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U.S. man enters plea in terror case

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 6, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. - An Arab-American pleaded innocent Monday to charges he tried to join Taliban and al-Qaida forces fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Maher "Mike" Hawash, 39, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent, is charged with conspiracy to levy war, conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida and conspiracy to contribute services to both al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Authorities said Hawash and six others - five men and a woman - were part of the plot. Five suspects are in custody and have pleaded innocent. The sixth is at large.

Hawash, a self-employed software engineer, is accused of traveling to China in October 2001 with the other men in a failed attempt to enter Afghanistan. The woman is accused of wiring money to the men.

Hawash has said the trip was for business purposes. His trial is set for Oct. 1.

Al-Qaida on the move, top justice officials warn

PARIS - The al-Qaida terror network remains a serious threat, with sleeper cells and agents "ready to act" and bases apparently relocated outside Afghanistan, the world's top justice and interior ministers said Monday.

Ministers from the Group of Eight pledged to strengthen cooperation between police forces and intelligence services and approved measures to combat terror financing.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said al-Qaida appears to have moved bases to the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Russia's restive Chechyna region.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft attended the meeting, a sign that France and the United States continue to work together against crime and terrorism despite their dispute over Iraq.

Hotel damaged in attack on trade center reopens

NEW YORK - A 55-story hotel that was damaged in the World Trade Center attack reopened Monday after $30-million in repairs and renovations.

"For years to come, our guests will be able to watch from this hotel as New York rebuilds on hallowed ground across the street," said Ted Ratcliff, senior vice president for Hilton/Doubletree, which operates the Millennium Hilton Hotel.

The hotel sustained exterior damage and its interior was contaminated by debris when the twin towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001. Most of the hotel's 565 rooms have a view of the trade center site.

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