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Pakistan hunts for key terror suspect

Pakistan hunts for key terror suspect

Author: Zahid Hussain
Publication: The Associated Press
Date: November 1, 2001

Islamabad, Pakistan (AP) - Authorities have launched a nationwide manhunt for a key suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks after he apparently entered the country from Afghanistan, officials said Thursday.

Said Bahaji, 26, was believed to have returned to Pakistan to take a flight Tuesday from Karachi to Istanbul, Turkey. Bahaji did not show up for the flight but is believed still hiding in Karachi, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Bahaji, a German citizen of Moroccan origin, is sought under an international arrest warrant in connection with the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

German authorities have said Bahaji had close contacts with some of the hijackers who flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center in the biggest terrorist attacks in American history.

German investigators say Bahaji rented an apartment in Hamburg in 1998 and shared it with Mohammed Atta, a bin Laden lieutenant who was believed to have been the leader of the hijackers.

Bahaji's arrest would be a major break in efforts to establish a connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.

President Bush launched air attacks on Afghanistan after the country's ruling Taliban militia refused to hand over bin Laden, who has lived there since 1996.

Pakistani authorities believe Bahaji and three companions traveled to Karachi from Hamburg, Germany, one week before the U.S. attacks. The four - all of whom carried Western European passports but were of Arab origin - spent the night at a Karachi hotel and made calls to Hamburg.

They traveled from Karachi to the southwestern city of Quetta and were believed to have crossed the border into Afghanistan.

Bahaji confirmed a reservation on the Tuesday flight to Istanbul but did not show up to get the ticket, Pakistani officials said. Nevertheless, security officials said they were confident they would find him.

In addition, the Pakistani authorities said four people were arrested Tuesday in Karachi while trying to board a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Toronto.

They included two Afghans, one Yemeni and an Egyptian. Officials said the four were believed to have left Afghanistan a few days ago and had been staying in Karachi with a member of the Islamic extremist Sipah-e- Sahaba group.

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