Arrests reported at Boston hotel

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The Independent US

Several arrests have been reported at the Westin-Copley Hotel in Boston in connection with yesterday's terrorist attack on the United States.

Other arrests have also been reported in Florida as US officials began piecing together a case linking Osama bin Laden to the worst terrorist attack in history, aided by an intercept of communications between his supporters and harrowing cell phone calls from victims aboard the jetliners before they crashed.

The FBI is investigating that five Arab men, including a trained pilot were involved in the hijacking of two planes from Boston's Logan International airport that crashed into the World Trade Centre.

The Boston Herald quoted a source as saying five Arab men had been identified as suspects, including a trained pilot.

A rental car, containing Arabic-language flight training manuals, was seized in a Logan parking garage, the paper said.

Authorities were led to the car by a traveller who said he got into an argument with several men as they were parking their car.

Authorities were focusing some of their efforts on possible bin Laden supporters in Florida based on the identification of one of the hijackers, law enforcement officials said.

The FBI was preparing to search locations in Broward County in south Florida and the Daytona Beach area in central Florida, Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Rick Morera said.

The locations had links to the suspected bin Laden supporter on the jet passenger list, officials said.

US intelligence intercepted communications between bin Laden supporters discussing the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the 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.

Government and industry officials said at least one flight attendant and two passengers called from three of the planes as they were being forced down in New York and Washington – each describing similar circumstances involving knife–wielding hijackers

The callers indicated hijackers armed with knives, in some cases stabbing flight attendants, took control of the plane and were forcing them down toward the ground, officials said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed that the American Airlines Flight 11which left Boston for Los Angeles "was hijacked by suspects armed with knives." He briefed about 250 members of Congress late Tuesday on the latest developments.

The stories of these cell phone callers matched those of a call apparently made aboard a plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania around the same time.

An emergency dispatcher received a cell phone call saying he was a passenger locked in a bathroom aboard United Flight 93, his plane was being hijacked and it was going down. The dispatcher heard an explosion and the cell phone call ended, officials said.

US officials said there was early information tying the attacks to bin Laden, a wealthy Arab believed to be living in Afghanistan who previously has been tied to terrorist attacks against Americans overseas. But they cautioned it was too early to definitively assign blame.

Every possible lead was pursued. Authorities in New York were examining a van based on a lead it may be connected to the attacks, officials said.

The Taliban, Afghanistan's ruling Islamic militia, said bin Laden lacked the resources for such a terrorist attack.

US Federal law enforcement officials were studying manifests for passengers, crew or service personnel with possible links to bin Laden.

Legions of intelligence and law enforcement experts began the task of trying to identify those who planned and carried out the attacks.

"Thousands of FBI agents in field offices and international legal offices are cooperating in this investigation," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. He said numerous federal law enforcement agencies were aiding the effort.

Investigators face a monumental task, especially in New York. Sifting through the rubble, which yielded key clues in the Oklahoma City bombing, will be extremely difficult because of the amount of debris.

Another plane crashed into the Pentagon near Washington, collapsing one side of the building, and a fourth airliner crashed in a field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Security analysts said the crash site in Pennsylvania could be a source of quick clues if the plane's black box can be located.

"Some of the first clues will come from the plane," said Eugene Poteat, a retired CIA intelligence officer. The black box, which captures instrument readings and recordings from the flight deck, may have captured voices of those who crashed the plane.