'Arrested al-Qa'ida men knew in advance of attacks'

War on Terrorism: Detainees
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The Independent US

The FBI has arrested three member of the al-Qa'ida network it believes had advance knowledge of the 11 September attacks. The men – all Arabs – were detained in Michigan in possession of airport diagrams and false immigration forms, visas and identification cards.

The US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, told The New York Times that they were "suspected of having knowledge" of the attacks.

While law enforcement officials said there was no evidence to tie the men to the terrorist attacks, Mr Ashcroft cited the arrest of the men as proof of the value of the efforts being made to round up immigrants with ties to terrorists.

"It is difficult for a person in jail or under detention to murder innocent people or to aid or abet in terrorism," Mr Ashcroft said. "As a nation of immigrants, America welcomes friends from other countries who wish to visit, to study, to work. But as 11 September vividly illustrates, aliens also come to our country with the intent to do great evil. Aggressive detention of law breakers and material witnesses is vital to preventing, disrupting or delaying new attacks."

Mr Ashcroft did not name the three but they were previously identified by other law enforcement officials as Karma Koubriti, 23, Ahmen Hannan, 33, and Youssef Hmimssa.

The men were arrested on 17 September when FBI agents raided a house in Detroit looking to question Nabil al-Marabh, a suspected member of al-Qa'ida. In his apartment the FBI found Mr Koubriti, Mr Hannan and a man named Farouk Ali-Hamoud.

Mr Marabh was arrested two days later in Chicago. Mr Marabh, who is now being held as a material witness in New York, had held a commercial driver's license and permit to haul hazardous materials.