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Thursday Feb. 14, 2002


SANA'A, Yemen

Yemeni al-Qaida suspect blows himself up in clash with security forces

Associated Press

A suspected al-Qaida member blew himself up yesterday evening after being cornered by security forces in a Yemeni suburb, police said.

Yemeni security forces were chasing Sameer al-Hada, 25, and had stopped him for questioning when he threatened police with a hand grenade, police said in a statement. The grenade exploded in his hand, killing him instantly. No police were injured.

The incident, which happened in a suburb of the capital, San'a, came two days after the FBI issued a warning of more terrorist attacks - either the United States or on U.S. interests in Yemen. That warning Monday was accompanied by a list of 17 suspects; al-Hada's name is not on that list, nor is he among several suspects Yemeni officials have said they were looking for at home.

Police said they had learned about al-Hada from his landlord, officials said on condition of anonymity. The suspect lived near San'a University.

According to the police, al-Hada's rental contract had ended and his landlord asked him for documents to renew it. Al-Hada did not provide the documents and the landlord informed police. When police began an inquiry, they learned he was an active al-Qaida member in Yemen and that he had also been to Afghanistan. They did not specify when he was there.

The FBI identified a possible terrorist ringleader as Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei, a Yemeni citizen born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Rabeei is believed to have links to al-Qaida but is not believed to have been involved in the deadly attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.


Former student at Connecticut university in custody after hostage incident in classroom

Associated Press

A legally blind college graduate, described by a former roommate as a paranoid "hermit," was in police custody yesterday after allegedly taking 28 people hostage in a university classroom and claiming to have a bomb.

Patrick Arbelo, 24, of nearby Bridgeport was charged early yesterday with 28 counts of first-degree kidnapping. Authorities said additional charges were pending.

The hostages, including an associate professor and students, were released gradually - some by faking illness - during the seven-hour standoff at Fairfield University. No one was injured.

Arbelo remained in the classroom for about an hour after he released the last hostage, Fairfield First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said. Arbelo "came out and gave himself up peacefully," university spokeswoman Nancy Habetz said.

Arbelo, a 2001 graduate of the Roman Catholic university, was arraigned yesterday. Bail was set at $1 million, and the judge also ordered psychiatric and medical exams for Arbelo, who authorities said was blind in one eye, three-quarters blind in another and partially deaf. Another hearing was set for Feb. 26.

Arbelo had a box with a wire sticking out of it, but he didn't have a bomb, according to police and witnesses.

Necole Arrigo, a 19-year-old sophomore from Boston, said she was sitting in the classroom when a confused-looking Arbelo stumbled into the room and said he had a bomb.

"We didn't think that it was a joke, but we thought it might be some sort of drill," Arrigo said. "Then we noticed the teacher was very nervous. ... He had no idea what he was doing."

Stephen Kriso, who roomed with Arbelo during the 1996-97 school year, said Arbelo did everything before sundown because he was legally blind, and then would spend all night in the dorm room. He usually ate dinner when the cafeteria opened at 4 p.m. to avoid crowds, said Kriso, of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

"He used to talk about the New World Order and the concepts of the Freemasons, and storing things in his attic in the event of a takeover by a group like the Freemasons," Kriso said. "He was basically a hermit."

But Kriso said Arbelo had never exhibited any violent behavior.


FBI agent: shopkeeper saw defendant, hijacker together in months before

Associated Press

A man on trial for allegedly lying about his association with one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and the terrorist were seen together last summer in a secondhand furniture store, an FBI agent testified today.

Special Agent James Gibbs said the owner of the Scottsdale store picked out defendant Faisal Al Salmi and hijacker Hani Hanjour from photographs he showed her at the store on Oct. 19.

The owner was certain she had seen Al Salmi and was reasonably certain Hanjour was him when he went into the store late last summer, Gibbs said.

"She was more sure than unsure," Gibbs said when pressed by defense attorney Gerald Williams.

Gibbs was the third agent to testify during Al Salmi's federal trial. Two other agents said that Al Salmi had denied during interviews that he knew Hanjour and later changed his story.

Al Salmi is charged with making false statements by telling agents he didn't know Hanjour, who was aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon and who had trained to fly in Arizona.

He is the first person to be tried on charges that describe any kind of connection to the men involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. He isn't charged with terrorism.

Court records show Al Salmi and Hanjour were registered at the same time to use a flight simulator that was open to the public at a Phoenix flight school. They weren't students at the school at the time.

Al Salmi, who came to the United States from Saudi Arabia on a student visa in 1997, eventually admitted knowing Hanjour.

Earlier today, Williams questioned FBI Special Agent George Piro about the agency's tactics in the case, asking why agents didn't read Al Salmi his rights or obtain a search warrant when they interviewed him at his apartment Sept. 18.

Piro said agents weren't required to read Al Salmi his rights since he wasn't being arrested at the time, and that he didn't need a search warrant because Al Salmi invited him into the apartment.

Piro had testified yesterday that, during the first three hours of the interview, he asked Al Salmi several times, both in Arabic and English, if he knew Hanjour. Piro said Al Salmi consistently denied any relationship with Hanjour.



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