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AMERICA ATTACKED: THE INVESTIGATION; 'ACTS OF WAR'; Bush Vows Full
Assault, Says 'Good Will Prevail'; Probe Finds Some Attackers Trained as
Pilots in U.S.; Investigators Identify 50 Terrorists Tied to Plot; Inquiry:
Agents scouring the East Coast reportedly find suicide notes that some of
the hijackers wrote for their parents.
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Sep 13, 2001; WILLIAM
C. REMPEL;RICHARD A. SERRANO;
Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 2001 Allrights reserved)
nationwide for terrorists behind the deadly airliner attacks on the
Pentagon and the World Trade Center have identified teams that totaled as
many as 50 infiltrators who supported or carried out the strikes, a
source familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.
About 40 of the men have been
accounted for, including those killed in the suicide attacks, but 10
remain at large, the source said. In the hours immediately after the
assaults, he said, agents searching cars and apartments up and down the
East Coast found suicide notes in New York that some of the hijackers
wrote to their parents.
Also recovered were credit
card receipts showing that some of the hijackers paid for flight training
in the United States. Another source, a federal agent involved in the
probe, said that authorities believe 27 suspected terrorists in all
received various kinds of pilot training.
The infiltrators, who carried
Middle Eastern passports, belonged to four independent cells, said law
enforcement and intelligence officials. They said authorities kept the
nation's airports closed to commercial traffic for a second day partly to
prevent the conspirators from fleeing the country.
The investigation reached
from Maine to Florida and across the nation to California. Atty. Gen.
John Ashcroft said the FBI had mobilized 4,000 agents and 3,000 support
personnel. He called it "perhaps the most massive and intensive
investigation ever conducted in America."
In coordinated attacks
Tuesday morning, hijackers rammed two airliners filled with passengers
into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a third
jetliner into the Pentagon. The fourth hijacked aircraft crashed in
western Pennsylvania. Authorities said it might have been aimed at a
target in Washington, D.C., or Camp David, the presidential retreat in
The administration said the
president himself might have been targeted. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer
said the government had credible information that the hijacked plane
which struck the Pentagon "was originally intended to hit the White
House." Another possible target, Fleischer said, was Air Force One.
Authorities said Wednesday
they have identified many of the hijackers, who wielded knives and box
cutters and made bomb threats once on board. They carried passports from
two nations, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said after a briefing by
law enforcement officials. She declined to name the countries but said
both are in the Middle East.
Federal agents detained
several people for immigration violations, FBI Director Robert Mueller
said, but there have been no arrests. A law enforcement source said one
detainee was being held as a material witness.
FBI agents searched at least
three flight schools in Florida and asked for information about former
students who were suspected of being among the hijackers. Agents also
searched unidentified flight schools in Southern California.
The Florida schools included
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Huffman Aviation
International in Venice and FlightSafety International in Vero Beach.
Authorities said two of the
suspected hijackers entered the United States on work visas. They began
learning to fly last summer at Huffman, according to their flight
instructor, their landlord and law enforcement officials.
In addition, federal agents
were retracing the steps of suspected hijackers who attended flight
schools in Vero Beach, Pompano Beach and Daytona Beach.
Ashcroft said there were
three to six hijackers on each of the four planes that crashed Tuesday.
Authorities have quickly focused on those who may have learned to fly
jumbo jets well enough to guide the planes into the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon.
Ashcroft said authorities
have uncovered "numerous credible leads" by questioning people
and serving search warrants from Maine to the southern end of Florida.
FBI agents apparently were
drawn to Huffman after finding its name and an Arabic-language flight
manual in a car left at Logan International Airport in Boston, from which
two of the planes took off Tuesday morning before being hijacked.
Rudi Dekkers said that two
students, one identified as Amanullah Atta Mohammed and the other only as
"Marwan," paid $10,000 each by check to attend his Huffman
Aviation International flight school at the airport in Venice from July
to November 2000.
"They came in through
the front door," Dekkers said, adding that they claimed to be
Afghans who entered this country from Germany.
"They said they were not
happy with another flight school, and so they obtained their licenses
here and left, and they went to south Florida for jet training,"
"They were normal
students and worked very hard. They lived nearby and bicycled here every
Dekkers said that one of the
men said he wanted to learn to fly jumbo jets.
The Huffman school is about
25 years old and handles about 800 students a year. It is a small
building on the edge of the Venice airport, and 75% to 80% of his
students are foreigners who come to the United States to learn flying
because it costs less.
