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Hijacking suspect's family claims mistaken identity

Ziad Jarrah
Ziad Jarrah  

BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon (CNN) -- The family of suspected hijacker Ziad Jarrah contends there may be another man with the same name who was responsible for hijacking one of the four flights involved in last week's terrorist attacks on the United States.

The family also said they do not even believe that Jarrah, 26, was on board United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in western Pennsylvania on September 11.

Jarrah's uncle originally had claimed his nephew -- who has not been accounted for in weeks -- was an "innocent passenger" on the flight.

U.S. authorities said they believe Jarrah helped hijack the aircraft and was at the controls before the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

CNN's Brent Sadler has exclusive video of Ziad Jarrah, which his family claims shows he could not have been living a double life as a terrorist (September 18)

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The family contends that a lease showing that Jarrah rented an apartment in New York City was dated before he even left Lebanon, leading the family to believe Jarrah was not involved in the attacks.

The family also provided documentation showing Jarrah attended a different technical school than two other hijacking suspects, disputing German authorities, who said Jarrah and the others attended the same school in Hamburg.

Four flights were hijacked September 11 in the United States. Two were purposely crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another into the Pentagon and a fourth went down in Pennsylvania.

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Thousands are feared dead in the attacks, in which U.S. authorities have named Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect. Bin Laden, a suspected terrorist, is living in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling Taliban.

Jarrah's family said he had spent some time in Afghanistan 18 months ago.

The family, which is cooperating with Lebanese authorities, said Jarrah was a fun-loving young man and said it would have been impossible for Jarrah to have turned into an Islamic fundamentalist. They released home video of Jarrah to CNN, showing him celebrating at another couple's wedding.

Jarrah lived in Germany until June 2000, when he went to the Miami area and took flight instruction at two schools in southern Florida.

Jarrah recently had been reported as missing by his girlfriend, who lives in the western German city of Bochum, after she had not spoken to him for some time.

German authorities said Jarrah lived in Hamburg and Bochum and searched two apartments in those German cities.

At the Bochum apartment, investigators found a suitcase with documents relating to airlines and airplanes. They would not elaborate further.

-- CNN's Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler and Berlin Bureau Chief Bettina Luscher contributed to this report

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