September 16, 2001, Sunday
AFTER THE ATTACKS: MISSED CUES; Saudi May Have Been Suspected in
Error, Officials Say
By KEVIN SACK (NYT) 703 words
VERO BEACH, Fla., Sept. 15
-- The authorities said today that it appeared a case of mistaken
identity had led the Federal Bureau of Investigation to search the former
home and to interview the friends of a Saudi Arabian pilot whose name is
similar to one used by one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight
11, the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center.
The search here on Wednesday was widely
reported in the news media, including The New York Times, with several
accounts reporting that the pilot was a suspected hijacker.
A lawyer with knowledge of the
investigation said today that the man, Abdul Rahman Alomari, had returned
to Saudi Arabia this month, and that both American and Saudi officials
appear to be reasonably convinced that he is not the Abdulaziz al-Omari
who was listed by the F.B.I. on Friday as one of the 19 hijackers.
The lawyer, as well as American and Saudi
officials, all of whom spoke on the condition that they not be named,
said Abdul Rahman Alomari had been interviewed by Saudi and United States
authorities in Saudi Arabia in the last two days.
Federal law enforcement officials had
little to say today. ''I just can't talk about the investigation,'' said
Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the bureau's Miami office.
But another law enforcement official said
investigators had concluded that the Alomari who had lived here -- an
employee of Saudi Arabian Airlines who was attending flight school in
Vero Beach -- was not the Alomari listed on the manifest of Flight 11.
If that is the case, Abdul Rahman Alomari
fell victim to a remarkable set of circumstances. Apart from the
similarity in names, the interest of investigators was clearly aroused by
the fact that he had studied at a Florida flight school, as had several
of the suspected hijackers. Both investigators and reporters became
further intrigued when Mr. Alomari's landlord and neighbors told them he
had sent his wife and four children back to Saudi Arabia less than two
weeks before the attack.
A Saudi official said that the authorities
in Saudi Arabia believed Mr. Alomari was who said he was. But the
official said he could not definitively clear up the question of Mr.
Alomari's identity and that Saudi authorities were investigating whether
identity theft might have been involved.
At 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, some 60 F.B.I
agents and local law enforcement officers swept into Mr. Alomari's former
neighborhood here. They then searched the house for hours, as well as a
neighboring house that had been rented by Adnan Bukhari, another pilot
trainee from Saudi Arabia and a friend of Mr. Alomari's.
Mr. Bukhari agreed to be flown to Miami for
an interview at the F.B.I.'s office there, his lawyer said. Mr. Bukhari
was allowed to return home Thursday night, the lawyer said.
During the interview, Mr. Bukhari's
cellphone rang, said the lawyer, who was present. Mr. Bukhari found Mr.
Alomari on the line, calling from Saudi Arabia after hearing news reports
that the two of them were considered suspects, the lawyer said. He asked
the F.B.I. agent whether he wished to speak to Mr. Alomari and handed him
Shared Names for Hijackers
(By The New York Times), WASHINGTON, Sept.
15 -- Three of the men identified as the hijackers in the attacks on
Tuesday have the same names as alumni of American military schools, the
authorities said today. The men were identified as Mohamed Atta,
Abdulaziz al-Omari and Saeed al-Ghamdi.
The Defense Department said Mr. Atta had
gone to the International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in
Alabama; Mr. al-Omari to the Aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force
Base in Texas; and Mr. al-Ghamdi to the Defense Language Institute at the
Presidio in Monterey, Calif.