Tags: Ashcroft: | Hijackers | Worked | Teams

Ashcroft: Hijackers Worked in Teams

Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM

In a brief news conference, Ashcroft said the hijackers were armed with "box cutters" and in some cases made bomb threats, as they took over four commercial passenger airliners early Tuesday. Three of the aircraft became flying bombs that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, near Washington. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

Congressional sources said Wednesday the hijackers appeared to have boarded the four aircraft using weapons crafted from package openers, made of plastic and also armed with Mace. Those sources said the hijackers were apparently well-trained and effectively used these weapons to take control of the planes, after they surreptitiously brought the weapons on board.

Investigators pursuing the case are closely examining the travel patterns of the groups of terrorists, those sources said. All of the terrorists appeared to have made one stop in another country after leaving their original locations, before arriving in the United States. "They would go from one country, then another country, and then the U.S.," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, confirmed after a security briefing with administration officials.

Congressional sources also said out of a group of 15 hijackers, five originated from two countries "in the Middle East" that are under particular scrutiny by investigators.

FBI Robert Mueller said that no suspects have been arrested but that agents have interviewed people connected to the suspected hijackers.

The Boston Herald reported Wednesday that five Arab men, including a trained pilot, had been identified as suspects linked to two airliners hijacked after taking off from Boston. It did not name the suspects nor account for their role in its report.

The Herald said authorities seized a car, rented from National Car Rental, containing Arabic-language flight-training manuals after receiving a tip from a man who had an altercation with several Arab men in the parking garage at Boston's Logan International Airport.

The Herald, quoting unidentified sources, said it was told two of the men were brothers with United Arab Emirates passports and one of the brothers was a trained pilot.

Boston television reports said at least two other possible suspects apparently crossed from Nova Scotia by ferry to Portland, Maine, and flew to Boston from Portland's airport. Police at the Portland airport located a car thought to perhaps be connected to the two men.

At midmorning Wednesday, officials evacuated the Westin-Copley Hotel in Boston after a bomb-sniffing dog apparently made a "hit." The Boston Globe said three people were taken into custody at the hotel. Reports said the FBI, Boston and Massachusetts state police went to the downtown hotel after authorities linked the suspects to a credit card allegedly used to buy tickets on the jet airliners used in Tuesday's attack on the twin towers in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, in Florida, federal agents served search warrants at four locations in Broward County on Wednesday, reportedly focusing on one 33-year-old Coral Springs man who was believed dead in one of the crashes.

WSVN-TV in Miami quoted sources in the Hollywood, Fla., police department as saying they helped FBI agents search homes in Hollywood and Davie, Fla., and remained at two of them.

The names were on the passenger manifests of planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington and in a field in western Pennsylvania.

Anthony Amos, who works at Shuckums, a Hollywood restaurant, said agents had shown him pictures of men who may be suspects.

"I identified one of the guys," he said.

He said one of them was in the restaurant Friday and refused to pay. Amos said the man said he had enough money to pay because he was a pilot.

There had been no sign that the Coral Springs man had been in Florida before May, when he took out a driver's license.

Another investigation reportedly was under way at Daytona Beach, Fla., involving a student at Embry-Riddle flight school with a car that had a picture of terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden, who some officials say they suspect of masterminding the attacks.

Another home in Vero Beach, Fla., which was vacated last week, was being searched, WSVN said.

Each of the hijacked flights have become dramatic stories and sources of evidence:

The first plane hijacked was American Airlines Flight 11. It left Boston at 7:59 a.m. with 81 passengers, two pilots and nine flight attendants.

The second, United Airlines Flight 175, left Logan at 8:14 a.m. with 56 passengers, seven attendants and two pilots.

The American Airlines jet struck the World Trade Center's north tower at 8:45 a.m., and the United Airlines plane sliced into the south tower in a massive fireball at 9:03. Investigators suspect the brothers were aboard the United Airlines flight, the Herald reported.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that a voice believed to be a hijacker was heard over a microphone apparently activated by a pilot on Flight 11, "We have more planes, we have other planes."

The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that investigators seized two pieces of luggage that had missed that American Airlines flight because of a late connection from Maine. One of the bags had a tag with an Arabic name and contained instructional videotapes on techniques for flying large aircraft, a knife, some type of flight plan or log, a wheel-shaped calculation device used by pilots, and a copy of the Koran.

An unidentified air controller told the Monitor: "One of the pilots keyed their mike so the conversation between the pilot and the person in the cockpit could be heard. The person in the cockpit was speaking English. He was saying something like, 'Don't do anything foolish. You're not going to get hurt.'"

The hijackers apparently had no guns, but are believed to have smuggled knife-like weapons on board in shaving kits or other carry-on luggage.

United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark International Airport at 8:43 a.m bound for Los Angeles. At 9:58 a.m., a police dispatcher in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania received a frantic call from a passenger who said the plane was being hijacked. He told the dispatcher that he heard an explosion and then his call abruptly seized. A few moments later it crashed into woods near Johnstown, Pa.

On Wednesday, Alice Hoglan, a United Airlines stewardess, told CNN that her son was on board that flight and called her in California. He told them the plane had been hijacked by three men who said they had a bomb and that he and other passengers were going to try to overcome them. He said he knew he might not survive the flight. There were no survivors to the UA93 flight.

American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, was scheduled to leave Washington's Dulles International Airport at about 8:10 a.m. Tuesday on the way to Los Angeles with 58 passengers, 4 flight attendants and 2 pilots. It was flown into the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m.

On American Flight 77, Barbara Olson, the wife of the U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, managed to call her husband twice on a cell phone from the aircraft. According to Justice Department officials, she told her husband that several men armed with knives and parcel cutters had taken over the plane.

Former Boston FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick told the Herald that Boston appears to have been the staging area for the terror attack on New York.

"There's a terrorist cell operating out of Boston," he said. "They had to have support, they had to have people on the ground, in Boston, supporting them."

Law enforcement officials reportedly were looking at possible links between the attacks and alleged terrorists living in Boston with ties to bin Laden.

A former Boston cab driver, Raed Hijazi, was sentenced to death in Jordan last year for plotting terrorist attacks on a tourist hotel, which allegedly was a bin Laden operation.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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In a brief news conference, Ashcroft said the hijackers were armed with box cutters and in some cases made bomb threats, as they took over four commercial passenger airliners early Tuesday. Three of the aircraft became flying bombs that destroyed the twin towers of the...
Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM
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