WAR: Hub terror suspects ID'd: Bush vows retaliation after devestating attack by Ed Hayward, Tom Farmer and Cosmo Macero Jr.
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
Authorities in Massachusetts identified at least five Arab men as suspects in yesterday's terror attacks launched from Logan International Airport, seizing in the central parking garage a car laden with Arabic-language flight training manuals, sources said last night.
Two of the men, whose passports were traced to the United Arab Emirates, were brothers, one of whom was a trained pilot, a source told the Herald, speaking on condition of anonymity.
At least two other suspects flew to Logan yesterday from Portland, Maine, where authorities believe they had traveled after crossing over from Canada recently.
Once in the air, the hijackers in one plane began killing flight attendants in order to lure a pilot from the cockpit and seize the plane, said one source.
`They started killing stewardesses in the back of the plane as a diversion. The pilot came back to help and that is how they got into the cockpit,'' said the source. The source could not specify whether those events took place on the American Airlines flight that left Logan, or the United Airlines flight. Both planes were plunged into the World Trade Center roughly an hour after they departed Boston.
The suspects had no guns, but used shaving kits and other carry-on luggage to smuggle knife-like weapons made up of plastic handles embedded with razor blades, sources familiar with last night's developments said. That finding is consistent with reports of a flight attendant's cell-phone call from one of the doomed airliners.
``People were calling from the plane saying they were getting killed, calling 911,'' said one source. ``One stewardess called her husband to say goodbye.''
Authorities were led to the rental car by a civilian who got into an altercation with several Arab men as they were parking their car, identified by sources as a Mitsubishi sedan.
The man, whose name was not available last night, called state police from an out-of-state airport after his own flight landed yesterday and he learned planes hijacked from Logan had been involved in attacks that toppled the World Trade Center's twin towers, crippled the Pentagon and downed another airliner in Pennsylvania.
The car, rented from National Rental Car, was secured yesterday by the FBI and authorities have prepared a search warrant. It was unclear when the warrant would be served.
State police interviewed more than 130 people at the airport yesterday, as America launched what is expected to be the largest criminal investigation in its history.
Investigators suspect the two brothers identified by Bay State investigators were aboard United Airlines Flight 175.
The terror plot included the hijacking and crashing of four airliners, including one into the Pentagon, where the Arlington, Va., fire chief estimated the death toll at up to 800.
In New York last night, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani told reporters some people are alive in the rubble of the trade center complex, and there was an unconfirmed report of a cop being pulled out alive last night. There was also a report that survivors trapped in the collapsed buildings were making cell-phone calls.
A horrified nation witnessed the shocking carnage as the World Trade Center's ``North Tower'' burned and exploded after it was struck just before 9 a.m. by Los Angeles-bound American Airlines Flight 11, which departed Boston's Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. with 81 passengers, two pilots and nine flight attendants.
A second jet - United Airlines Flight 175, that left Logan for L.A. at 8:14 a.m. carrying 56 passengers, seven attendants and two pilots - was captured on video as it sliced through the ``South Tower'' and unleashed a massive fireball just after 9 a.m.
Just moments before the first crash, air traffic controllers heard the lone voice of the terror plot speaking from the cockpit of one doomed aircraft.
``We have more planes, we have other planes,'' a voice alleged to be that of a hijacker could be heard saying through a microphone activated by a pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the Christian Science Monitor reported on its Web site.
Establishing the death toll could take weeks. The four airliners alone carried 266 people, none known to survive. At the Pentagon, as many as 800 people could be dead, including plane victims.
Roughly 50,000 people worked at the World Trade Center and there was an hour available for evacuations. But the toll already appeared staggering for the men and women who worked to save lives. A firefighters union official said an estimated 200 firefighters had died. An estimated 87 police officers were missing.
Within two hours of the initial Trade Center crash, the fiery nightmare gave way to mind-numbing grief, as both towers imploded, raining thick dust, glass shards, metal chunks and human remains on the streets below. As the twin symbols of American capitalism's global reach crashed to the ground in a smoking heap of dust and debris, the Pentagon burned after another fiery strike - this time American Airlines Flight 77, which left Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., for Los Angeles with 58 passengers, four attendants and two pilots.
A fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, carrying 38 passengers, two pilots and five flight attendands out of Newark, N.J., crashed in Pennsylvania with its intended target believed to be the presidential retreat at Camp David.
Officials assembled a massive team of investigators as harrowing details of the hijackings began to emerge, culled from desperate cell-phone and radio calls made by passengers and crew:
``One of the pilots keyed their mike so the conversation between the pilot and the person in the cockpit could be heard,'' an unamed controller told the paper. ``The person in the cockpit was speaking English. He was saying something like, `Don't do anything foolish. You're not going to get hurt.' ''
The Los Angeles-bound plane requested a flight path for John F. Kennedy Airport, but then its tracking transponder was shut off and it veered toward the Manhattan skyline.
A flight attendant aboard Flight 11 called superiors to report two flight attendants had been stabbed and hijackers had broken into the cockpit, ABC News reported. The attendant also relayed the seat number of one hijacker before the plane struck the Trade Center.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed knives were believed to have been used in the Flight 11 hijacking.
Aboard American Airlines Flight 93, just moments before it crashed into the Pentagon, Barbara Olson, wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson, called her husband on a cell phone to tell him hijackers wielding knives and box cutters had hearded passengers and crew into the back of the plane.
``She called her husband twice during the hijacking to tell him the plane had been hijacked, and they lost contact once and she called back,'' reported CNN, where Barbara Olson worked as a commentator.
``She said to Ted, `What do I tell the pilot to do?' CNN reported. ``But there was nothing they could do, they were all kept in the back of the plane.''
In Pennsylvania, an emergency dispatcher received a cell-phone call at 9:58 a.m. from a man who said he was a passenger locked in a bathroom aboard United Flight 93, said dispatch supervisor Glenn Cramer in neighboring Westmoreland County. ``We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!'' Cramer quoted the man from a transcript of the call. The man told dispatchers the plane ``was going down. He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane and we lost contact with him,'' Cramer said.
Virginia Rep. James Moran said the intended target of the plane was apparently Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, 85 miles away from the crash site.
Altogether, the four planes carried 266 people. There was no word on any survivors.
By evening in Manhattan, huge clouds of smoke still billowed from the ruins, obscuring much of the skyline. A burning 47-story part of the World Trade Center complex collapsed just before nightfall. The building had already been evacuated.
``The number of casualties will be more than most of us can bear,'' Mayor Giuliani said.
The scene at ``ground zero'' in the aftermath of the attack mirrored the grisly stories of both survival and death.
Some of the Trade Center's 50,000 workers were seen leaping from windows to certain death, including a man and a woman holding hands. Some jumped from as high as the 80th floor as the buildings were crippled by flames, smoke and fire.
``People were screaming, falling and jumping out of the windows,'' from high in the sky, said Jennifer Brickhouse, 34, of Union, N.J., who was going up the escalator into the World Trade Center.
While no terrorist group had claimed responsibility, investigators focused quickly on billionaire terrorist fugitive Osama bin Laden, already tied to the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
``No one has been ruled out, but our initial feeling is that this is the work of bin Laden,'' said a high-ranking federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``He is top of our list at this point.''
U.S. intelligence intercepted communications between bin Laden supporters discussing the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, according to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
``They have an intercept of some information that included people associated with bin Laden who acknowledged a couple of targets were hit,'' Hatch said in an interview with the Associated Press. He declined to be more specific.
Hatch also said law enforcement has data possibly linking one person on one of the four ill-fated flights to bin Laden's organization.
In June, a U.S. judge had set today as the sentencing date for a bin Laden associate for his role in the bombing of the Tanzania embassy that killed 213 people. The sentencing had been set for the federal courthouse near the World Trade Center.
One former FBI terrorism specialist said yesterday that the hijackers who boarded the flights at Logan Airport may be part of a terrorist cell in Boston.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a former second-in-command in the FBI's Boston office, said Boston appears to have been the staging area for the attack on New York and the hijackers most likely had help from others who may still be in Boston.
``There's a terrorist cell operating out of Boston,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``They had to have support, they had to have people on the ground, in Boston, supporting them.''
Jessica Heslam, Jonathan Wells, Susan O'Neill and Herald wire services contributed to his report.