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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 18:05 GMT
Hijacker 'pulled over by police'
Video showing state trooper and 11 September Jarrah's car
The video tape shows Jarrah's rental car
US authorities have released a videotape of one of the 11 September hijackers who was pulled over by Maryland state troopers only two days before the attacks.

Ziad Samir Jarrah, a Lebanese citizen, is believed to have taken the pilot's controls on the United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed into fields in Pennsylvania.

It was a routine traffic stop

Maryland state trooper Joseph Catalano

He becomes the third of the four men believed to have piloted the hijacked planes to have been pulled over by authorities for speeding in the months before the attacks on New York and Washington.

Superintendent of state police David B Mitchell described Jarrah as "extremely calm and cooperative" when speaking to Joseph Catalano, the trooper who stopped him for speeding in a rented car.

Jarrah cannot be seen or heard on the tape - released by Maryland State Police - which was filmed by a camera mounted on the dashboard of the trooper's car.

'No red flags'

The only sound is Mr Catalano explaining to Jarrah that he was pulled over for driving at 90mph in a 65mph zone.

He then tells Jarrah the fine he has to pay and how to pay it, before telling him he is free to go.

"(There were) no red flags at all, it was a routine traffic stop," said Mr Catalano.

He said Jarrah displayed a valid Virginia driving license, although FBI investigators who found the car abandoned after the attacks discovered the address was false.

Jarrah had also been detained and questioned in the United Arab Emirate in January last year following visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Third case

Jarrah is now the third hijacker to have been intercepted but then let go by US authorities following traffic offences.

Hijacker Muhammad Atta was also pulled over by US authorities shortly before the attacks

Hani Hanjour, believed to have piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, was also pulled over for speeding in August last year in Arlington, Virginia.

Hanjour had shown police a valid Florida driving license and told police he lived in New York city. He also paid his ticket, cancelling a prospective court appearance.

And Muhammad Atta, believed to have piloted one of the planes that flew into the Twin Towers buildings in New York, was stopped in July in Tamarac, Florida and fined for driving without a valid license.

Authorities criticised

Atta did not pay the fine and a warrant was issued for his arrest, although when stopped again for speeding a few weeks later he was let go as the officer involved was not aware of the outstanding warrant.

These incidents, showing how agonisingly close America may have been to preventing the 11 September attacks, have shown embarrassing holes in America's intelligence network.

US authorities insist that they remain vigilant as to the threat of attack by extremists. However, the video tape will no doubt generate fresh debate regarding the effectiveness of US authorities in detecting possible international criminal elements within its borders.

See also:

02 Jan 02 | Americas
US terror suspect defies court
12 Dec 01 | Americas
US lays first 11 September charges
16 Nov 01 | Americas
Recording reveals hijack struggle
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