September 15, 2001

Hijack plotters used S. Florida as a cradle for conspiracy

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI AND MANNY GARCIA
aviglucci@herald.com

South Florida was the base of operations for six pilots who the FBI believes slammed four jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside, killing thousands.



In South Florida
Hijack plotters used S. Florida as a cradle for conspiracy
Local troops, ready and eager, await word on call to duty
A vista of stars, stripes and unity
In works of red, white and blue, kids express sorrow

A day of remembrance
A time to pray
Nation gathers in grief
America's leader finds new role in difficult hour
Gore prays with former boss

Taking action
Bush rallies the nation
Dealing with 'kamikazes'
Congress tells Bush he's free to be tough
Call going out to reservists for active duty
U.S. places big jet-fuel order
The CEO of terror: Bin Laden the financier of a broad network
Operation to capture bin Laden full of risks
U.S. seeks Pakistani cooperation on attacks

Investigation continues
Person called material witness in custody
FBI warned of suspect before attacks
Suicide pilot was seen as devout and aloof
Fake ties to nation aided entry to U.S.
FBI: Analysis yields some data

In New York
An emotional tour in New York
Relatives converge on armory for information on loved ones
Morgan Stanley two-timer hero last seen on 10th floor

In Washington
'Your worst nightmare'

At the airports
U.S. airspace closure a hard blow to regional economies
Travel curbed, firms use Net
New rules shrouded in secrecy
Traffic remains light at airports
Congress considering $15 billion in aid for beleaguered airlines
Memorial service for airline workers is today at 11

Ethnic backlash
Fear of backlash rife
Daytona Muslims feeling shunned
Temple security will be tighter
Two Pakistanis removed from cruise ship

Around the nation
Falwell: Gays, liberals, feminists at fault
Coverage cute news outlets' revenues
POll says most Americans back war on terrorism

Around the world
European leaders back 'measured' response to terror attacks
From Iceland to Iran, millions pause to mourn and reflect
Majority of Latin countries seem ready to support U.S.
Castro condemns attacks, offer medical help; TV follows tragedy
Muslim leaders air views on attacks
Poor, war-weary Afghans brace for U.S. retaliatory strikes
Arab governments search for possible links to terror strikes

Previous coverage
Day-by-day coverage


All told, 14 of the 19 hijack suspects identified Friday by the FBI lived in South Florida, hopscotching through homes and motels as they apparently plotted the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.

The likely lure: Florida's reputation as one of the nation's premier locations for aviation instruction. While here, several received pilot training in the region's renowned flight schools, interviews and records show.

The release of the list of suspects Friday adds to the mounting evidence.

Seven of the men possibly lived in Delray Beach, the FBI said. The list also includes five men already identified in news reports as hijackers with ties to Florida. In addition, The Herald tied a 13th suspect to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and a 14th man to Boynton Beach.

Two of the newly identified suspects, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, bought two airline tickets to Newark last week at Mile High Travel in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. ``One way,'' an employee said. They paid $279.50 for the tickets, plus service charge, in cash.

The tickets were for a Spirit Airlines flight on Sept. 7, four days before the suicide hijacking. The FBI says Alghamdi and Alnami died on United Airlines flight 93, which flew from Newark and crashed in Pennsylvania.

Another significant element: At least five of the suspected hijackers apparently came to Florida from Germany, three of them from the northern city of Hamburg, which German authorities say is a hotbed of Islamic extremism.

One of the newly identified figures in the plot, Ziad Jarrahi, rented an apartment in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea for two months this summer, the owner said. Landlord Charles Lisa said Jarrahi and another hijacking suspect who shared the apartment, Ahmed Alhaznawi, both provided German passports as proof of identity.

Lisa said both told him they were taking flying lessons in the area.

The FBI said both died in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania.

NAME VARIES

``Ahmed spelled his name a little different than what was on the manifest, but it's definitely him, and Ziad went by the name of Jarrahi Ziad,'' Lisa said Friday, a day after the FBI searched the apartment.

Federal Aviation Administration records show a pilot's certificate in the name of Ziad Jarrah with a Hamburg address.

Two of the central suspects, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, were enrolled at a university in Hamburg before coming to Florida. And they shared an apartment with a third man -- Waleed Al Shehri -- who was also among the dead hijacking suspects, German authorities and media reports say. Al Shehri graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in 1997 and is listed as having a commercial pilot's certificate.

The Hamburg connection has drawn particular interest because German authorities believe it to be a European base for the organization of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi who U.S. authorities say is their prime suspect in the attacks. German counter-terrorism officials say they are keeping track of more than 1,000 Arab extremists in Hamburg.

STUDIES IN GERMANY

In Hamburg, Atta studied town planning and civil engineering for almost nine years. Alshehhi was enrolled for just one year and may not have attended classes.

Public records indicate the two men arrived in Florida during the past year. Both attended various flight schools. They bounced around cheap rooms in Coral Springs and Hollywood. Alshehhi had a commercial pilot's certificate. It wasn't known whether Atta had one.

Germany's top prosecutor, Kay Nehmn, said Atta and Al-Shehhi organized a terrorist group in Hamburg committed to attacking important American targets. The other suspects with South Florida ties are: Wail Alshehri; Abdulaziz Alomari; Fayez Ahmed; Ahmed Alghamdi; Hamza Alghamdi; Mohald Alshehri; Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami.

