— Authorities released a chilling handwritten letter on Friday that investigators believe helped to prepare the hijackers for their deadly suicide mission.
MORE INVESTIGATIVE NEWS: • Germans Arrest Alleged Terrorists • Alleged Counterfeiter Nabbed in Iowa • Authorities Pursue Terrorist Mastermind • Pilot Accused of Training Hijackers
The four-page document, written in Arabic, was discovered by FBI investigators in a suitcase that belonged to suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta, who was believed to be at the controls of American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The letter expresses Islamic extremists' hatred for America and extols the glory of martyrdom.
"Remember, the battle of the prophet … against the infidels, as he went on building the Islamic state," the letter urged, according to law enforcement officials who provided a translation of key excerpts to ABCNEWS.
"Keep a very open mind, keep a very open heart of what you are to face. You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest, everlasting life … "
The note, which is believed to have been distributed to many or all of the 19 hijackers, contained practical instructions, as well as religious.
One passage appeared to urge the hijackers to confront any fears of death they might have had on the eve of the attack.
"The last night … Remind yourself that in this night you will face many challenges. But you have to face them and understand it 100 percent," the letter reads.
Another section instructed the terrorists on how to proceed on the morning of the hijackings:
"Check all of your items — your bag, your clothes, knives, your will, your IDs, your passport, all your papers. Check your safety before you leave … Make sure nobody is following you. Make sure that you are clean, your clothes are clean, including your shoes."
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller distributed copies of the letter in its original Arabic to the media this afternoon.
"It is a disturbing and shocking view into the mindset of these terrorists," Ashcroft told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. "The letter is a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terrorist acts."
Investigators found two other copies of the letter — one at the crash site in western Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 went down, and another in a car believed to have been used by Nawaf Alhazmi, one of the suspected hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
Atta's luggage never made it onto the plane which he would commandeer. Authorities discovered the suitcase in which the letter was found at Logan Airport in Boston, where the plane took off from. Atta is believed to have been a ringleader of the hijackers, but it is not known whether he wrote the letter.
Check back for continuous updates on the hunt for terrorists from ABCNEWS' worldwide investigative team.
Germans Arrest Alleged Terrorists
A federal prosecutor in Germany today announced the arrest of three people in Wiesbaden this week on suspicion of planning violent attacks against Germany.
However, the prosecutor so far has been unable to directly link the three to Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda terrorist organization, which the U.S. suspects were behind the Sept. 11 hijackings of jetliners and attacks on American landmarks.
Authorities in Germany only identified the three suspects by their first names, the first initials of their last names and their countries of origin — Talip T., 27, of Turkey; and Wadee al-a, 24, and Shaab al-a, 26, both of Yemen.
Federal prosecutors in Germany also announced the opening of a new case in Hamburg focused on suspected terrorism, but not necessarily related to attacks in the United States.
Germany has been a hub of the U.S.-led effort to combat terrorism because a handful of the 19 suspected Sept. 11 hijackers apparently spent time in Hamburg.
Alleged Counterfeiter Nabbed in Iowa
Secret Service agents on Friday arrested Youssef Hmimssa, a fugitive wanted in connection with the investigation into the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11.
According to witnesses, Secret Service agents wrestled the Morroccan-born Hmimssa to the ground after a brief chase at gunpoint in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was jailed at the local Linn County Corrections Center.
Hmimssa — who is also known as Michael, Saisa, Patrick Vuillaume, Hmimssa, and simply by the name, "Jalali," — is described by law enforcement sources as a "master counterfeiter" of credit cards, bank cards and phony identification documents, some complete with magnetic stripes.
The Secret Service is usually identified with protection of the president and other government leaders. But the agency, which is part of the Treasury Department, also investigates counterfeiting. Friday's arrest of Hmimssa indicates the agency has joined in the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history.
Hmimssa was recently added to the fugitive watch list of the FBI's Joint Task Force on Terrorism. After tracking him from Detroit, Secret Service agents from Chicago and Des Moines gathered in Cedar Rapids and confronted him outside his first-floor apartment.
Law enforcement sources confirmed to ABCNEWS that when he was arrested Friday, Hmimssa had several different identity documents and several thousand dollars in cash.
Many of the men identified by federal law enforcement authorities as hijackers of the four airliners on Sept. 11 reportedly carried false identity papers and routinely settled their accounts in cash.
Hmimssa was first arrested May 23 by Secret Service agents in Chicago and jailed briefly on charges that he violated federal criminal statutes prohibiting the counterfeiting of identity documents and bank cards. However, a week later Hmimssa was released after posting $25,000 bond and he promptly fled Chicago.
— Howard L. Rosenberg
Authorities Pursue Terror Mastermind
Authorities now believe the Sept. 11 attacks were conceived, developed and funded by terrorists based in Europe and the Middle East and are pursuing a man believed to have helped mastermind the suicide hijackings, law enforcement sources tell ABCNEWS' Pierre Thomas.
Sources say a man with ties to al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's global terrorist network, has been identified as a central player in masterminding the plot. The man is known to have lived in Europe but sources would not say if he is believed to still be there.
U.S. authorities have nearly finished developing a case that can be made against the man in court, the sources said.
Investigators believe the 19 suspected hijackers and their accomplices in the United States were largely foot soldiers following orders from their terrorist leaders in Europe and the Middle East.
Authorities also continue to believe Mohamed Atta — who is thought to have piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center — was one of the key players in carrying out the plot here in the United States. Sources tell ABCNEWS investigators have tracked some $100,000 in wire transfers from banks in Pakistan to accounts Atta had at two Florida banks.
FBI officials also believe they can show Atta and two other suspected hijackers — Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi — are tied to al Qaeda.
Pilot Accused of Training Hijackers
British prosecutors on Friday accused an Algerian pilot arrested outside London of having trained four of the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Law enforcement sources tell ABCNEWS' Brian Ross the name of Latfi Raissi was found written on a document in a car left by hijackers at Dulles Airport outside Washington, where the plane that crashed into the Pentagon took off from.
The 27-year-old licensed commercial jet pilot was then tracked by the FBI and Scotland Yard to a flat near Heathrow airport, where Raissi was taken into custody on Sept. 21. He was re-arrested Friday on an international warrant issued Thursday night at the request of U.S. authorities.
At a court hearing in London this morning, prosecutors said Raissi was the "lead instructor" in charge of making sure the hijackers were "capable and trained" for their suicide mission. Raissi's lawyer insisted his client innocent.
"He adamantly denies any involvement in the recent appalling tragedies," defense attorney Richard Egan told reporters. "And he is confident that he will be absolved of any involvement."
According to authorities, Raissi made several visits to the United States in June and July, including a June trip to Las Vegas when he reportedly took a flight to Arizona with one of the hijakcers. Raissi lived in Phoenix in the late 1990s and prosecutors said four of the hijackers went to the same flight school he did and that there is video of Raissi with some of them.
Seven of the 19 suspected hijackers are believed to have received flight training and sources tell ABCNEWS that 11 of them flew into London between January and June for a series of planned meetings.
Raissi remains in custody in London, but U.S. prosecutors are attempting to extradite him on two counts of giving false information to the Federal Aviation Administration on his application for a pilot's license. They allege Raissi failed to disclose that he was once convicted for theft and that he had undergone knee surgery.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Friday a total of over 480 people have been arrested or detained in the United States in the manhunt for suspected terrorists and those with ties to the hijackers. He said the FBI's special Web site, ifccfbi.gov, had received 97,996 tips and the hotline had received 17,532.