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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Suspect's father defends son
The burning towers of the World Trade Center after Tuesday's attacks
Mr Atta says his son had "nothing to do with flying"
By the BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo

The father of an Egyptian suspect in the attacks against the World Trade Center in New York has denied that his son could have had anything to do with the matter.

Mohammed Atta is suspected by the American authorities of having piloted one of the hijacked planes which hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

He would never accept to kill innocent people. He has nothing to do with flying - he's an architect who was studying town planning

Mr Atta, the suspect's father
American investigators say he has taken flying lessons in Florida and was probably at the helm of one of the airliners which ploughed into the World Trade Center.

But his father, an elderly Cairo lawyer, is adamant that his son was not involved and that his passport could have been stolen.

Innocent architect

Clearly outraged by the accusation against his son, Mr Atta spoke to the BBC on the landing in front of the family apartment in a middle-class area of Cairo near the Pyramids.

He described his son as a gentle person - like a little girl, he said, who was incapable of such an act.

"He would never accept to kill innocent people. He has nothing to do with flying - he's an architect who was studying town planning," said Mr Atta.

Mohammed Atta
Mohammed - going to Egypt to get married

He insisted on referring to him in the present tense and said he was awaiting his regular telephone call, which comes every two months.

He has recently received a very loving letter from his son, he said, in which the young man wrote that he would come to Egypt to get married.

Reflecting the views of many mainstream Egyptians, Mr Atta had a message for the American President, George W Bush.

"Stop the terrorism practised by States", he said, "and stop Zionist thuggery and attacks against Muslims everywhere, and then there will no terrorism."

See also:

18 Sep 01 | Americas
US terror threat remains
18 Sep 01 | Americas
US hunt closes in on plotters
14 Sep 01 | Americas
How far can Arab states co-operate?
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Nineteen hijack suspects named
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Islamic world deplores US losses
12 Sep 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Impact on the Middle East
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