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FBI renews search for Saudi pilot

©Associated Press,
published October 15, 2001


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The FBI is searching anew for a Saudi pilot they first inquired about more than two weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks and who purchased two small planes and left Tennessee shortly before the suicide hijackings, officials said.

Khaled Alzeedi's name appears on a list of 370 people that emerged overseas this month. Most are wanted for questioning in the attacks investigation, officials have said.

Since the attacks, the FBI has questioned employees of a Nashville hotel where Alzeedi stayed, as well as the broker who sold the two planes, and seized records of Alzeedi's company, Zidi Aviation.

It's at least the second instance in which the FBI is known to have asked questions in the weeks prior to Sept. 11 about someone who later became a figure in the FBI's terrorism investigation. However, a top FBI official said Sunday that the bureau doesn't think Alzeedi had any connection to the Sept. 11 hijackings.

In another case, Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Algerian, was detained Aug. 17 in Minnesota after he aroused suspicions by seeking to learn how to steer but not land planes. Moussaoui is not cooperating with investigators.

Efforts to reach Alzeedi for comment were unsuccessful. The Saudi Arabia telephone number listed on Zidi Aviation's Web site does not work, and e-mail sent to an address listed on the site was returned as undeliverable.

Alzeedi and two or three other men stayed for about three weeks in August at the Hilton Suites hotel in downtown Nashville, the Associated Press reported, citing a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In the same period, Alzeedi was arranging the aircraft purchase from Outlaw Aircraft Sales of Clarksville, Tenn., about 60 miles northwest of Nashville. The company's airfield and hangars are less than a mile from Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the Army's 101st Airborne Division.

Alzeedi bought two Tampico TB-9 airplanes -- small, single-engine, European-made aircraft often used for pilot training and by flying clubs. Federal Aviation Administration records show the planes were registered Aug. 16 to Zidi Aviation Corp., which Alzeedi incorporated last year in Delaware. Alzeedi moved the planes to an unknown location, the law enforcement source said.

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