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Officials investigate security at Logan airport; search hotel for suspects

© Associated Press

BOSTON -- As Logan International Airport officials defended their security system, investigators Wednesday began tracing the hijackers who boarded two airliners at the airport and crashed them into New York's World Trade Center.

Two suspects flew to Boston from the Portland, Maine, airport, Maine Gov. Angus King said Wednesday. He said they left behind a rental car that has been impounded, and police said cigarette butts found near the car will be tested for DNA.

King said the men apparently used New Jersey driver's licenses but little else was known about them.

"This information appears to open up a series of leads that I'm sure will help to identify who the attackers," King said. The FBI chief in Maine, Jim Osterrieder, declined to comment.

Shortly after noon, a heavily armed FBI team searching for suspects in the terrorism attacks swept through a Boston hotel. No details were immediately disclosed by authorities.

Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity said they were investigating whether a group of hijackers crossed the Canadian border at a checkpoint and went to Boston's airport.

The officials also confirmed that a car believed to belong to the hijackers was confiscated in Boston and contained an Arabic language flight manual.

The Boston Herald, quoting an anonymous source, reported that five Arab men had been identified as suspects, including one who was a trained pilot. The Herald said two of the men, including the pilot, were brothers with passports traced to the United Arab Emirates.

The Boston Globe reported that one suspect's luggage contained a copy of the Quran, an instructional video on flying commercial airliners and a fuel consumption calculator.

Airport authorities said they received no unusual communications from American Flight 11, which left Boston at 7:59 a.m. Tuesday with 92 people aboard, or from United Flight 175, which took off 15 minutes later, with 65 people.

The 767s, both bound for Los Angeles, slammed into the twin towers 18 minutes apart.

"Everything seemed normal when they left Logan," said Joseph Lawless, public safety director of the Massachusetts Port Authority. "We don't know how the hijackers accomplished what they did."

Lawless added: "We consider ourselves as secure, if not more secure, than any other airport in the United States."

The airport remained closed Wednesday as the Federal Aviation Administration continued its nationwide ban on flying.

Hijackers also crashed a plane out of Dulles International Airport near Washington into the Pentagon and another hijacked commercial flight from Newark, N.J., was crashed southeast of Pittsburgh.

Port authority officials said they planned security measures at least as stringent as those last implemented during the Persian Gulf War, including allowing only passengers past security checkpoints and eliminating curbside check-ins.

"One could speculate ... we were chosen was because of our proximity to the New York area and the fact that we have wide-bodied aircraft leaving our airports fully loaded with fuel that participated in this tragic kamikaze-type attack," Port Authority aviation director Thomas Kinton said.

Kinton said Wednesday that the FAA is requiring all U.S. airports to comply with emergency safety measures including: banning the sale or use of knives, even plastic ones, at the airport; evacuating and sweeping all terminals with bomb-sniffing dog teams; increasing security personnel; increasing ID check and discontinuing curbside check-in.

The FAA is also requiring airports to remove passenger vehicles parked within 300 feet of a terminal. The only measure above FAA requirements being done at Logan that was publicly announced was to post state police officers at security checkpoints.

In 1999, the major airlines at Logan and the Port Authority were fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations over the previous two years. In most incidents, screeners at terminal checkpoints failed to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.

Also in 1999, a teen-ager who said he wanted to impress the Israeli intelligence agency allegedly sliced through a fence and settled into an empty seat on a British Airways jet and flew to London.

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From the Times wire desk
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  • From the AP
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