The FBI also named as suspects Khalid Al-Midhar; Majed Moged; Nawaq Alhamzi; Salem Alhamzi; Hani Hanjour and Satam Al Suqami.

The FBI said the last known address for Al Suqami was in the United Arab Emirates. However, a check of Florida driver's license records showed Al Suqami with an address at an extended-stay motel, the Homing Inn, on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach.

The night manager there said the room had actually been rented by Waleed Al Shehri, the Embry-Riddle graduate, for a month beginning in June. The manager said she saw two other men with Al Shehri, but didn't know whether they were staying with him.

The night manager, who asked not to be identified, said the motel's owners told her the FBI had been there Thursday and looked at the room, but it had been rented to other people in the meantime.

SPELLINGS AN OBSTACLE

U.S. investigators say they are having difficulty pinpointing the suspects' movements because of differences in spelling the Arabic names. Many of the suspects also likely used assumed identities or varying versions of their names to keep authorities off their track, they said.

``This was well thought-out and planned to avoid detection, to not raise a red flag,'' a law enforcement source said.

Investigators suspect that documents used by the Florida hijackers to enter the United States and enroll in flight schools were obtained using false identities at U.S. consulates. The assumed identities could complicate the U.S. investigation of possible terrorist affiliations.

PROFILE EMERGING

However, agents said Friday they were quickly building an ``extensive'' profile of the 14 hijackers who spent time in Florida.

``Although they paid nearly everything in cash, we're finding there is a good paper trail,'' said one investigator familiar with the probe.

Landlords and neighbors said the suspects shared a common denominator: They were quiet, not social, and paid their rents in advance, all in cash.

``They paid all the rent up front,'' said Gordon Anderson, 83, who rented a Delray Beach studio -- about 700 square feet -- to Marwan Alshehhi and another man for two months earlier this summer.

The rent: around $2,000.

In a news conference Friday, FBI Director Robert Mueller sidestepped a question over whether Delray Beach and Hollywood, the two most common addresses on the suspects list, served as a base of operations for the plotters.

``All I can say, that there are a number of places in the country, without specifying any particular place, where we have conducted a number of interviews and executed several search warrants,'' he said.

But investigators were clearly focusing a significant portion of their effort in South Florida, where they continued serving search warrants on Friday and pursuing leads that sources said numbered around 1,000.

Agents believe the suspected hijackers had help from local sympathizers who provided money and other support to the plot.

``They clearly got some help or at least they had sympathizers here,'' a law enforcement source said. ``That's common sense.''

Investigators have compiled a growing list of cellphone records, which could soon provide a chronology of how the suspected hijackers plotted Tuesday's attacks. Investigators want to know everyone the suspects talked to in the time leading up to the attacks.

The investigators were also building a list of pilots from the different flight schools, including FlightSafety in Vero Beach, where some suspects had trained.

The investigators may have gotten a break from Lisa, the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea landlord.

He said he was able to provide the FBI with photocopies of Jarrahi and Alhaznawi's German passports.

The agents seized a green notebook, a videotape, a napkin with Arabic writing on it, several Arabic newspapers that were stuffed between the mattress and the boxsprings and a greeting card, property receipts show.

NO SUSPICIONS RAISED

Lisa said he never suspected anything was amiss with his tenants, who rented a small apartment attached to his home from early July to the end of August.

He said Jarrahi told him he had moved to Germany from Lebanon several years ago with his father, an engineer working in Germany.

``They said they were pilots taking flying lessons at one of the airports around here,'' said Lisa, 64. ``They had quite a few visitors who used to walk up to the apartment.''

Lisa said he liked his tenants.

``They seemed like the kind of young men you would take to a baseball game,'' Lisa said. ``Very polite, friendly, nice. It's hard to believe they would do something like this.

``When they left I asked them for a forwarding address,'' Lisa said. ``But Ahmed just smiled at me and said ``I'll send you a postcard.' ''

Herald staff writers Wanda J. DeMarzo, Oscar Corral, David Kidwell, Alfonso Chardy, Phil Long and Curtis Morgan contributed to this report.


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DOWNLOAD: Images of the American flag
VIDEO: S. Florida Connection -- Reports from NBC6.net
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VICTIMS' NAMES: Search the RealCities database
THE SCENE: Video, audio, first-hand accounts
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PHOTOS: Slide show of the terrorist tragedy
MORE PHOTOS: Slide show from RealCities
Graphics
Untitled Document

(Click on any image
for a larger one)
A look at the
World Trade Center attack
world trade center plane & map -- click for a larger image
About the World Trade Center
World Trade Center map -- click for a larger image
World Trade Center Diagram -- click for a larger image
A look at the Pentagon Attack
Pentagon plane & map -- click for a larger image
About the Pentagon
Pentagon Diagram -- click for a larger image
A look at the Pennsylvania crash:
Pennsylvania plane & map -- click for a larger image
President Bush's itinerary Tuesday:
Bush Itinerary on Tuesday -- click for a larger image
Credits: Hiram Henriquez, Lynn Occhiuzzo, Herald Staff; Robertson Adams, Special to the Herald; KRT; AP; Herald Wires.
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