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Four terrorists in US
attacks visited Manila

Posted: 11:46 PM (Manila Time) | September 19, 2001
By Gerald G. Lacuarta
Inquirer News Service



THE NAMES of four of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the planes used in last week’s attacks on New York and Washington have surfaced in local immigration records.

Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo on Wednesday said the names Ahmed Fayez, Ahmed Al Ghamdi, Saeed Al Ghamdi and Abdulaziz Al Omari showed up on the bureau’s computer files at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

"We checked the 19 names against our list, and there were four hits," Domingo said. "This means people with these names visited the country. Some of them made a number of visits."

The four were among the 19 persons listed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as the hijackers of the planes used in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Domingo said four men bearing those names, all Saudi nationals, arrived in the Philippines as tourists starting in 1999 up to the present. Each was admitted upon arrival for a period of 21 days without a visa.

There were no indications to show that the four were indeed the suspected hijackers or just had the same names, Domingo said.

The immigration bureau said Ahmed Fayez visited for three days from Oct. 17, 2000. Ahmed Al Ghamdi visited Manila 13 times and last left the Philippines on Sept. 10, just a day before the attacks.

Saeed Al Ghamdi was in the Philippines at least 15 times and last left Manila on Aug. 6, while Abdulaziz Al Omari was listed as having left the Philippines on Feb. 12, 2000.

Domingo said the bureau was trying to retrieve the arrival and departure cards that the four men presented to the immigration counters at the Naia so that authorities could trace their movements while they were in the country.

"The cards would help investigators determine the identities of other possible foreign terrorists and their local cohorts whom the hijackers had met with or contacted when they came to Manila," she said.

Domingo said the bureau had also begun conducting a background check on 340 students from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, including 12 taking up aviation courses at the Philippine Aeronautics Training School in Pasay City.

She said the foreign students were from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine.

The move is apparently part of an international effort to identify the links of those who perpetrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

According to US investigators, the hijackers of the planes used in the attacks were Islamic militants with links to suspected international terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden's organization is known to have links with the Abu Sayyaf bandit group holding 18 hostages including an American couple in the island-province of Basilan.

Agence France-Presse quoted Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes as saying that the Abu Sayyaf's link to international terrorist networks was "strong until 1995," after which contacts waned.

"But there are new efforts to maintain the links," he said without elaborating.

In 1995, Manila police arrested one of the suspects of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center that left six people dead. Abdul Hakim Murad was handed over to the United States, which sentenced him to life imprisonment in 1996.

"The (terrorist) threat is very, very clear considering that we have the Abu Sayyaf here," Reyes told reporters.


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