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NZ terror suspect to be deported

Mohammad Saffi entered the U.S. on false pretenses  

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNN) -- A New Zealand man who is the stepson of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will be deported from the United States after being arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist activity.

Mohammad Saffi, a former flight engineer of national carrier Air New Zealand, was arrested for failing to disclose his plans to recertify his license to fly Boeing 747 passenger aircraft at a Miami flight school.

The flight school is the same one which trained one of the September 11 terrorist hijackers, Ziad Jarrah.

Saffi, 36, is currently being held in a detention center in Miami awaiting deportation by the U.S Immigration and Naturalization Service.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs spokesman Brad Tattersfield told CNN Saffi had entered the U.S. on false pretenses and had been properly detained.

He said a friend of Saffi's had contacted New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about his fate.

A man believed to be the stepson of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arrested on a visa violation and transferred to a detention center in Miami, Florida

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"He tried to get into the United States via a visa waiver. He came in under false pretences and was properly detained," Tattersfield said.

Saffi had spoken to Foreign Affairs since his arrest and had confirmed to them he was being properly treated, he said.

It was not known when he would be returned to New Zealand, but it was expected to be in the next few days.

According to Jim Goldman, the lead investigator at the INS district office in Miami, Saffi told immigration officials he was going to take a four-day "refresher" course for flight engineers in Miami.

In fact, officials said, he intended to attend a four-day aviation course at Miami's Aeroservice Aviation Center.

"He certainly didn't disclose his purpose for coming to this country when he was admitted by U.S. immigration at the Los Angeles International Airport -- it was only learned after the fact -- and that unto itself rendered him deportable from the United States," Goldman said.


The United States tightened visa requirements for those attending American flight schools following the September 11 attacks in the U.S.

A former U.S. government expert on the Persian Gulf told CNN that Saffi is the son of Samira Shabandar and her then-husband, Iraqi airline executive Nour al-Din al-Saffi.

Saddam Hussein had an affair with Shabandar in the 1980s and Hussein persuaded her husband to divorce her so they could marry.

Mohammed Saffi left Iraq after the Persian Gulf War, traveling first to Jordan and then on to New Zealand.

US immigration officials said Saffi had worked previously as a commercial airline pilot and was seeking recertification training at the flight school.

The arrest came as the US was on high alert for its Fourth of July celebrations.

CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report




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