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FBI seeks more information on LAX gunman

Hesham Mohamed Hadayet  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Investigators on Friday urged anyone who may have known an Egyptian man blamed for the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport to come forward with information that might shed light on the attack.

Police said 41-year-old Hesham Mohamed Hadayet killed two Israeli nationals Thursday at the El Al ticket counter and wounded four others, including the security guard who eventually killed him. (Full story)

Information from family and associates would help investigators determine why Hadayet attacked the Israeli airline's Los Angeles counter Thursday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Garcia told reporters.

"It appears that he went there with the intention of killing people," said Garcia. "Why he did that is still undetermined. That's what we're trying to find out."

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The FBI said Hadayet used a .45-caliber pistol and a six-inch knife in the attack. In addition, he was armed with a 9mm pistol and extra ammunition and magazines for the guns.

After conducting hundreds of witness interviews, the FBI determined Hadayet began shooting at people at the ticket counter from 15 to 20 feet away without saying a word, FBI spokesman Matt McLaughlin said. McLaughlin said the whole incident was "a very violent exchange" that lasted about 30 seconds and left both security guards with stab wounds.

"One security guard was wrestling with him while he was shooting," said McLaughlin. "The El Al security guard left the counter, fired one round at some range, then fired one or more rounds as he closed because that man continued to fire and also had the knife with a six-inch blade in the other hand."

"While the struggle was happening, the second security guard came in after firing on the subject. A third bystander also joined in trying to wrestle him to the ground. And while they were in that position on the ground, the subject stabbed the (second) security guard, who fired on him three times," McLaughlin said.

He called the guards' actions "some heroic efforts." He identified the bystander as a doctor from Texas.

Victims Yakov Aminov, left, and Victoria Hen.  

Dead in the attack were 46-year-old diamond importer Yakov Aminov and 25-year-old El Al employee Victoria Hen. Four others were wounded, including a 61-year-old woman who was shot, a man who was pistol-whipped by the gunman, and El Al security chief Haim Sapir, who was stabbed in the back, officials said.

Sapir fired the shot that killed Hadayet, according to Zvi Vapni, the Israeli deputy consul general, in Los Angeles. Sneh said Sapir's wounds -- he was stabbed three times while struggling with the assailant -- were not life-threatening.

Suspect's uncle: Attack 'a shock for all of us'

Hadayet was not any FBI or FAA watch list, Garcia said. He owned a limousine service and held a green card that allowed him to work in the United States, where he had lived for a decade.

Garcia said the investigation has uncovered no anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish sentiments on Hadayet's part. But, he said, investigators were still conducting interviews and were particularly interested in any friends or family members.

"We are conducting more interviews in those two areas, relatives as well as associates," the FBI man said. "So far we have no indication of any prejudices against any sort of religion or nationality."

Garcia said investigators searched Hadayet's apartment in Irvine, California, and a four-door Mercedes registered in his name found in the airport parking lot. The suspect's wife and two children had departed last week for a trip to Egypt. Investigators said his wife gained U.S. citizenship in 1996.

"We don't have any determination whether or not it was a planned trip," Garcia said. "We're looking at those aspects."

Garcia said investigators removed a computer from Hadayet's home, and were waiting for a search warrant to see what information was on it. Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief David Gascon said the information gleaned from those searches would help officials "find out who he is and what made him tick."

In the Egyptian capital Cairo, Hadayet's uncle, Hassan Mustaf Mahfouz -- a retired Egyptian army general -- said he was shocked to read about the events of Thursday, which was his nephew's birthday.

"I cannot believe what happened," he said. "This is a shock for all of us. We are waiting to find out what the story is all about."

L.A. mayor says attack 'an isolated incident'

Travelers crouch on the floor in foreground as security officials stand over the gunman's body.
Travelers crouch on the floor in foreground as security officials stand over the gunman's body.  

U.S. officials were uncertain whether the gunman was a terrorist, but Israeli Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh said he is assuming he was, "Til proved otherwise."

"We presume that when El Al passengers are attacked by a gunman at an international airport, we believe this is a terrorist attack," said Sneh. " 'Til proved otherwise, this is an act of terror."

Sneh said Israel's experience as a target of terrorism made the assumption logical -- and that it didn't matter if Hadayet was found to have connections with known terrorist organizations.

"The question is not if he is affiliated to a network of global terror," he said. "His motivation, and maybe his affiliation, is the question."

Garcia conceded the point, but said that the FBI "cannot operate on that assumption."

"The ingredient is if we can associate this individual with a known terrorist organization, if we have information that he started his own terrorist organization," or if comments from associates or documents indicate such an association, Garcia said.

Mayor James Hahn also sought to reassure the public the city is safe, saying the FBI "is continuing to describe this incident as an isolated incident."

"I want to emphasize that Los Angeles in safe and secure. We have no information of any credible threats anywhere in the city of Los Angeles," Hahn said.

California Gov. Gray Davis delivered his condolences to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a Friday morning telephone call that had been previously scheduled on a different matter. Davis said Sharon thanked him for his support, but did not address the shooting further.

-- CNN Correspondent Charles Feldman contributed to this report.


• El Al Airlines

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