W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 25, 2001 -- An extraordinary stowaway is under investigation in Italy.
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Italian police are trying to learn why Rizk Amid Farid, a 43-year-old Egyptian arrested near Rome, would have been shipping himself across the Atlantic Ocean in a furnished box complete with a bed and toilet.
Farid was discovered late last week in a shipyard in the southern port of Gioia Tauro, where his Canada-bound ship was docked for five days. Authorities on the ground say port authority personnel discovered Farid after hearing strange noises coming from his container.
Crammed into the suspicious stowaway's box with him were two cellular phones, a satellite phone, a computer, cameras, many documents, and even a drill for making airholes.
Police believe he boarded the ship in Egypt and planned to travel all the way to Canada. But Farid, who was holding a Canadian passport, also had a plane ticket to fly from Rome to Toronto to Montreal. His seat on the flight, scheduled to leave last Friday, was confirmed.
Italian investigators say everything about Farid — his documents and claims about himself — appear to be either false or obscured. They have checked his stories with police in other countries — including Egypt, Canada and the United States — and believe none has panned out. Canadian investigators are further investigating the suspect's background.
Though police have not said they have any direct evidence tying Farid to terrorism, he is the first person to be arrested in Italy on the basis of a new counterterrorism law passed last week in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the new law, he can be held for at least six months as investigators try to determine whether he is a terrorist.
A prosecutor said the stowaway had studied in Egypt and in North America to qualify as a commercial jet engine mechanic. Before leaving Egypt, however, he was believed to be working at a magazine distribution company. Investigators say he claimed to be "running away" from a powerful brother-in-law in Egypt and had traveled in the container for five days. — Ann Wise in Rome, Yael Lavie in London and Brian Hartman in Washington