One person held for INS after questioning by FBI

Friday, September 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) _ A Fort Smith man was arrested and his wife detained after FBI agents sought the woman for questioning as part of their investigation of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

The FBI told police agencies statewide Wednesday that it was looking for a Fort Smith woman ``possibly related to the New York City terrorist attack,'' police spokeswoman Kim Fontaine said Thursday.

The FBI found the woman in Fort Smith and questioned her and her husband. The husband was being held Thursday for federal immigration officials. The woman was not at the jail.

The Southwest Times Record newspaper said she was taken away by agents shortly before her husband was arrested. Television videotape showed agents taking evidence _ including a computer and items that filled five garbage bags _ from a residence linked to the couple.

KATV, a Little Rock television station, reported that a piece of luggage seized from the residence bore a Continental Airlines baggage tag that was printed for a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Houston to Little Rock flight Tuesday morning.

A former neighbor said the man arrested was quiet, secretive and ``always in the back bedroom'' with a computer.

Sebastian County Sheriff Frank Atkinson said he couldn't comment on the arrest.

``I am not at liberty to release any information at this time,'' he said in a statement. This is a matter of national security and is a federal investigation.''

The FBI refused all comment about who the woman was and why she was wanted for questioning.

``We've interviewed people in the Fort Smith area and we continue to conduct an investigation related to this matter,'' Supervisory Special Agent Dan Sturgill told the Fort Smith paper.

The woman being sought moved from a Fort Smith neighborhood about a year ago after marrying an Egyptian man, a former neighbor said.

She was a ``pretty down-to-earth girl. Nothing out of the ordinary,'' ex-neighbor Ty Lawson said.

Lawson said that when he visited the couple, the husband and another Egyptian man would often be locked in a bedroom.

``The only strange thing I remember is they were always in the back bedroom with the door closed and that's where the computer was,'' Lawson said.

Karl Bauman, 22, said he worked with the arrested man and another Egyptian at the Bravo Italian Restaurant and that they seemed very professional and nice. They never made any disparaging remarks about America.

``They liked it here. That's the reason they came,'' Bauman said. ``There's more opportunity here. They said it was better here than where they came from.

``All we know is he's been picked up, he's Egyptian and I think everyone is just jumping the gun,'' Bauman said. ``I don't feel like he had anything to do with it, but if he did, I wish the worst upon him.''

Bauman said the man and his friend stopped working at Bravo because they began traveling back and forth to Florida about two to three months ago, they said in preparation for a move there.

The FBI has raided a number of locations in Florida looking for ties to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

``Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe not,'' Bauman said. ``But you cannot just jump to conclusions.''

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper of Little Rock quoted the woman as saying that her husband was not connected to the attacks.

``He had nothing to do with this,'' the woman said. ``He felt horrible about it. It's a misunderstanding.''

Fontaine said the FBI had provided state police and other agencies the woman's name, her hometown, make of car and Arkansas license tag number.