FBI releases photos of suspected hijackers in 'Neighborhood Watch' campaign

Friday, September 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The FBI is reaching out to the public by releasing photographs of the 19 suspected hijackers, a move designed to bring in information from people who may have seen the men before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

To view those photographs, Click here.

As Attorney General John Ashcroft launched a ``national neighborhood watch'' with the release of the photos, FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that questions remained about whether an accompanying list contained the true names of the 19.

``What we are currently doing is determining whether, when these individuals came to the United States, these were their real names or they changed their names for use with false identification in the United States,'' Mueller said.

The FBI director said there was evidence that one or more of the hijackers had had contacts with al-Qaida, the network associated with Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire who is the Bush administration's top suspect in the attacks.

With the investigation in its third week, a provider of instant message services said two employees of the firm received text messages warning of an attack on the United States two hours before the terrorists struck.

Avner Ronen, vice president for strategic development at Odigo Inc., said the warning was ``general, not specific'' and that the sender of the instant message was not known to the Odigo employees.

The online news service Newsbytes reported that the Odigo employees recorded the Internet protocol address of the message's sender, which could facilitate tracing the message to its origin. An Internet protocol address is like a return address. The FBI was investigating.

In other developments:

_A grand jury in Boston subpoenaed student records from the University of Rhode Island. It was among several universities which have received subpoenas from grand juries in the investigation. ``Our belief is it's a general request,'' University of Rhode Island spokeswoman Linda Acciardo said. ``We have no reason to believe it's connected to the individuals who hijacked the planes.'' The university said it learned the subpoena was related to the attacks after it contacted the FBI in Boston to confirm it.

_An Arabic-language document containing prayers and spiritual references that was found at the southwestern Pennsylvania crash site of United Flight 93 is believed to have been used by the hijackers to prepare for their mission to bring the plane down, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

_Evidence surfaced in Las Vegas that at least five of the hijackers had stayed in the casino town between May and August, said a source who insisted on anonymity.

_Officials said the government's manhunt has thwarted two terrorist attacks since Sept. 11 and gathered evidence suggesting collaborators were in various stages of planning on several other plots to harm U.S. interests here and abroad.

Evidence seized in raids in the United States and in Europe included plans or materials for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Paris and an attack with explosives on a military site in Brussels, Belgium, the officials said.

The officials, who work in law enforcement and intelligence, spoke only on condition of anonymity. They said about two dozen arrests have been made across Europe of people suspected of being involved in the planning of those attacks.

_The FBI said 18 Middle Eastern men arrested for fraudulently obtaining licenses to haul hazardous materials were not connected to the hijackers. Amid fears that terrorists could strike with chemical or biological weapons, investigators continued to scour the country for individuals who unlawfully obtained licenses to drive trucks hauling hazardous materials. A man on the FBI's watch list in the probe, Nabil Al-Marabh, was certified to transport hazardous materials. He was arrested last week in Chicago, and police in Toronto searched three residences and a business linked to him.

In Detroit, a federal grand jury indicted three men, including two arrested last week at a house where Al-Marabh had previously lived. The alias of the third man who was indicted, Jalali, appeared on documents found when agents searched the house.

Authorities also found a planner with Arabic writing that gave information about an American base in Turkey, the ``American foreign minister'' and what appeared to be a diagram of an airport flight line.

The whereabouts of Jalali, whose name is Youssef Hmimssa, are unknown, according to Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Karim Koubriti, 23, Ahmed Hannan, 33 and Hmimssa were charged with two counts: fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents, and fraud in connection with identity documents and information.