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U.S. holds Sudanese pilot as possible hijack threat

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U.S. holds Sudanese pilot as possible hijack threat

Old 20th Sep 2002, 16:46
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Arrow U.S. holds Sudanese pilot as possible hijack threat

More "racial profiling"? Or an important tipoff from the intelligence folks?


U.S. holds Sudanese pilot as possible hijack threat

From David Ensor (CNN Washington Bureau)
Friday, September 20, 2002 Posted: 9:51 AM EDT (1351 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- United States officials say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have found a Sudanese Air Force pilot who may have been planning to hijack an airliner and fly it into a target in the United States.

The pilot is in U.S. hands, sources Friday told CNN.

The story was first reported in Friday's Washington Times, citing an intelligence report the paper says was circulated last week.

The pilot had been the subject of an urgent search.

FBI sources reached in Washington Friday did not yet have any information on the story or on the apprehension of any pilot. Justice Department officials said only that they were aware of the story.


September 20, 2002

U.S. eyes pilot with ties to al Qaeda
By Bill Gertz


U.S. intelligence agencies are looking for a missing Sudanese air force pilot who is said to be planning to hijack an airliner and fly it into the White House.
The pilot was trained in Afghanistan and is linked to the al Qaeda terrorist organization, The Washington Times has learned from U.S. intelligence officials.
An intelligence report on the missing pilot was sent to U.S. policy-makers last week. The report said the pilot had entered Canada last week and was in that country preparing for the attack.
Canadian authorities, however, had no records indicating the pilot had entered the country. The name of the pilot is known to U.S. intelligence, but officials declined to disclose the pilot's name.
Spokesmen for the CIA and FBI would not comment on the matter.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, said U.S. intelligence agencies receive a "blizzard" of intelligence reports from around the world. The problem is trying to verify the information, he said.
Intelligence officials have said that one potential target of the hijacked jetliner that crashed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11 was the White House. The hijackers also may have planned to fly the aircraft into the Capitol or the Pentagon.
Sudan is on the State Department's list of state sponsors of international terrorism, although the Khartoum government condemned the September 11 attacks and pledged to cooperate with the United States in fighting terrorism.
A State Department annual report on terrorism said Sudan "stepped up" counterterrorism cooperation with U.S. agencies. However, the report stated that "a number of international terrorist groups including al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, and Hamas continued to use Sudan as a safe haven, primarily for conducting logistics and other support activities."
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was based in Sudan until his expulsion from the country in 1996 and resettlement in Afghanistan.
The report on the Sudanese pilot comes as U.S. authorities say al Qaeda is decentralizing its leadership. Al Qaeda cells in up to 60 nations are said to have authority to conduct terrorist attacks with relative autonomy from the leadership, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Meanwhile, the FBI on Wednesday sent a notice to law-enforcement agencies around the country warning that terrorists may attempt to hijack airliners using new methods.
Officials said the missing Sudanese pilot and the FBI notice are not related.
The FBI also said al Qaeda is attempting to find new ways to sneak bombs onto aircraft using undetectable explosive material.
The notice was sent despite the fact that the information was obtained before the September 11 attacks.
The FBI said there is no new information indicating that terrorists are planning attacks.
The FBI notice said al Qaeda members had talked about "hijacking a commercial airliner using Muslim extremists of non-Arabic appearance" to avoid scrutiny by security personnel.
The FBI said the information was based on discussions among 10 to 20 Chechen Muslims linked to the al Qaeda network who are living in the United States.
The terrorists spoke of sitting in the first-class cabin and then taking control of the aircraft by overwhelming the crew.
The terrorists also spoke of smuggling liquid explosives onto aircraft by mixing the fluid with coffee and carrying it on board in hand-held baggage.
Officials confirmed the details contained in the FBI notice after it was first reported by ABC News.
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Old 21st Sep 2002, 17:06
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Sudanese Held on Visa Charge

Associated Press
Saturday, September 21, 2002

A 30-year-old Sudanese pilot is being held on immigration charges as investigators try to determine whether he is an al Qaeda operative who planned to fly a plane into an American target, government officials said yesterday.

The man is in custody in North Carolina for allegedly making false statements while applying for a U.S. visa. He was identified as Mekki Hamed Mekki, according to law enforcement and administration sources. No other details were provided.

Federal authorities believe he is linked to Osama bin Laden's terrorist group and are investigating the possibility that he may have been plotting to use a plane as a weapon, said two government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, several other Sudanese citizens are being held in undisclosed locations while federal authorities try to determine whether they are linked to the pilot, who is to appear in court in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Monday.

"There is a lot of uncertainty about this case. We're trying to sort it out," an official said.
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Old 21st Sep 2002, 22:10
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Boy this is getting scary...
Does this mean that indegenous Pilots from places like Africa are seen as a terorist threat now on arriving in the US, I hope not it would ruin our careers as most of us if not all have to rely on the United States for most of our training.

There was a time it took me no effort to inform their immigration that I was a pilot on arrival when questioned at the entry gate and was always welcomed in with a broad smile, but now I wonder I just wonder

On the other hand if he is what they think he is then let justice have its way, he should not be spared the highest punishment.


Last edited by ZAZOO; 21st Sep 2002 at 22:27.
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