Terrorist stopped in Oklahoma five months before Sept. 11 attacks

Sunday, January 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Sept. 11 hijacker's Oklahoma traffic ticket is being used in the case against a former Norman flight school student accused of being part of the terrorist conspiracy.

Five months before the Sept. 11 attacks on the East Coast, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper C.L. Parkins stopped terrorist Nawaf al-Hazmi along Interstate 40 in far western Oklahoma and ticketed him for speeding and not wearing a seat belt.

Those tickets became clues for the FBI, The Sunday Oklahoman reported in a copyright story.

``I wish I had known more, but that's hindsight,'' Parkins told The Oklahoman. ``I'm just glad I did stop him and did the paper trail on him. That way it could help the FBI or other agencies further their investigation.''

The Oklahoman learned of the traffic tickets after making an Open Records Act request to the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the highway patrol. OHP officials issue a news release late Saturday, detailing the stop.

At 6:06 p.m. on April 1, radar clocked al-Hazmi going 85 mph in a 70 mph speed zone, records show. After getting a driver's license and registration, Parkins ran a National Crime Information Center check on the driver and the vehicle, and came up with a valid California driver's license and an address in San Diego, the Department of Public Safety said.

Parkins recalled that the driver was short and spoke English well, but the trooper said he couldn't recall anything that was said.

``I just barely remember even having him in my car,'' Parkins said. ``You stop so many people that if ... you don't arrest them or anything ... you don't remember too much after a couple months.

``The best I remember, I asked him to come back to my car and he sat there, and I visited with him a little bit,'' Parkins said.

Al-Hazmi mailed his tickets and $138 in money orders as payment to the Washita County court clerk later in April. Court Clerk Tena Arganbright said FBI agents picked up the tickets in October.

The trooper has been questioned by the FBI and could be called as a witness in the federal trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who attended the Airman Flight School in Norman last year but never received his pilot's license.

He was detained in August on immigration violations after raising an instructor's suspicions at a flight school in Minnesota.

Moussaoui is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and with the 19 terrorists who hijacked four commercial airliners Sept. 11. He is set to go on trial in October.

Al-Hazmi's presence in the state was included _ without detail _ in the indictment against Moussaoui. The time of al-Hazmi's ticket coincides with the time Moussaoui was living in Norman _ Feb. 26 to May 29.

The indictment against Moussaoui, 33, does not explain why al-Hazmi, 25, was in Oklahoma during that time.

``I think the inference they were trying to draw was he was in Oklahoma; Moussaoui was in Oklahoma at the same time,'' said Bob Ricks, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

More than 3,000 people were killed when the planes were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington and the countryside of Pennsylvania.

Al-Hazmi died in the attack. In a video, bin Laden praises al-Hazmi by name, according to some translations.