Alleged Threat Sparks New Florida Search
F O R T L A U D E R D A L E, Fla., Sept. 16 — The FBI and police in South Florida are looking for six men who were allegedly overheard threatening in Arabic to "blow things up."
Royal Palm Beach Gardens Police asked Broward County law enforcement officials this morning to put out a "be on the lookout for" warning, known as a BOLO.
The six men, apparently of Middle Eastern descent, were driving a green GMC cab truck and a purple Ford pick up. Officials said they were already on high alert at the Fort Lauderdale airport, so there no need for additional precautions.
An FBI official told ABCNEWS they did not know the whereabouts of the men, and that they were investigating the person who supplied the information, whose identity was not disclosed.
Three Held for Remarks Want Names Cleared
D A V I E, Fla., Sept. 16 — The three Muslim medical students detained after a woman said they were discussing terror plans told reporters they want to clear their names and study to become doctors, but a Miami hospital where they were supposed to train no longer wants them.
The head of Larkin Community Hospital in Miami said Sunday he had received more than 200 e-mails after the incident, some threatening.
"Obviously, nothing is final," said Dr. Jack Michel, president and chief executive officer of Larkin. "Our primary objective is to take care of patients. I don't know how that could be done with all this media coverage."
He said the medical school where the men are studying, Ross University, had agreed to transfer them to a different training program.
Kambiz Butt, 25, said Sunday that he and Ayman Gheith, 27, and Omar Choudhary, 23, want to continue their education in the United States.
"We're medical students. We are not terrorists," Butt said, flanked by Gheith and Choudhary. "Our concern in life is to become doctors. We want to help people. We do not want to hurt."
Butt, the only one of the students to speak at a news conference, said they were worried about their futures but have no resentment toward the woman who told authorities she overheard them discussing terrorist plans Thursday at a restaurant in Calhoun, Ga. They were detained for 17 hours, but were not charged with any crimes.
"We're in a state of shock and we are scared," Butt said. "But I'd like to tell the American people that we are not a threat."
The woman who called authorities, Eunice Stone of Cartersville, Ga., said she heard the students talking about blowing up buildings and laughing about the Sept. 11 attacks. She also said she heard the students saying that a terrorist event was looming on Sept. 13.
"Not once did we mention 9/11. Not once did we mention anything about 9/13, nor did we joke about anything of that sort," Butt said. "She was probably just eavesdropping on our conversation and might have heard a few key words that she misconstrued."
Butt said he believes Stone was attempting to be "a patriot for America."
Stone stood by her report of what she heard and said she would do the same thing again.
"I am not a racist, and I am not ignorant," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I was just trying to do what's best."
Brett Newkirk, one of four attorneys representing the students, called the situation "an incident of misunderstanding."
"They are Americans, just like any other American, who are proud to be American, who want to fulfill the American dream, and who were on the road to doing that when the American nightmare happened to them," Newkirk said.
David Kubiliun, another attorney for the men, said all three are U.S. citizens. Gheith is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Jordan.
The three students were in two cars and en route to Miami on Friday when authorities stopped them on Interstate 75 after one of the vehicles allegedly went through a toll plaza without paying. Newkirk denied they had not paid.
Officials at Ross University, which is based in New York City but has a campus on the Caribbean island of Dominica, did not immediately return calls for comment on Sunday.
—The Associated Press
Pentagon Presses Terror Hunt in Yemen, Bin Laden’s Home
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 16 — The Pentagon is stepping up the hunt for al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, which remains a terrorist hornets' nest despite efforts of U.S. and Yemeni authorities over the past two years.
The Defense Department has sent a team to the remote, rugged Middle East country to recommend ways the United States can help local forces catch al Qaeda fighters, including some who fled the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and their supporters, officials said.
Little visible progress against terrorists has been made in Yemen in recent months, although the CIA has offered intelligence; the FBI turned over a list in February of al Qaeda network suspects believed in Yemen; and U.S. special forces have trained local forces in counterterror tactics for some weeks this summer.
"In Yemen we're still at an early stage," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.
"We're hopeful that they will become more energetic in pursuing some very dangerous people whom we know are in remote parts of that country," he said in an interview last week with AP Radio and AP Television News.
On the southern Arabian Peninsula across from the Horn of Africa, the homeland of bin Laden's father long has been a base of and transit point for terrorists. At the same time, many Yemenis pay allegiance more to local chieftains than to the central government.
Yemen's place in the lineup of terrorist havens was illustrated again Friday, when Pakistani authorities said they had captured 10 alleged members of al Qaeda, at least eight of them Yemenis, including suspected Sept. 11 operative Ramzi Binalshibh.
Though the U.S. government will not talk about the nationalities of the hundreds of prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, jail for terror suspects, other sources have said that about 70 are Yemenis.
It also was in Yemen that 17 American sailors died in October 2000, when terrorists believed linked to al Qaeda bombed the Navy's USS Cole as it refueled in the port of Aden. The attack set off a flurry of joint investigations involving FBI agents with Yemeni police.
With al Qaeda operatives believed at work in some 60 countries, some of whose governments are willing hosts and some not, Yemen is an example of those nations with terrorists that might like to stop them but need help, Pentagon officials said.
Yemen was the third place — after the Philippines and Georgia, a former Soviet republic — to which the Pentagon sent special forces traine38 p.m. L 0.4.
—The Associated Press