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Ashcroft: Terrorists likely received support from other governments

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday the terrorists behind the terrorist attacks likely received support from other governments.

Ashcroft also wouldn't rule out that last week's hijacking conspirators may have planned to take over more than the four commercial jets that were seized.

Emerging from a visit at the Pentagon that was badly damaged by last week's attacks, the attorney general raised the possible involvement of other countries.

"It is pretty clear that the networks that conduct these kind of events are harbored, supported, sustained and protected by a variety of foreign governments," he said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reports that U.S. officials have a clearer picture about one of the suspected hijackers (September 19)

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"It is time for those governments to understand with crystal clarity that the United States of America will not tolerate that kind of support for networks that would inflict this kind of damage on the American people."

Meanwhile, U.S. investigators filed the first criminal charges arising from the terrorism investigation after finding three men in Michigan with airport diagrams and phony immigration documents.

The arrests were made as Ashcroft expanded the investigation into the September 11 attacks to enlist the help of U.S. attorneys in every city, vowing to wage a "concerted national assault."

The U.S.-led probe into the attacks has detained 80 people for questioning and has four people under arrest as material witnesses. Investigators are searching for nearly 200 others for questioning.

In other developments in the investigation:

-- The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that last week's terrorist attacks represented "a massive failure" on the part of the U.S. intelligence community, and he faulted federal law enforcement agencies for a lack of coordination in relaying key information to one another.

-- The FBI sent a list of 20 names to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the nation's banks, asking for any information about financial transactions involving those people. Many of the names are of the dead suspected hijackers and others are of people on a "watch list" of potential accomplices or associates of the men.

-- FBI agents on Wednesday returned to a gymnasium near Hollywood, Florida, where one of the suspected hijackers worked. US-1 Gym owner Bert Rodriguez told CNN the FBI was asking questions about Ziad Samir Jarrah. The Justice Department has identified Jarrah as one of the suspected terrorists who commandeered United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

-- A federal grand jury has been impaneled in White Plains, New York, in an effort to obtain more information about the plot.

-- Investigators also were checking reports that the terrorist pilot believed to have flown one plane into the World Trade Center met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Europe earlier this year.

Documents hint at aborted attack in Turkey

The arrests in Detroit occurred after FBI agents raided a residence looking for one of the people being sought for information about the attacks. Instead, they found the three men and a cache of documents.

The men were charged with identity fraud, misuse of visas, and conspiracy to commit those violations. They were charged in court Tuesday and are expected to appear in federal court in Detroit Friday.

FBI agents also found identification badges for two of the men for an onboard airline caterer at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, along with diagrams of an airport flight line, including aircraft and runways.

"I think it would be far too early to indicate that this is some sort of major breakthrough in the case," Ashcroft told reporters at the Pentagon, where he took a tour of the damage there. "But we are going to pursue every lead and we will prosecute every infraction."

The three men arrested were identified in court documents as: Karim Koubriti, 23; Ahmed Hannan, 33; and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 21. All were described as resident aliens and Arabs.

According to The Detroit News, agents found in the Detroit house documents that may have been linked to an aborted attack last year on a U.S. military base in Turkey. Court records said the FBI seized documents suggesting the men worked in food preparation for airlines at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and collected information about an American military base in Turkey, a U.S. "foreign minister," an airport in Jordan and diagrams of aircraft locations and runway, according to The Associated Press.

Man in custody was tracked prior to attacks

Another man currently in U.S. custody was the subject of an August investigation by FBI agents. Two weeks before the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, agents were at a flight school in Oklahoma asking questions about a man now suspected of having a link to those attacks.

The agents, sources said, were interested in Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested August 17 in Minnesota on an alleged passport violation. Moussaoui was in custody at the time of last week's attacks -- being held as a material witness -- but authorities are investigating whether he and others were part of a broader plot to hijack and crash even more jets

In Oklahoma, Moussaoui had apparently raised suspicions because he sought training in flying commercial jets despite lacking experience.

The possibility that pilots were being trained for terrorist plots was revealed earlier this year during testimony at the trial of four men charged with the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Africa. U.S. prosecutors believe Osama bin Laden -- described as the "prime suspect" in the hijackings -- was behind that plot as well. He, in fact, was indicted for the 1998 bombings.

U.S. investigators also believe that two of the dead World Trade Center hijackers had toured the Oklahoma facility, seeking flight training. Those two hijackers later enrolled in a Florida aviation school.

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