Dekkers said that his school
trains fliers for single- or small- engine aircraft and that the two men
needed such a certificate to qualify for training to fly jets.
He said he was told that the
two men went on to a jet school in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Dekkers described one of the
students as "a big, chubby guy and a likable person." Now,
realizing that two of the hijackers may have passed through his school,
Dekkers said, "I feel terrible. I feel worse than anyone."
Charles Voss, the school
bookkeeper, and his wife, Dru, took the two men in as boarders in their
south Venice home for a couple weeks in July.
Dru Voss said the men
appeared to be in their 30s and were very secretive, claiming to be from
Germany. She said that she and her husband eventually evicted them
because they were unkempt and did not keep their bedroom clean.
"I didn't really care
for their attitude," she said. "Their personality was nothing
to care for. They kept to themselves."
She said they often would
step out of the shower and shake their hair dry throughout the house.
Alluding to Tuesday's
tragedy, she added: "Do I feel bad? Do I ever."
Det. Sgt. Mike Treanor of the
Venice Police Department said that FBI agents had obtained the two
suspects' school records from the Huffman school and the Voss home and
identified them as two of the men who agents believe flew the hijacked
"This one man,
Atta," said Treanor, "was confirmed on one of the planes that
hit the towers."
It remained unclear how or
when the men arrived in this country, but Treanor said that they appeared
to have the proper papers when they enrolled at the Huffman school.
"They had to show them
work visas and passports and all the proper ID," Treanor said,
"and they had all that."
Treanor added that FBI agents
were drawn to Venice after finding the Arabic language flight manual in a
car at the Boston airport.
Officer Chuck Lesaltato of
the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said that the car in Boston also had
registration papers that listed a Venice, Fla., address. Local and
federal authorities said that, while the flight schools in Florida often
are filled with foreign students, there is no requirement for background
One senior FBI official in
Washington complained that "there are lots of flight schools out
there. You don't have to be accredited to fly, and they don't do any
background checks on people who want to learn how to fly."
Federal agents conducted
additional searches across Florida. Search warrants were served on four
homes in Davie and an apartment in Coral Springs, and workers at a
restaurant in Hollywood were also interviewed.
In Vero Beach, dozens of FBI
agents questioned neighbors about several Middle Eastern men who were
reportedly taking classes at the nearby flight school.
Eight agents showed up at
Hank Habora's house Wednesday morning and questioned him about his
next-door neighbor. "They gave me a photo and asked if this was the
guy, and I said yes."
Habora said he knew the man
as "John." FAA records show that a Saudi Arabian flight
engineer named Amer Mohammed Kamfar listed the address as his home.
The man lived in the house
with his wife and four children from February until two or three weeks
ago, when he "left in a hurry" in a green van, Habora said.
"They took all of the
stuff they had and put it out by the trash: clothes, furniture, pots and
pans, Tupperware," he said.
He said the man often wore
the uniform of student pilots at nearby FlightSafety, a school that
frequently trains foreign pilots on jumbo jets.
Habora, 55, said he wasn't
surprised when the FBI agents knocked at his door Wednesday because he
had phoned the bureau earlier to report his suspicions.
"They were good
neighbors as far as neighbors go," he said. "They were quiet.
They kept the lawn mowed. They put the garbage out when it was needed to
be put out."
About eight miles away, FBI
agents questioned Kenneth Reams about two Middle Eastern families who
lived on his Vero Beach street. More than a dozen police cars lined the
street all day.
"My wife thought they
were gone," said Reams, 72. "She hasn't seen the children in
Reams said the men who lived
in the two houses also were taking classes at FlightSafety.
The men had been renting the
houses for more than a year, Reams said, living there with their wives
and children. "They seemed to be nice."
The owner of one of the
houses, Llonald Mixell, said the tenant moved out with his wife and at
least three children a week before the hijackings. Mixell said the
tenant, whose name he refused to divulge, was a commercial pilot from
Saudi Arabia who was getting advanced training at FlightSafety. FBI
agents also questioned Mixell on Wednesday.
"Hundreds of people come
over here from other countries for schooling," Mixell said.
"They were excellent tenants. I never saw anything that would make
me suspect anything."
The tenant who leased the
house from Mixell was a man named Abdulrahman Alomari, a pilot from Saudi
The house next door was
leased by Adnan Zakana Bukhari, another Saudi pilot, records show.
