FBI agents interview Saudi man over links with Sept. 11 hijackers
Tuesday, August 5th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ FBI agents have interviewed a Saudi man suspected of helping two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, a U.S. Embassy official said Tuesday.
Omar al-Bayoumi was interviewed Sunday night by FBI agents in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, where he lives, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said the FBI agents worked for the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh. He gave no other details.
The White House said Monday it was eager to question al-Bayoumi, who a congressional report says befriended and helped al-Qaida members Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two of the hijackers on the jet that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Al-Bayoumi said Sunday in an interview with Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television that he was willing to talk with the FBI, but only in his homeland and in the presence of officials from his government. He told the station that he had done nothing wrong.
The Saudi government said last week it had authorized FBI and CIA agents in Saudi Arabia to question al-Bayoumi. The FBI sent a team to Saudi Arabia over the weekend as part of the investigation, a senior U.S. law enforcement official said.
It seems likely that al-Bayoumi will be interviewed again following Tuesday's questioning.
Al-Bayoumi studied in the United States on a Saudi government scholarship from 1994 to 2000. The congressional report said he and al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi met in Los Angeles. When the two later moved into the same San Diego housing complex where al-Bayoumi lived, he threw them a welcoming party and put down money for their deposit and first month's rent, accoding to the report.
The FBI, according to the congressional report, found the connection ``somewhat suspicious.''
In earlier Saudi press reports, al-Bayoumi said the two men were mere acquaintances and briefly neighbors.
Al-Bayoumi also has several connections to the Saudi government, and some in Congress have alleged he could be a link between Saudi officials and the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings.
Al-Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks to study in Britain. British and U.S. officials investigated him immediately after the terrorist attacks and released him.