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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Bin Laden's middle class killers
Ziad's father crying with photo of Ziad
Ziad's father refuses to believe his son is dead
By the BBC's Matt Frei in Lebanon

Lebanon used to be infamous as the cradle of international terrorism.

Groups from the German Baader-Meinhof Gang to the Italian Red Brigade and the Kurdish PKK found refuge in the maze of Beirut torn apart by civil war.

The Shia or "Party of God" organised kidnappings from the parched Beka'a Valley on the Syrian border.

Radical Palestinian groups recruited foot soldiers from the wretched refugee camps in and around the capital.

As America assembles an international coalition against terrorism and hunts down the perpetrators of last week's carnage, Lebanon has once again come under scrutiny, as well as a host of other Arab nations notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

Unusual suspects

But this time the suspects could not be more different.

We went to see the family of one of the suspects behind the fatal hijackings.

The last time Semir Jarrahi, a chief inspector of social services, spoke to his son Ziad was two days before the attacks in Washington and New York.

Ziad was 26 and planning to marry his Turkish-German girlfriend later this year.

He was in Boston on his way to California.

"He sounded cheerful," his father told me.
Ziad dancing at a wedding
Ziad was "fun-loving"

"I even told him that he could expect a new car when he came back to Lebanon on holiday," he said, wiping away a tear.

The Jarrahi family cannot believe that their son is a suspect in the hijacking.

The FBI says his name was on the passenger list of United flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after a group of passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.


The circumstantial evidence appears damning.

Ziad had a pilot's licence and he was studying in Hamburg, the same city in which seven other suspects were studying.

In one of his last conversations with his parents he had asked for a loan of $2,000, saying that he urgently needed the money.

But Ziad's profile could not be further removed from an Islamic radical bent on mass murder and suicide.

His uncle Jemal, a suave banker, pointed out that Ziad was living with his girlfriend, which would be completely unacceptable to any devout Muslim, let alone a fundamentalist.

Ziad's father
Ziad's father said his son sounded cheerful

He had been sent to Catholic school.

He was brought up in the easy-going cosmopolitan atmosphere of Beirut.

He liked to have a drink, was fun-loving and sociable and he never expressed any anti-American feeling.

To prove the point, the family produced a video showing Ziad at his cousin's wedding in January, dancing, drinking, clean-shaven.

The family is so distressed by the accusations that they have cooperated with the Lebanese police and even tried to conduct their own investigations

Ziad's father still refuses to believe that his son has died.

He clutches his cell phone waiting for a call that may never come, convinced that Ziad is in American police custody, unable to pick up a phone.

Middle class

All of the 19 hijack suspects identified by the FBI come from similar backgrounds in the Middle East.

These are not the destitute and dispossessed from the refugee camps.

They are members of a small middle class able to pay for a better education in countries like Germany and the United States.

How young men with prospects could be seduced by Osama Bin Laden's organisation and turned into suicidal mass murders is the mystery behind the tragedy.

Ziad Jarrahi
Ziad was planning to marry later this year
Unlocking it is one key to winning America's war against terrorism.

History may prove a useful guide.

Ulrike Meinhof, one of the founders of one of Germany's most infamous terrorist groups who took refuge in Beirut in the 1970s, also came from a wealthy Hamburg family.

The leaders of Italy's Red Brigade were recruited at university.

And Osama Bin Laden himself is of course the well-educated son of one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia.

Having something to lose is clearly not a disincentive to becoming a terrorist.

And much of the investigation will try to uncover how Bin Laden's agents were able to recruit and brainwash Arab students and get them to a point where they were prepared to fly civilian aircraft into a high rise building.

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Lebanon
24 May 01 | Middle East
Timeline: Lebanon
22 Sep 01 | Middle East
UAE cuts ties with Taleban
21 Sep 01 | UK
Q & A: Airport security
20 Sep 01 | Europe
EU gears up to fight terrorism
17 Sep 01 | Europe
EU weighs response to US strikes
19 Sep 01 | Europe
EU acts on terrorism
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US attack evidence
16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
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