Authorities: Kentucky Man Threatens President
C H A T T A N O O G A, Tenn., April 1 — A man who threatened President Bush with a 3,000-pound bomb was arrested Sunday after leading the Secret Service and five other law enforcement agencies on a chase down Interstate 75, authorities said.
Monty Branch, 29, of Frankfort, Ky., made the threat to a Bradley County dispatcher. He was driving a truck full of propane and was arrested at an interstate exit to the Chattanooga suburb of East Brainerd. No bombs were found on the truck.
"He said that he had a 3,000-pound bomb," said Beth Tucker Womack, spokeswoman for the state Department of Safety. "He said that he had a problem, and the president had a problem."
Branch told the dispatcher he was calling from a service station along I-75. He was no longer at the service station when authorities arrived, but authorities later spotted him on the interstate, Womack said.
The truck belonged to Amerigas, where Branch did deliveries. Branch had driven the truck 219 miles from Frankfort, authorities said.
A dispatcher in Bradley County referred calls to the Secret Service. Tim Gobble, supervisor of the Secret Service's Chattanooga office, declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
The chase lasted for 20 miles and reached speeds of up to 70 miles an hour before authorities cleared the interstate and punctured the truck's tires. Two separate searches failed to produce a bomb, authorities said.
Branch continued to threaten the president after his arrest, "indicating to a Chattanooga officer that he was going to blow the president up as part of expressing his freedom of religion, or statements to that effect," Chattanooga police spokesman Ed Buice said.
Charges were expected for the threat and traffic offenses, and a small amount of marijuana was found in the truck.
Amerigas, based in King of Prussia, Pa., also planned to seek theft charges against Branch for the truck, C.W. Joel, public information officer for the Chattanooga Police Department, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
—The Associated Press
Man Admits Supporting Terrorists
CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 1 — A man has pleaded guilty to funneling money, weapons and supplies to the Hezbollah terrorist group, prosecutors said today.
Said Mohamad Harb, pleaded guilty Feb. 25 to a charge of providing material support to a known terrorist organization, U.S. Attorney Robert Conrad said. His trial had been scheduled to begin in two weeks.
The case stems from an investigation into a group accused of smuggling cigarettes from North Carolina to other states for resale, then funneling the profits to the Lebanese militant group.
Harb, 31, a Lebanon-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged last year with providing Hezbollah with cash and supplies, including stun guns, blasting equipment, night vision goggles and mine detection equipment.
A lawyer for Harb didn't immediately return a call.
Two more men still face the charge of providing material support to a terrorist group, Conrad said. They are Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, originally identified by authorities as the group's ringleader, and Sheik Abbas Harake, identified as a military commander who lives outside Beirut.
Hammoud, who was already charged with racketeering and money laundering, is in custody. Harake is at large.
Three other men are charged with conspiracy in the case. Two are at large and the third was arrested in Canada but never extradited.
"There's only been eight people nationwide who have been charged with providing material support to a militant organization and six of them were part of this investigation," Conrad said.
Harb's trial would have been one of the first prosecuted under a 1996 law that forbids providing material support to known terrorist organizations. A conviction brings up to 60 years in prison.
The case began in 2000, when 18 people were arrested. Some defendants were charged with smuggling millions of dollars worth of cheap cigarettes out of North Carolina to resell in states where higher taxes push the price up.
A superseding indictment last year levied more serious accusations, with prosecutors calling some of the co-defendants members of a Charlotte-based cell of Hezbollah.
—The Associated Press
New York City Hall Sees WTC Flag
N E W Y O R K, April 1 — The American flag that was lifted above the wreckage of the World Trade Center and then flew aboard Navy ships deployed in the war against terror was raised above City Hall today.
City officials and Navy officers stood at attention in a solemn, wordless ceremony as an honor guard of police officers and firefighters lifted the flag and bagpipers played "America the Beautiful."
On Sept. 11, firefighters Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein were photographed as they raised the flag above the smoldering rubble.
"The flag has special meaning," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said before the ceremony. "It seemed to represent an indomitable spirit, a coming back from those attacks."
The flag was sent to the USS Theodore Roosevelt in October as it sailed toward Afghanistan. It has since flown on six other Navy ships.
It was returned to New York last week after a ceremony aboard the Roosevelt as it ended its six-month mission and returned to Norfolk, Va.
At Monday's ceremony, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials were joined by McWilliams, Johnson and Eisengrein.
Afterward, Eisengrein had little to say about his role.
"It was just three New York City firefighters who raised the flag," he said.
The flag will fly over City Hall for one week, and then will likely circulate among city police stations and firehouses in a case crafted by the Navy, said Michael Handy, director of the mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs.
—The Associated Press
Deported Egyptian Arrested in Miami
M I A M I, April 1 — An Egyptian man who was deported earlier this year was arrested on immigration charges after he arrived in Miami on a flight from Spain, carrying boxcutters in his briefcase, authorities said.
Aly Sabra Galal Abdell, 29, was arrested Friday night as he arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberia Airlines Flight 6123 from Spain, said Patricia Mancha, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Miami.
The man was stopped by inspectors after they ran his name and found he had been deported in January by a New York immigration judge. He had arrived in the country just before the Sept. 11 attacks.
A search of the suspect's briefcase, which he carried aboard the plane, turned up the boxcutters, officials said. Federal officials have banned passengers from carrying small blades, including boxcutters.
"We're in the process of reviewing the matter for criminal charges," said Aloyma Sanchez, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami.
He was being held Sunday on immigration law violations.
Staff members at both the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Spanish Consulate in Miami said no one was available to comment Sunday.
An Iberia Airlines supervisor at the airport said Flight 6123 landed in Miami without incident Friday, but she had no other information.
The hijackers used boxcutters in the Sept. 11 hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
—The Associated Press