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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Target: Terrorism - The Money Man

Aired October 4, 2001 - 06:48   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take a look now at the investigation in this war against terrorism. Assets have been frozen around the country, and one man on the Treasury Department's list may be linked to Osama bin Laden.

But as CNN's national correspondent Mike Boettcher explains, investigators are pondering his real identity.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): December 1999, Indian Airlines Flight 814, en route from Katmandu, Nepal to New Delhi is hijacked. In a strikingly similar scenario to the September 11 U.S. hijackings, terrorists on board Flight 814 used knives to take control of the plane, slitting the throat of one passenger to force the pilots to open the cockpit door.

CAPT. DEVI SHARAN, INDIAN AIRLINES: In our case, also, they were ready to die and crash this airplane any time.

BOETTCHER: For eight days, the 178 passengers and crew are held hostage in a terrifying journey that finally ends in Kandahar, Afghanistan when the Indian government agreed to release three Islamic militants held in Indian prisons. One of those released was this man, Ahmad Umar Sai'id Shaykh, also called Shaykh Sai'id, widely recognized as the leader of an Al Qaeda affiliated Islamic militant group known as Harakah-ul-mujahideen that is fighting for Kashmiri independence from India.

The question before investigators and intelligence agencies now, is this Shaykh Sai'id believed linked to Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, the same man as this Shaykh Sai'id, listed in the Treasury Department's list of individuals and organizations whose assets are being frozen as part of the U.S. war against terrorism? And did the same Shaykh Sai'id use the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad to send more than a $100,000 from Pakistan to hijacking suspect Mohamed Atta? Or was it someone else?

Investigators believe Atta distributed the money to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before he launched the attacks on the World Trade Center, and that he even wired the change back.

(on camera): The question intrigues western intelligence and federal investigators who are looking into the possibility it is the same man. If so, it provides another direct link to Osama Bin Laden in the investigation of the September attacks. But investigators just aren't sure. It's another question muddled by similar sounding names, common names and the use of aliases.

(voice-over): What is known is that the Shaykh Sai'id believed to be affiliated with Bin Laden, and educated at the London School of Economics, certainly has experience in international money transfers.

Magnus Ranstorp is a renowned terrorism expert who has closely studied Al Qaeda's membership and structure.

MAGNUS RANSTORP, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: When he certainly is the one that got figured in the hijacking of the Indian airliner as being the one who was released from custody. He is, of course, been linked to the financial network feeding Bin Laden's official assets and therefore, he's quite an important person.

BOETTCHER: Since Shaykh Sai'id was released from jail during the hijacking of Indian Air 814; authorities have been in hot pursuit. Indian intelligence authorities tell CNN's Satinder Bindra, the last time they spotted Sai'id was six months ago at a bookstore in Islamabad, Pakistan. Where he's been since is the question facing investigators.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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