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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Terror suspect 'taught hijackers'
Police officer standing guard
Thirteen men are being held under the Terrorism Act 2000
An Algerian pilot, taken into custody by British police a week ago, was an instructor for four of the hijackers involved in the suicide attacks on the United States, a court has heard.

The allegation against Lotfi Raissi was made during an extradition hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court in London after he was re-arrested on an international warrant on Friday.

The FBI wants Mr Raissi, who has been living at Colnbrook in Berkshire, close to Heathrow airport, to be extradited to the US for questioning over the 11 September attacks.

He was a lead instructor of four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings

Arvinda Sambir
The 27-year-old was remanded in custody for seven days.

Mr Raissi's wife Sonia and his 29-year-old brother, Mohamed Raissi, of Hounslow, west London, were also arrested in the UK last Friday under the Terrorism Act 2000. They were released without charge on Tuesday.

A third man arrested in Birmingham on the same day has also been released.

Scotland Yard said the 44-year-old, previously named as Abu Imard, was released without charge on Friday.

At Friday's hearing, prosecutor Arvinda Sambir said of Mr Raissi: "He was a lead instructor of four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings.

'Conspiracy to murder'

"The one that we are concerned about is the one that went into the Pentagon," she added.

She said Mr Raissi visited the US on a number of occasions between June and July this year.

On 23 June he visited Las Vegas with his wife and then flew to Arizona, she said.

Lotfi Raissi
Lotfi Raissi denies any involvement in the attacks
"We say he was there to ensure that pilots were capable and trained for this purpose."

Ms Sambir said the warrant from the US authorities detailed charges of obtaining a pilot's licence dishonestly.

But she said further charges were expected, adding: "It is no secret that conspiracy to murder is being looked at."

It was alleged that Mr Raissi had attended the same flight school as four of the hijackers before qualifying as a pilot in 1997.

US developments

A pilot's logbook found at his home appears to have been tampered with and prosecutors say several pages have been torn out.

But Mr Raissi's defence counsel, Richard Egan, said his client adamantly denied any involvement in the attacks and was "confident he would be absolved of all involvement".

The Algerian pilot has lived in the UK for the past two years with his French wife Sonia.

The Pentagon, Washington, which was attacked on 11 September
Prosecutors say he was linked to the Pentagon strike

There have been other major developments in the hunt for the people behind the attacks in the past day.

In the US, the FBI confirmed for the first time that some of the hijackers did have links to Osama Bin Laden.

They also revealed that Mohammed Atta one of the key hijackers left behind a stark, handwritten document.

Entitled "the last night", it urges the hijackers to prepare for death, stand fast, and obey God's will.

'Embassy attack'

Meanwhile, police in Leicester are also continuing to question three men in connection with alleged plans to attack the US embassy in Paris.

And detectives have also detained seven men under the Terrorism Act 2000 after they were found hidden in a lorry at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

The men, understood to be six Iraqis and a German, were arrested on Wednesday in connection with illegal immigration offences.

Police said they were being held under the Terrorism Act because of where they were found.

On Friday officers were granted extra time to allow them to continue questioning the men for a further three days.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The hijackers have left a trail that leads half way across the world"

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See also:

28 Sep 01 | England
Terror suspect held on US warrant
28 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Net freedom fears 'hurt terror fight'
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