Detroit raid leads to first criminal charges in terrorist probe
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- 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 in Detroit occurred after FBI agents raided a residence looking for one of the nearly 200 witnesses being sought in the investigation. Instead, they found the three men and a cache of documents.
The three men were charged with identity fraud, misuse of visas and conspiracy to commit those violations. They are to appear in court Friday. Also found in the home were documents, according to The Detroit News, that may have been linked to an aborted attack last year on a U.S. military base in Turkey.
The arrests were made as U.S. Attorney General John 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."
Aided by a federal grand jury in White Plains, New York, the investigation has detained 80 people for questioning and has four people under arrest as material witnesses. Investigators are searching for nearly 200 others for questioning.
One of the men whom investigators have in 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.
In other developments:
-- The FBI was warned six years ago of a terrorist plot to hijack commercial planes and slam them into the Pentagon, the CIA headquarters and other buildings, Philippine investigators told CNN.
-- Attorney General Ashcroft said officials are looking into the possibility that last week's hijacking conspirators may have planned to take over more than the four commercial jets than they did.
-- Ashcroft also announced that illegal immigrants in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service may now be held for longer periods of time before charges are brought, to give investigators more time to question them.
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