FRIEND of Moussaoui arrested on federal firearms charge

Wednesday, November 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ A man questioned by authorities because of his relationship with a material witness to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks faces federal weapons charges, court records show.

Mujahid Abdulqaadir Menepta, 51, has been charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. The criminal complaint was unsealed Monday in Oklahoma City federal court.

FBI agents arrested Menepta on Oct. 11 after they found three weapons _ including a semiautomatic rifle, a pistol and shotgun _ and 600 rounds of ammunition during a search of his Norman home, court records show. He has been in federal custody since then.

Menepta _ going by the name Melvin Lattimore _ was convicted in 1971 of aggravated robbery in Colorado Springs, Colo. He served almost four years in state prison.

Menepta was being held in New York, but has been returned to Oklahoma City to face the weapons charge.

He was detained by New York authorities because of his friendship with Zacarias Moussaoui, who is being held as a material witness in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Moussaoui, a French citizen, was detained in August in Minnesota on an immigration violation.

Authorities became suspicious after they learned Moussaoui sought training on how to fly large jetliners, but not how to land them. He had taken lessons at Airman Flight School in Norman before abruptly leaving and going to Minnesota.

In an Oct. 2 interview with The Daily Oklahoman, Menepta said he saw Moussaoui daily at a Norman mosque. Menepta said he would be shocked if Moussaoui was involved in the terrorist attacks.

``I think he's a scapegoat,'' Menepta said. ``This guy, Moussaoui, is not like he's being portrayed to be.''