Five al Qaeda suspects handed to U.S. authorities One believed to be 9/11 organizer

Posted: September 17, 2002

An alleged organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks was handed over to yesterday U.S. authorities in Karachi, Pakistan, along with four other al Qaeda suspects who were arrested in Pakistan last week.

The five suspects - including Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who allegedly wired money to the hijackers in the United States and provided them logistical support - were flown out of Pakistan.

The handover took place after a Pakistani official said police were investigating whether some of those arrested with Binalshibh were involved in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted in Karachi in January.

German prosecutors believe Binalshibh, 30, was meant to be the fourth suicide pilot in the Sept. 11 attacks. After he was refused a U.S. visa, he instead arranged payments to American flight schools and made frequent organizational trips.

"After his exclusion as the fourth pilot, Binalshibh became the most significant contact person inside the network," chief German prosecutor Kay Nehm told reporters in August.

Although U.S. officials say Binalshibh was a key figure in the German-based cell that helped carry out the Sept. 11 attacks, they say he was not an overall leader in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

The FBI believes he is a key aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is thought to have been a top planner of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and to have plotted several al Qaeda attacks since.

The Bush administration is weighing whether to try Binalshibh by a military tribunal rather than a civilian court, but the decision will take a backseat to initial efforts to interrogate him about al Qaeda and future planned attacks, officials in Washington said yesterday.

Binalshibh was seized in a raid on an apartment building in a middle-class neighborhood Wednesday - the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Around a dozen suspects were arrested there and in a sweep the previous day.

Among those captured and since handed over to the U.S. was Umar al-Gharib, a brother of al Qaeda leader Tawfiq Attash Khallad, a top U.S. defense official in Washington said. Khallad is thought to be one of the masterminds of the deadly October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen.

_ In Florida yesterday, state law-enforcement officials said they will investigate threatening e-mails sent last weekend to a Miami-Dade County hospital after three medical students set to work there were accused - and then cleared - of plotting a terrorist attack on Miami.

About 200 e-mails, filled with ethnic slurs, have been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Amos Rojas, FDLE's chief of investigations, said threats combined with racial slurs constitutes a first-degree felony. "We're covering those e-mails. If we can prosecute, we'll prosecute," Rojas said. *

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