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Ashcroft: Letter links all hijackers

Ashcroft holds up a copy of the letter.  

(CNN) -- Copies of a letter written in Arabic that gave instructions to the September 11 hijackers link all of the hijackers Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday. (Full story)

He said the four-page, handwritten letter, which was found in three different locations, was "clear evidence" of the link.

One of the copies was found inside a suitcase belonging to Mohamed Atta, who investigators said was aboard American Airlines flight 11, the first airplane to crash into the World Trade Center. Atta's suitcase did not make it aboard the doomed jetliner, and was recovered by FBI investigators in Boston, Ashcroft said.

Authorities also found a copy at Dulles International Airport inside a vehicle that was used by suspected hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, identified by authorities as one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. The third copy was recovered from the Pennsylvania crash site of the fourth hijacked aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93.

Ashcroft said the four-page handwritten letter contains detailed instructions to the hijackers as well as Islamic prayers, which Ashcroft said "grossly perverted the Islamic" religion.

"It is a disturbing and shocking view into the mindset of these terrorists," Ashcroft said. "The letter provides instructions to the terrorists to be carried out both prior to and during the terrorist attacks."

Authorities believe the terrorist attacks were funded, developed and conceived in England, Germany and the United Arab Emirates, government sources tell CNN.

The sources also said at least three of the suspected hijackers had ties to al Qaeda, the network headed by suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Sources said Mustafa Ahmed -- described as a key figure in the funding operation of al Qaeda -- is attracting special interest. On September 4, Atta sent a package to Ahmed in the UAE, which investigators believe contained excess funds from the operation.

Has the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks been quick enough?

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Other developments

• U.S. and British elite forces have conducted operations in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Friday. The Special Operations forces have been in Afghanistan and the region within the past several days, the source said. The official declined to comment on Pakistani media reports that the soldiers were looking for bin Laden. (Full story)

• President Bush is making $25 million available to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing Afghanistan fearing a U.S.-led attack on the country.

• Groups opposed to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban have agreed to create an allied political and military structure, according to the nation's former king, who was deposed nearly 30 years ago.

• In the Afghan city of Kandahar, Taliban officials rejected pleas from visiting Pakistani dignitaries to hand over bin Laden and free eight international aid workers, according to Taliban representatives. (Full story)

• In London, authorities were holding Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi, whom they accuse of training four hijacking suspects believed to have been involved in the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington. (Full story)

• In Washington, President Bush met Friday with King Abdullah II of Jordan in an effort to strengthen an international coalition against terrorism. Abdullah II, ruler of a moderate Middle Eastern state between Israel and Syria, is the first Arab head of state to visit the White House since the terror attacks. (Full story)

• President Bush is considering an economic aid package that offers financial relief to U.S. workers that have lost jobs as a result of the terror attacks, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday. Travel-related industries have been especially hard hit, including airline companies, which have laid off tens of thousands in recent weeks.

• Former President Bill Clinton and his 1996 campaign rival, former Sen. Bob Dole, are teaming up to lead an effort to raise $100 million in scholarship money for children and spouses of those killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist strikes, sources familiar with the plan tell CNN.

• The Rev. Jesse Jackson said his invitation from the Taliban to visit Afghanistan was a sign the regime was leaning toward a dialogue. Jackson has not ruled out a visit but said he was "inclined" toward not going. He said the Taliban will either choose handing Osama bin Laden to the world court or "choose world war."

• In Afghanistan, several hundred Taliban soldiers massed along a battle line about 31 miles (50 km) north of Kabul, the rebel Northern Alliance said Friday. The alliance massed troops in the area in response to the buildup, according to rebel commanders. No fighting was reported.

• The U.N. Security Council, with the United States abstaining, agreed to lift largely symbolic sanctions against Sudan, imposed in 1996 to try to force the African nation to hand over suspects involved in an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (Full story)

• The FBI is appealing to the public for information on the 19 men suspected in the hijackings of the four flights that crashed September 11. In hopes of jogging someone's memory, the agency Thursday released photos of the men and any aliases they may have used. (Full story)

• In Illinois and Tennessee, federal agents Friday arrested the last two of 20 Middle Eastern men they suspect of fraudulently obtaining licenses to truck hazardous materials.

• In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Friday that his plan to delay the inauguration of his successor until April was designed to please both sides in the debate over whether he should stay on as mayor after his term runs out. He cannot serve a third consecutive term, despite calls to do so. (Full story)

• Nearly two-thirds of U.S. respondents to a CNN/Time poll released Friday favor the use of ground troops in Afghanistan to carry out President Bush's war on terrorism. Most expected a U.S. victory but with many casualties and the high risk of more terror attacks in the United States. (Full story)

• U.S. stock investors responded warmly to better-than-expected economic numbers, finding a good excuse to extend the previous day's rally, even in the face of long-term instability. (Full story)


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