Tags: FBI | Ignored | Warnings | Fanatical | Student | Pilot

FBI Ignored Warnings of Fanatical Student Pilot

Thursday, 13 September 2001 12:00 AM

Europe 1 reported the FBI arrested a Franco-Algerian near Boston last August after he was found with several passports. Most were false, according to the report, but one was real. The station did not identify the suspect, who reportedly is 31 years old. But the man possibly had relations with the hijackers.

According to the radio, the FBI contacted French security agents. The French identified the man as a known Islamist militant belonging to an Afghan-Pakistani group affiliated with bin Laden.

"He was taking flying lessons," said Europe 1 reporter Frederic Helbert, in a later interview with UPI. Helbert said he got the information from sources close to France's counter-terrorism department.

"But his instructors thought there was something strange because he was asking so many questions to his instructors about the planes from the big companies, and so on," Helbert said.

The flight school - Helbert was unable to name it or locate its whereabouts in the United States - reportedly told the FBI about the man's suspicious behavior. U.S. investigators apparently found flight manuals at the man's apartment, Helbert said.

The man was jailed, Europe 1 said. But the American security "machine" failed to follow up on the case, Helbert said - at least not fast enough.

"There were no more calls, no more requests," Helbert said, citing French security sources describing the FBI's lack of follow-up.

Separately, anti-terrorism prosecutors in Paris have opened a preliminary inquiry into possible connections between Islamist extremist cells in France and Tuesday's terrorist strikes on the United States, Le Monde reported in its Thursday afternoon edition.

The inquiry follows a separate investigation opened in Paris Monday into "an association of wrongdoers" linked to the arrest of suspected militants in Germany last December.

France was hit in the mid-1990s by a wave of terrorist strikes by Algerian Islamist extremists, in retaliation for Paris' support of the Algerian government during the country's bitter civil war.

Some Algerian extremists are considered narrowly focused on overthrowing the military-backed government in Algiers. But counter-terrorism experts believe others are linked to shadowy international terrorist groups.

More recently, French investigators have been puzzling over the killing of a lawmaker in Beziers by Safir Bghioua, a 25-year-old man of Arab origin. Police are trying to figure out how the young man came to possess a stash of weapons, including rocket launchers. But they have reportedly found no evidence Bghioua has any links to Islamist extremists.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Europe 1 reported the FBI arrested a Franco-Algerian near Boston last August after he was found with several passports. Most were false, according to the report, but one was real. The station did not identify the suspect, who reportedly is 31 years old. But the man possibly...
FBI,Ignored,Warnings,Fanatical,Student,Pilot
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2001-00-13
Thursday, 13 September 2001 12:00 AM
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