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FBI checking hazardous material drivers



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI, citing the potential for further terrorist attacks, has begun checking the records of all truck drivers licensed to carry hazardous materials, including explosives and poisons.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a man whose name was found in a car registered to one of the suspected hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks is being held on unrelated charges, according to a federal affidavit.

Mohamed Abdi was detained pending a formal indictment after appearing at a federal court hearing on forgery charges. His indictment is expected within a month.

Overseas, more arrests were reported in the wide-ranging terrorism investigation into the attacks against the United States.

In the latest developments:

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-- At least 10 people have been arrested in three states in connection with alleged efforts to fraudulently obtain commercial licenses for the transportation of hazardous materials, authorities said Wednesday night. The arrests in the Seattle, Detroit and Kansas City areas, however, have not been tied to any terrorist plot.

-- Spanish police arrested six Algerians believed to have links to suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and who were thought to be helping to prepare attacks on U.S. targets in Europe.

-- British police arrested three people under that nation's terrorism law. French authorities said one is a French citizen of North African ancestry wanted by authorities in connection with planned attacks on U.S. interests in France.

-- In Brussels, Belgium, NATO ministers were scheduled to discuss U.S. evidence that bin Laden was the mastermind behind the hijack attacks.

-- New York police increased vehicle inspections amid heightened security concerns.

Agents look at link between man, hijacking suspect

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Curtis Sewell ordered Mohamed Abdi held following a hearing in U.S. District Court.

According to an affidavit, FBI agents found a road map of Washington with the name "Mohumed" and a Virginia phone number that belonged to Abdi. The map was found in a car registered to a suspected hijacker identified as Nawaq al-Hamzi at Dulles International Airport the day after the September 11 attacks.

Flight 77 took off from Dulles and crashed into the Pentagon.

Authorities also found in the car cashier's checks made out to a flight school in Phoenix, Arizona, four cockpit drawings of a 757, a map of New York and one box-cutter-type utility knife, the affidavit said.

Abdi's lawyer said there is no evidence his client knew the suspected hijacker. According to a report by The Associated Press, Abdi is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, works as a $22,000-a-year security guard.

FBI searching trucking records

The FBI, meanwhile, is compiling a list of all companies licensed to handle hazardous materials, according to a source close to the investigation. The FBI will then search each company's records to check out all the employees licensed to drive those tankers and trucks.

Earlier this week, Attorney General John Ashcroft said "several individuals" who may have links to the hijackers implicated in the terrorist attacks had sought or held licenses to transport hazardous materials.

A senior Justice Department official said 20 people have been charged in the past two weeks with fraudulently attempting to obtain commercial licenses to transport hazardous material.

The Justice Department official said he did not know whether the 20 people charged had all been arrested and refused to say where the charges were filed.

Ashcroft urged anyone with knowledge of "suspicious circumstances" regarding hazardous materials or crop-dusting aircraft to contact the FBI.

A FBI advisory sent out last week to the American Trucking Association cited unconfirmed threats involving the "use of chemical, biological, and/or radiological/nuclear WMD (weapons of mass destruction)." The advisory called on truckers and workers at hazardous waste facilities to be on the lookout for any "suspicious behavior."

-- CNN correspondents Kelli Arena, Susan Candiotti, Al Goodman, Eileen O'Connor and producers Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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