Said to Seek Navy Targets
Tue Aug 20, 4:34 PM ET
By SETH HETTENA, Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Investigators believe the San
Diego-based Sept. 11 hijackers who helped crash an
airliner into the Pentagon initially were sent to
California to pinpoint targets in the Navy's
largest West Coast port, a federal law enforcement
source told The Associated Press.
Investigators believe al-Qaida operatives Nawaf
Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who arrived in
California in January 2000, most likely were
assigned to identify San Diego-based Navy ships to
attack, said the federal official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
In October 2000, al-Qaida attacked the Navy
warship USS Cole in Yemen.
Alhazmi and Almihdhar were aboard American
Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the
Pentagon, but concern about a plot to target
warships in San Diego did not die with them.
In May, the FBI began checking with dive shops
in the city and around the country to see if
al-Qaida operatives had been taking scuba
training. Special operations Navy divers and San
Diego Harbor police started training in July to
spot potential terrorist threats in the port, and
the U.S. Coast Guard has asked recreational
boaters to look for and report any suspicious
San Diego is home to two nuclear-powered
aircraft carriers and five nuclear-powered
submarines, as well as the headquarters of the
SEALs, the Navy's special operations force. A
signature feature of the region is the two-mile
bridge that links San Diego to Coronado.
The city served as a base for a "high
number of hijackers and associates who lived,
worked and studied" in the area, James Nagel,
a special agent with the State Department's Bureau
of Diplomatic Security, has said in court
John Iannarelli, an FBI spokesman in San Diego,
said his agency is investigating the extent of the
hijackers' support network in or near the city. He
would provide no further details.
In a recent interview, Gov. Gray Davis said
"the FBI has shared with us the probability
of at least a couple cells active in
An al-Qaida training manual recovered by police
in England lays out the organization's missions.
Topping the list is gathering information about
"the enemy, the land, the
installations." No. 6 is "blasting and
destroying the places of amusement, immorality and
sin," and No. 8 is "blasting and
destroying bridges leading into and out of the
Last month, authorities in Spain seized videos
of the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland and
Universal Studios from suspected al-Qaida
Just days before their Jan. 15, 2000, arrival
in the United States, Alhazmi and Almihdhar
traveled to Malaysia to meet with an al-Qaida
lieutenant named Tawfiq Attash Khallad, labeled
the mastermind of the USS Cole attack. Those who
attended the meeting scouted potential targets,
the law enforcement source said.
Investigators in San Diego have divulged little
of what they've learned about Almihdhar and
Alhazmi. The pair attended a local mosque, worked
at a gas station and took a few flight lessons.
Almihdhar flew home to Saudi Arabia, but returned
in the summer. By the end of 2000, they were gone.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities
questioned anyone who met with them and rounded up
a handful of Middle Eastern men as material
witnesses, three of whom were charged with crimes
unrelated to terrorism.
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