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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Iraqi Intelligence Officer in Custody

Aired July 8, 2003 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: An Iraqi intelligence officer is in U.S. hands at this hour. Ahmed al-Ani (ph) allegedly held a meeting in Prague with September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta before the 2001 terrorist attacks.
National security correspondent David Ensor is following this breaking story. He has the details for us right now.

Good evening, David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.

Well, as you say, Ahmed al-Ani is in the hands of the U.S. military in Iraq. And you can be sure they want to question him closely about whether or not he did ever meet with Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, in Prague. Now, that was the report. Czech intelligence officials had told the United States that they had evidence that Mohamed Atta had a meeting with this man, Ahmed al-Ani, in Prague in April of 2001.

Subsequently, however, U.S. officials started to say that they did not have any evidence to back that up. Initially, they took the report seriously, but then they said they have no evidence that Atta was ever in Prague and some evidence to suggest he may have still been in the United States. So it's a matter they want to clear up. For the moment, most officials I've spoken are -- do not believe the meeting ever took place.

But if it did, that would be, of course, evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11, not unimportant, Paula.

ZAHN: Is it the belief of the experts you've talked to that this man will ultimately tell the truth about anything?

ENSOR: Well, officials say it may take some time to get him to talk. He's a professional intelligence officer, certainly well trained in how to avoid answering questions under examination, under cross-examination.

But they -- they'll be patient and they'll be persistent. And they will obviously try very hard. I think they have a reasonable -- they have a feeling that there's a reasonable chance they'll succeed eventually of getting the truth out of him. The truth may be that there was no meeting.

ZAHN: David Ensor, thanks for the update. Appreciate it. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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