New York Times
March 22, 2002

Phone and Credit Files Link Student Held in New York to 3 Terrorism Figures


PEORIA, Ill -- A Bradley University graduate student from Qatar who was arrested in January may have links through telephone records to three men named as conspirators in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to documents unsealed in federal court here.

The student, Ali Salem Kahleh al-Marri, is being held in New York on charges of unlawful possession of more than 15 credit cards, found on Dec. 11 in a search of his two-bedroom apartment in West Peoria. Neighbors said he was married and had small children. The landlord said the family had left the apartment.

An affidavit in support of the search warrant for the apartment provided a glimpse of possible connections between Mr. Marri, one of hundreds of people questioned in the terrorist inquiry, and Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the hijackers; Ramzi Muhammad Abdullah bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who Americans apparently believe was at one time intended to be the 20th hijacker; and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, identified by investigators as a pivotal money provider for the hijackers.

About Sept. 23, the affidavit says, someone used a calling card at a pay phone here to try to call the same number in the United Arab Emirates that Mr. Atta gave Federal Express as a contact for a package that he sent there on Sept. 4 from the United States. The package was addressed to Almohtaram, Arabic for the respected one, the affidavit said. Mr. Atta's phone calling card had also been used for calls to that number.

Someone else, unnamed in the affidavit, also used that number as a contact for a wire transfer of money on Sept. 3 to Mr. Shibh, who, officials say, also gave the hijackers money.

Five days later, Mr. Hawsawi provided that same number on a cash withdrawal slip from his account at the Standard Chartered Bank in the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Hawsawi, the affidavit says, had access to the account to which Mr. Atta and another hijacker, Marwan al-Shehhi, wired money shortly before Sept. 11.

The affidavit said the calling card used in trying to call the emirates on Sept. 23 was used again, on Sept. 27, by someone trying to call from Mr. Marri's cellular phone. The same card was used again, on Oct. 14, to try to call the number in the United Arab Emirates from a pay telephone at a gasoline station in Springfield, Ill.

Another call to that number was tried on Nov. 4 from a pay phone at the Summit Hotel in Chicago by someone who was using a different calling card, one also used that day from Mr. Marri's house. Mr. Marri told investigators that he did not know Mr. Hawsawi and that he did not call the number in the United Arab Emirates.

Richard Jasper Jr., Mr. Marri's lawyer in the credit card case, emphasized that Mr. Marri had not been charged with any crime related to terrorism. Mr. Jasper said that the search of the apartment "obviously didn't shed any light" on any connection and that the F.B.I. had no proof that Mr. Marri was using the calling cards to make the calls.

"I don't know what an attempted call is," the lawyer said, asking whether that meant that a busy signal or that a call did not go through. "That could mean that any number of inferences could be drawn that don't have any malice aforethought."

Mr. Marri was a Bradley student from 1987 until 1991, when he graduated with a B.S., a spokeswoman for the university, Kathleen Conver, said. He enrolled for the fall term last year as a graduate student in computer science.

Copyright 2002, New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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