Byline: HUGH MUIR
A TEAM of up to 50 terrorists may have been involved in the attacks on New York and Washington, it emerged today. More than a dozen hijackers of Middle Eastern descent are believed to have led the assault.
But investigators now believe they had extensive support. About 40 of the men have been identified, including those killed in the suicide attacks, and another 10 are being pursued by the FBI.
At least two of the hijackers were on the Immigration and Naturalization Service "watch list," but it is still unclear whether the individuals entered the United States illegally or whether they entered before their names were placed on the list.
As the biggest manhunt in American history gathered pace and investigators began making arrests, it emerged that many of the suspects have links to the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Two, who trained as pilots in Florida have already been named.
They are Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Alshehhi, 23, both of whom travelled on United flight 175 from Boston, the second plane to smash into the World Trade Center.
A suspect who travelled on American Airlines Flight 11, the first to hit the Center's North Tower has also been identified. He is Satan Suqami, a Saudi national.
Investigators also want to know more about Ali Muhammed al-Darmaki, who attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, though he never completed his training because of bad grades. Another aviation student, who like al-Darmaki was originally from the Middle East, did not arrive for classes on Tuesday and hasn't been seen since.
The massive internal investigation involving 4,000 FBI agents, 3,000 support personnel and 400 scientific staff has stretched from the Canadian border, where officials suspect some of the hijackers entered the country, to Florida, where some of the participants are now known to have learned how to fly commercial jetliners before the attacks. Locations in Massachusetts have also been searched for evidence.
Authorities detained at least a half dozen people in Massachusetts and Florida on unrelated local warrants and immigration charges and were questioning them about their possible links to the hijackers.
Three people were arrested in Boston after being linked to a credit card used to purchase tickets for the hijackers. Agents have spread out across the country in an effort to learn everything possible about the suspects and to prevent their associates from vanishing.
But the inquiry is also an international one. Officials in Mexico say they have been asked to look for six suspects, all of whom are of Middle Eastern appearance. Three have Pakistani passports.
The investigation has also crossed the Atlantic after addresses in Hamburg were raided overnight by a German SWAT team which searched a residence where Atta once lived. Justice Department officials now believe the four planes were hijacked by between three and six people in each case, using knives and box cutters, and in some cases making bomb threats. …