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Sources: Plot conceived in UK, Germany, UAE



WASHINGTON -- Authorities believe the September 11 terrorist attacks were funded, developed and conceived in England, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, law enforcement sources tell CNN.

Investigators are closing in on a small circle of men with links to al Qaeda, the network headed by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, the sources said. But those sources said they are not yet ready to name any one person for indictment.

As for the man who appeared in British court Friday, Lotfi Raissi, sources tell CNN he is believed to be a mid-level player and by no means a mastermind of any plan.

Investigators still believe that Mohamed Atta, who they believe piloted the plane into the north tower of the World Trade Center, was a key player in carrying out the plot here in the United States. But none of the named hijack suspects or their accomplices in the United States is thought to be a major player in the overall plot.

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In other developments in the investigation:

-- At least one of three men arrested in Detroit last week by the FBI in its terror attack probe is expected to be arraigned Friday on two counts of fraud, federal court officials say. Karim Koubriti, 23, and Ahmed Hannan, 33, both Moroccan nationals were indicted by a federal grand jury in Michigan on Thursday on charges of having false immigration papers and a false Social Security card. A third man, Youssef Hmimssa, was arrested Friday in Iowa and was being held at the Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids.

-- Indian police Friday continued a crackdown on members of the Students Islamic Movement of India, arresting the group's president, Sahid Badr. That occurred after the Indian government banned the organization, a move that sparked riots in Uttar Pradesh that left four people dead. The Indian Interior Ministry said the group was being banned because of its links to al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic movements.

-- The six Algerians arrested this week in Spain, whom authorities link to Osama bin Laden, were taken Friday to the National Court in Madrid. The government has said that the six belong to an Algerian Islamic terrorist cell called the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which is on the list of 27 terror-related entities whose assets were frozen by the Bush administration. The men are suspected of helping to prepare attacks on U.S. targets in Europe, the Spanish government said.

-- A document tied to at least two of the suspected hijackers contained reminders and "rules of engagement" for carrying out a strike against the "enemy," a law enforcement source told CNN. The document was found in a car left behind at the airport in Portland, Maine, where two of the suspected hijackers -- identified by U.S. investigators as Abdul Aziz al-Omari and Mohamed Atta -- boarded a flight to Boston September 11. In Boston, law enforcement sources believe, the two got on board American Airlines Flight 11, which later slammed into the World Trade Center.

-- Investigators are reviewing the records of students at colleges and universities from California to Rhode Island, education officials told The Associated Press. Several of California's state college campuses have received requests to turn over certain records, officials said. Most were for specific students.

-- At least five of the suspected hijackers on the jetliners that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon spent a night in Las Vegas one month before the suicide attacks, government sources said. Federal investigators are puzzled by the trip -- was it a planning meeting, a rehearsal, or a party night on the town?

Unlike other terrorist operations, intelligence sources said they are almost 100 percent certain that no high level person was ever in the United States to help lead the attacks.

Government sources said this is a change in tactic and makes it harder for U.S. law enforcement to do its job. One source described the suspected hijackers as "foot soldiers."

Sources said Mustafa Ahmed -- described as a key figure in the funding operation of al Qaeda -- is garnering special interest. Atta on September 4 sent a package to Ahmed in the UAE. Investigators believe the package contained excess funds from the operation.

Prosecutors: Algerian pilot trained hijackers

An Algerian pilot arrested in London instructed four of the hijackers involved in the attacks on New York and Washington, prosecutors said at an extradition hearing Friday.

Lotfi Raissi, 27, was detained last week following the attacks in New York and Washington. He was re-arrested Friday on an international arrest warrant that originated in the United States.

Prosecutor Arvinda Sambir told Bow Street Magistrates Court: "He was a lead instructor of four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings. The one that we are concerned about is the one that went into the Pentagon."

She said Raissi visited the United States on a number of occasions between June 10 and July 11. On June 23 he allegedly visited Las Vegas with his wife, then flew to Arizona, where he ended up at the Nevada Aviation School.

Prosecutors said he visited the school to make sure the four pilots were trained for the attacks. A videotape exists of Raissi and suspected hijacker Hani Hassan Hanjour flying to Phoenix, Arizona, Sambir added.

Hanjour is the man believed to have been piloting American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. Sambir said Raissi was the lead instructor of the pilots.

"We say he was there to ensure that pilots were capable and trained for this purpose," Sambir said.

She added that Raissi was also wanted in the U.S. on charges of giving false information in connection with his application for a pilot's license. Further charges are expected, she said.

Two arrested for fraudulent hazmat licenses

Federal agents Friday arrested the last two of the 20 Middle Eastern men wanted for fraudulently obtaining licenses to carry hazardous materials. Authorities arrested Fadhil Al-Khaledy, 32, of Detroit at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago as he arrived on a Royal Jordanian Airlines flight from Shannon, Ireland.

Al-Khaledy is scheduled to before a federal magistrate judge in Chicago on Friday afternoon.

Authorities also arrested Raad Al-Malfky of Tennessee, in his home state, but details were not immediately available.

Both Al-Khaledy and Al-Malfky were among 20 men whom authorities day had falsely obtained the hazardous material transportation certificates in Pennsylvania. Authorities located the 20 men in seven different states over a three-day period.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said there was no known connection between these men and the suicide hijackers.

-- CNN producer Terry Frieden and correspondents Susan Candiotti, Kelli Arena and Suhasini Haidar contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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