Landfill Search for WTC Remains Ends

Landfill Search for WTC Remains Over

N E W Y O R K, July 15 — Workers and victims' family members gathered today at a Staten Island landfill to mark the end of a grueling and emotional 10 months spent searching for human remains from the collapsed World Trade Center.

"We see the best and the worst," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, standing a few feet from a heaping mound of debris at the Fresh Kills landfill. "We are here because of the worst of humanity, the terrorists who caused so many deaths and so much pain."

"We will not forget 2,800 people who died … to make this the best country in the world," said Bloomberg, who also praised the recovery workers for helping "to give us some closure."

John Tedesco, a firefighter from Engine 9 in Manhattan who sifted through the debris with hundreds of other firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers, was philosophical about finishing up the work.

"It has to end sooner or later. You can't keep going on. There has to be a stopping point, but there will never be closure because so many people haven't been found," Tedesco said.

The landfill became the final stop for debris after Sept. 11 as trucks and barges began hauling rubble from the World Trade Center to be sifted one last time for remains, personal property and criminal evidence.

Remains from about 1,200 victims have been identified.

Workers expressed mixed emotions as the job ended, said Col. John O'Dowd, commander of the New York district of the Army Corps of Engineers, which supervised the operation.

"It was not very pleasant, what they had to do," O'Dowd said Sunday. "On the other hand, the people that worked there worked under some pretty trying conditions, and that tends to bring people close together."

O'Dowd said the focus always was "to bring something home to the families of those that were lost."

The excavation of the ruins in lower Manhattan ended last month, and the last truckload of debris from a building near Ground Zero arrived at the landfill June 28.

At the height of the operation, 7,000 tons of material was processed each day as forensic experts in respirators manned conveyors, ready to stop the debris flow when they spotted a bone shard or other remains.

Thousands of wrecked vehicles were stacked in rows, next to mangled concrete and heaps of steel. Boxes of rings, watches, wallets and ID cards filled trailers parked on the 160-acre site.

— The Associated Press

Four Pakistanis Jump Ship in Louisiana

D E S T R E H A N, La., July 15 — Four Pakistani nationals working aboard a grain ship docked near New Orleans left the vessel without permission and were apparently headed for Texas, authorities said.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service and border control agents were trying to track down the men Sunday evening. The men were ordered not to leave their ship as part of a standard INS order.

Investigators don't yet know why the men left the ship, but said they do not consider them dangerous. The men have no criminal records in this country, officials said.

"We don't have any information that they are criminals or terrorists or anything of that nature," St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne said.

Champagne said the four men, all in their 20s and 30s, called a taxi and investigators have talked to the driver who picked them up around 8 a.m. Sunday.

The driver said the men asked to be taken to Houston, which is where their Malta-based ship Little Lady P had been docked before arriving in Destrehan.

The driver dropped them off at a bus stop in LaPlace.

— The Associated Press

Report: Taliban Captive Links Seattle, London Radicals

S E A T T L E, July 15 — A federal investigation into whether a now-defunct Seattle mosque had ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network was prompted by information from a British Taliban fighter in custody at Guantanamo Bay, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Feroz Abbassi, 22, told CIA investigators earlier this year that he had traveled to Afghanistan from London in 2000 with a Muslim convert now believed to have ties to a Seattle group suspected of supporting the al Qaeda network, The Seattle Times reported, citing federal sources it did not identify.

The two men reportedly met at Finsbury Park's North London Central Mosque, operated by Egyptian-born Abu Hamza Al-Masri, a suspected al Qaeda recruiter wanted in Yemen on terrorism charges, the Times said.

Al-Masri told The Associated Press on Sunday that he did not know Abbassi and that "this is the first I've heard of his allegations. They don't ring a bell as far as our mosque is concerned."

The same London mosque had been visited by Zacarias Moussaoui, the only individual charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, and Richard Reid, who is accused of attempting to blow up an American Airlines flight with bombs hidden in his shoes.

The man Abbassi met with — the Times did not identify him — has been described by intelligence sources as a close associate of Abu Hamza and helped set up a Web site that encourages jihad, or holy war, against the West.

Abbassi also told investigators that while in Afghanistan he met a Swedish citizen who reportedly had been scouting sites for possible al Qaeda training camps in the United States in November 1999. About the same time, two men from the London mosque arrived at a ranch in Bly, Ore., occupied by several members of the Seattle group, the paper said.

A Klamath Falls, Ore., police officer who had questioned the men during a traffic stop on Dec. 14, 1999, gave investigators their names, and Abbassi later identified one as the Swedish man who had told him about the training camp plan, the sources said.

Abbassi was captured by U.S. troops last December in fighting near Khandahar, Afghanistan. His information, combined with intelligence information from detectives in Klamath County, Ore., prompted the investigation of the Seattle mosque, Dar-us-Salaam, the Times said.

Former mosque members are being investigated by the FBI and a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to support al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism against the United States, although it is not believed to be a full terrorist "cell" receiving regular orders from al Qaeda.

Representatives of the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office have not confirmed the investigation. However, an attorney for a former leader of Dar-us-Salaam said the grand jury was investigating and that federal investigators were pressing to speak to his client, Semi Osman, 32, of Tacoma.

Osman, who lived at the Bly ranch in 1999, has pleaded innocent to federal charges that he tried obtaining U.S. citizenship through a sham marriage and owned a semiautomatic handgun with the serial number removed.

The Dar-us-Salaam mosque in Seattle's Central District was closed two years ago because it was too small. A new mosque, called Taqwa, was opened nearby, but it also closed after it sustained damage during the February 2001 earthquake.

— The Associated Press