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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: How Did the Hijackers Live

Aired October 1, 2001 - 06:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators around the globe are rounding up terrorists and suspects. Here now is the latest with the investigation.

Despite more than 500 people being arrested or detained, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is warning that there could be other terrorism attacks on U.S. soil. He says that is especially likely as the U.S. moves forward with the military strike. The FBI has also interviewed family members in India of two suspects detained right now in Texas.

In the meantime, as CNN's Art Harris tells us this morning, there's also an Atlanta connection.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ART HARRIS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A trendy gym near Atlanta, where suspected hijackers got in shape to die.

(on camera): Do you recognize this man?

VALERIE MIDDLEBROOKS (ph), L.A. FITNESS: Yes, Mohamed.

HARRIS: Mohamed.

MIDDLEBROOKS: Atta.

HARRIS: Atta. (inaudible)?

MIDDLEBROOKS: It's the same guy.

HARRIS (voice-over): Mohamed Atta, pilot and suspected hijacker, believed to have flown the first plane into the World Trade Center.

Valerie Middlebrooks gave Atta and a companion free passes to L.A. Fitness.

MIDDLEBROOKS: I didn't know his name, but, yes, he was in here with them.

HARRIS (on camera): This man.

MIDDLEBROOKS: Yes. HARRIS (voice-over): Marwan al-Shehhi, another suspected hijacker. CNN has learned he lived in Atlanta for weeks, possibly months, before investigators say he crashed the second plane into the World Trade Center. They first rented planes just north of Atlanta in February, started pumping iron here in July.

(on camera): Was there somebody else with them?

MIDDLEBROOKS: Yes, there was a third guy. He was shorter.

HARRIS (voice-over): A third man?

MIDDLEBROOKS: It gives me the creeps.

HARRIS: Law enforcement sources tell CNN the suspected hijackers spent weeks living in Atlanta's suburbs, moving between a chain of bargain motels, keeping low profiles, and putting on muscle at this club, where FBI agents showed up with mug shots of all 19 suspected hijackers.

Valerie Middlebrooks studied the faces and spotted the same mystery man caught on tape at this ATM machine, a suspected hijacker with no name, until she identified Hani Hanjour, the pilot investigators say crashed into the Pentagon.

Near the gym, a flight school. Dispatcher Chrissy Ross wrote Atta's name on this board when two men rented single-engine Pipers twice this year. Then, after the attack...

CHRISSY ROSS, ADVANCED AVIATION: I put his name in the computer and I searched it, and it popped up, and I froze.

HARRIS (on camera): You froze.

ROSS: I froze.

HARRIS (voice-over): What she did was call the FBI.

(on camera): Who is that?

ROSS: That's Mohamed Atta.

HARRIS: You remember him.

ROSS: Yes. They had said that they moved here from Florida because they were tired of the flatland and they wanted something different.

HARRIS: Why Atlanta? Was it considered a target? Or, as one expert in counterterror suggests, a resting place, far enough away from the real targets for hijackers to feel safe?

Lots of clues, but no conclusion.

Art Harris, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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