The former head of the FBI's
New York office, who led investigations into the 1998 bombings of U.S.
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, said that within hours of Tuesday's
attacks federal agents had talked to the families of nearly every
passenger listed on the four airliners' manifests, isolated those who
could not be vouched for by their friends and relatives, and pulled their
bank, credit card and phone records, as well as their immigration and
naturalization papers if they were from another country.
Lewis Schiliro, the former
assistant FBI director in charge of the New York field office from 1998
to April 2000, said hundreds of agents in cities nationwide used that
information to develop background "on those who stood out: who they
were, where they stayed, who they called, who sponsored them, what phone
calls they made."
Schiliro said agents have
pulled INS files, looked for links between the passengers listed on the
hijacked planes and examined footage from dozens of cameras at the three
airports where the terrorists boarded the aircraft.
Federal law enforcement
sources said scores of subpoenas were issued and searches were approved
and conducted by late Wednesday, under the secrecy of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits secret electronic
surveillance in the United States based on probable cause that the target
of the surveillance is the agent of a foreign power.
"The fight against those
who use the weapon of terror to menace and murder is necessarily
hard," CIA Director George J. Tenet told employees at the CIA
headquarters in Langley, Va.
"The important thing for
us now is to do our job," Tenet said, "to run to ground a
vicious foe, one without heart or pity. A foe who has killed Americans
but who hopes in vain to kill the ideals and values that define all of us
"The terrorists behind
these atrocities, and those who give them shelter and support, must never
know rest, ease or comfort. The last word must not be theirs."
In Boston, federal agents,
bomb specialists, firefighters and police officers staged a dramatic
midday raid on the Westin Copley Place hotel.
Wearing black hoods and heavy
bulletproof vests, agents carried battering rams, AR-15 firearms and
fiber-optic equipment, which can check under doors. They took into
custody three people, who were later released.
In Newton, Mass., just west
of Boston, officers converged on the Park Inn at Chestnut Hill. They
seized a car containing flight manuals and an instruction book on how to
fly a Boeing 767.
In Maine, an aide to Gov.
Angus King said a silver Nissan with Massachusetts license plates was
impounded at the Portland airport. The vehicle was taken to a state crime
lab in Augusta for examination by the FBI.
A cigarette found near the
car will be tested for DNA, the aide said.
King's office said two of the
suspects in the World Trade Center attack are believed to have entered
Maine by ferry from Nova Scotia.
Using New Jersey driver's
licenses for identification, the men apparently flew to Boston early
Tuesday from the Portland International Jetport, the governor's office
Investigators in Portland
believe the suspects may have boarded a USAir flight to Boston early
On Wednesday, authorities in
Providence, R.I., stopped an Amtrak train from Boston. Passengers were
ordered off, and one man wearing a green turban was led away in
Providence police said the
man was charged with a local weapon violation for carrying a knife. It
was unclear whether the arrest was related to the terrorist attacks.
Contributing to this report
were Times staff writers Bob Drogin, Lisa Getter, Eric Lichtblau, Jim
Mann, Judy Pasternak and David Willman in Washington; John-Thor Dahlburg
in Daytona Beach, Fla.; Edith Stanley in Atlanta; John Beckham in
Chicago; Elizabeth Mehren in Boston; Stephen Braun in New York; and
Edward J. Boyer, Rich Connell, Robert J. Lopez, Janet Lundblad, Josh
Meyer, Richard E. Meyer, Tim Rutten, Ralph Frammolino and Nona Yates in
Caption: PHOTO: (lead photo) Rescuers search
ruins of the World Trade Center towers. Five people were pulled from the
rubble. There were 82 confirmed deaths.; PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN MAKELY /
Baltimore Sun; PHOTO: Amanullah Atta Mohammed was said to have attended
flight school in Venice, Fla.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Reuters; PHOTO: Volunteer
rescue worker Bryan Kemp makes his way from the World Trade Center site.
Five critically injured survivors, including three police officers, were
pulled out of the rubble Wednesday.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Agence France- Presse;
PHOTO: An emergency services worker crosses a street covered with ash
near the twin World Trade Center towers. "The worst possible news is
going to come out of there," a worker said of the site.;
PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press; PHOTO: Rescue workers arrive at the scene
as wrecked cars are hauled from near the World Trade Center complex in
Manhattan. Rescue efforts continued despite fears that another building
might topple.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Associated Press
Credit: TIMES STAFF WRITERS