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Atta met twice with Iraqi intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials revealed Thursday that Mohammed Atta -- one of the suspected suicide hijackers -- had two meetings, not one, with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague, Czech Republic.

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The first meeting was in June 2000 and the second one was in April 2001, sources said. In both cases Atta met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence officers operating under cover as diplomats.

Officials declined to identify the Iraqis, except to say Newsweek magazine was incorrect in reporting that one of them was Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey.

CNN reported on September 19 there was one meeting between Atta and Iraqi intelligence.

U.S. officials described the two meetings as "interesting" but said they are far from proof that Iraq was involved "in any way" in the attacks of September 11.

In fact, since the intelligence officer -- or officers -- were using "official cover" as diplomats at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague, the meetings could make Iraqi involvement in the plot less plausible rather than more.

The Iraqi officer or officers knew they were under surveillance. If the Iraqis were plotting such an attack, they would have been unlikely to meet with one of those planning to die in it -- knowing the meeting would be monitored and their connection to it discovered.

"It would be lousy tradecraft," one U.S. official said. "They are smarter than that."



 
 
 
 


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