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700 Leads But No Arrests So Far
Dow Jones International News
(c) 2001, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
WASHINGTON (AP)--The FBI has received 700
leads in the investigation of Tuesday's twin
terrorist attacks but so far no arrests have been made, a
Justice Department official said.
Based on information gathered from frantic phone calls made
by passengers on doomed jets just minutes before they crashed,
the government believes that the hijackers were trained pilots
and that three to five hijackers were aboard each of four
airliners that crashed Tuesday in the worst terrorist attack
ever on U.S. soil, said Mindy Tucker, Justice Department
"It appears from what we know that the hijackers were
skilled pilots," said Tucker.
Tucker declined to comment on evidence linking the attacks
to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden or whether authorities have
executed search warrants.
Lawmakers believe bin Laden may have been behind the
attacks. "I don't think everyone in Congress has enough
information to make those assumptions," said Tucker.
She said investigators are following all credible leads,
but declined to comment on whether the government is close to
The Justice Department's terrorism, violent crimes, office
of intelligence and violent crime divisions are involved in
the investigation, she said. Attorney General John Ashcroft
briefed 225 members of Congress late Tuesday and will meet
with lawmakers again Wednesday with FBI Director Robert
Mueller and FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh.
Ashcroft met with national security officials at the White
House early Wednesday.
From broken bits of hijacked airplanes to intelligence
intercepts, the FBI is collecting evidence in its
search for those responsible for Tuesday's twin terrorist
At the Pentagon and World Trade Center, agents sifted
through the rubble.
"The FBI evidence recovery team has found parts of
the fuselage outside" the Pentagon, Fairfax County chief
Michael Tamillow said Wednesday. "As we go in we're now
identifying smaller parts of the plane. Everyone is looking
for the black box recorders." Those recorders could contain
conversations from the cockpits of the doomed planes.
"Everything is pointing in the direction of Osama bin
Laden," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
A flight manifest from one of the ill-fated flights
included the name of a suspected bin Laden supporter, Hatch
and several law enforcement officials confirmed. And U.S.
intelligence intercepted communications between bin Laden
supporters discussing Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade
Center in New York and the Pentagon, Hatch told The Associated
"They have an intercept of some information that included
people associated with bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of
targets were hit," he said. Hatch declined to be more
Officials cautioned it was too early to definitively assign
blame but said early evidence was pointing toward bin Laden.
Ruling Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, where bin Laden is
believed to be hiding, said they doubted the wealthy Arab
could have been behind the attacks. Bin Laden previously has
been tied to terrorist attacks against Americans overseas.
Whatever the case, each detail gathered in the hours
immediately after the breathtaking devastation in New York and
Washington pointed toward a carefully planned plot executed by
knife-wielding hijackers to ensure the maximum casualties at
two of Americas most famous landmarks.
Law enforcement officials told the AP that early evidence
suggested the attackers may have studied how to operate large
aircraft and targeted transcontinental flights with large fuel
supplies to ensure spectacular explosions -and maximum
Thousands were believed dead in New York and Washington.
"These heinous acts of violence are an assault on the
security of our nation," Ashcroft declared as thousands of
federal investigators fanned out across the country pursuing
"We will expend every effort and devote all the necessary
resources to bring the people responsible for these acts,
these crimes, to justice," he said.
Farewell phone calls from passengers and at least one
flight attendant on the four targeted flights described a
similar pattern: hijackers working in groups of three to five,
wielding knives, in some cases stabbing flight crews as they
took control of the cockpit and forced the planes toward their
The FBI was seeking search warrants in Broward
County in southern Florida and Daytona Beach in central
Florida. A car was towed by authorities at one of those
Other leads were being pursued. Authorities examined a van
seized in New York for possible clues, while a car found at
the Boston airport where one of the planes was hijacked
reportedly contained an Arabic language flight manual.
FBI interviewed a Venice, Fla., couple Wednesday about
two men who stayed at their house for a week in July 2000
while the men were taking small-plane flight training at
Venice Municipal Airport.
FBI agents "informed me that there were two
individuals that were students at Huffman Aviation, my
employer, and FBI told me they were involved in
yesterday's tragedy," said Charlie Voss, who was interviewed
with his wife, Drew Voss, at their home.
The couple accepted the two men as house guests as a favor
to the company, Voss said. The men, who stayed just a few
days, trained at the airport and came to the house to sleep,