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CNN BREAKING NEWS

20th Hijacker?

Aired November 5, 2003 - 07:11   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A developing story this morning. In fact, at this hour, CNN confirming that the FBI has long developed this theory as to who may have been a possible 20th hijacker on the events of 9/11.
Our Justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is tracking this story, by telephone now updates us on what we are learning.

Kelli -- good morning.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Well, it turns out that officials say that they have identified who they believe was intended to be the 20th hijacker. Now, they're not identifying this individual, who is a man, but they're saying that he was in the country before -- in the country, meaning the United States -- before the attacks, but left for some reason before those attacks were carried out.

When I pushed to find out if this was a person who was in custody, if this person was alive or dead, they just wouldn't go there. They said, look, we have identified this person that we believe was supposed to be part of a five-man team. If you remember, Bill, there was one plane that only had four men on board, four hijackers on board, and so there was always the thought that there was supposed to be one more.

Zacarias Moussaoui, who is in custody, a name familiar to us all by now, at first it was thought that he was supposed to be the 20th hijacker. But investigators told us months and months ago that they had discounted that theory.

And what I'm trying to find out, Bill, is whether or not this is information that they've obtained from al Qaeda detainees in custody. As you know, they have some very high-level men, al Qaeda leadership in custody, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who himself says that he was the planner of the September 11 attacks.

So much more to find out. We're on it, and we'll let you know as soon as we get it.

HEMMER: Kelli, quickly, one assumes there is a manhunt under way overseas, if indeed this person is still alive and positively...

ARENA: Not necessarily, Bill.

HEMMER: No? ARENA: Because we don't know -- we don't know if this is a person who is in custody overseas. We don't know if this person is dead. So, I mean, obviously, obviously, if this was somebody that, you know, they had identified that was on the loose, we would assume that there would be a nationwide BOL (ph), a be-on-the-lookout for this person. We haven't seen that, Bill, which is what's curious about this.

So, I'm not -- and we know that there have been people, like Anad Shuq Ajuma (ph) and others -- these are names I'm throwing out there that are probably blurring, you know, everybody's eyes right now. But these are people who we know about, but none of these people have been identified as that important in the food chain, as somebody who investigators, you know, were chomping at the bit to get.

So, that's what's so curious about this, which led to the question of, well, is this person dead or in custody overseas? But they're not going there yet. And so, hopefully, we can crack it by the end of the day.

HEMMER: All right, a developing story. Kelli, thanks -- Kelli Arena by telephone in the D.C. area.

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