Feds investigating possible terrorist-attack links in Florida
© Associated Press
MIAMI -- FBI agents investigating the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington told a southwest Florida man that two men who stayed with him while getting flight training last year were involved in Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center, the man said.
Charlie Voss, a former employee at Huffman Aviation in Venice, said FBI agents who interviewed him at his home told him that authorities found a car at Boston's Logan Airport registered to the two men.
"They informed us individuals who had crossed our path were involved yesterday with the airplane in the tragedy at the World Trade Center," Voss said.
Voss said one of men who stayed at the house in July 2000 was named Mohamed Atta. He said he knew the other man only by the name of Marwan.
Shortly after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, the FBI in Miami issued a national bulletin for law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for two cars. The bulletin did not mention whether the vehicles were linked to Tuesday's attacks.
Records with the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles show that one of the vehicles the FBI was pursuing -- a 1989 red Pontiac -- was registered to Atta.
In Coral Springs, the FBI was at an apartment complex that Atta listed as his last address with the motor vehicle division.
"We were out there at the FBI late last night at that location," said Coral Springs Police Sgt. Rich Nicorvo. He said the FBI was at the address for at least one hour.
Agents were conducting interviews and sought search warrants in southern Florida and in Daytona Beach in central Florida amid evidence that suspected sympathizers of the accused terrorist were operating in the area, officials said.
"We are covering leads all over the country and this is one of the many we are covering," said Brian Kensel, an FBI spokesman in Tampa.
In Venice, Voss said the two men said they had just arrived from Germany and wanted to take flight training at Huffman Aviation, where Voss worked for more than 13 years. He no longer is with the company.
The houseguests took flight training on small planes at Venice Municipal Airport, about 60 miles south of Tampa. Voss said the men were asked to leave their home after a week when the couple grew uncomfortable with them.
Voss said he wasn't involved with their training. The company offers training in light, single-engine aircraft like Cessnas and Pipers but no commercial aircraft.
Rudy Dekkers, president and owner of Huffman Aviation, said the FBI was looking at student records but he declined to provide any details.
Kensel of the FBI could not confirm whether a search was conducted in Venice.
Officials at Embry-Riddle, the world's largest university specializing in aviation, would not confirm if the FBI had contacted the school.
Spokeswoman Lisa Ledewitz said one out of every four commercial airline pilots was trained at Embry-Riddle. Students train in single-engine planes and until last December the school used a Boeing 737 simulator.
"We are suffering like the rest of the country," Ledewitz said. She said all international students who enroll in the pilot program have to receive prior approval from the U.S. State Department.
The FBI executed search warrants in Davie in Broward County north of the Miami area, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported, quoting Miami FBI spokesman Judy Orihuela. Orihuela did not immediately return phone messages Wednesday.
Hollywood Police Detective Carlos Negron said Wednesday that the department was helping the FBI in an investigation in Broward and declined further comment.
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times wire desk
From the AP