Twelve attackers identified, 50 suspected
It's not like they expected to get away
If there's any good news here, it's that those on a suicide mission have little motive to cover their tracks. Indeed, most of the hijackers involved in Tuesday's suicide attacks in New York and Washington were hiding in plain sight and so left considerable evidence behind, including credit card records and suicide notes.
Thus a paper trail has led US law enforcement to identify at least twelve of the hijackers with certainty. It's hoped that this information will soon lead investigators to their surviving accomplices.
The first break came when a rented car parked at Boston's Logan Airport was found to contain an Arabic-language flight manual and a document bearing the name of a passenger on another of the hijacked flights.
This and succeeding evidence led Boston police to two adjacent rooms in a downtown hotel Wednesday, where they were surprised to find one of the rooms occupied by three people who have since been detained for questioning.
Several of the suspected hijackers have been traced to a flight schools in Florida, including Huffman Aviation in Venice, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, and FlightSafety in Vero Beach.
Following information from the airlines, INS and other sources, authorities have executed search warrants in Massachusetts, Florida and New Jersey. It's now believed that up to fifty people were involved in the operation. Roughly forty of the conspirators have been tentatively identified at this time.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer claimed Wednesday that the hijackers who struck the Pentagon had meant to hit the White House. But US Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to confirm that Wednesday evening, saying only that one of the planes was earmarked to strike the White House, and leaving open the possibility that the fourth plane, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania, might have been the one so designated.
There has been speculation that the plane which went down in Pennsylvania was shot down by US Air Force fighters scrambled to track it. There is, however, evidence that the passengers of that plane turned on the hijackers, raising the possibility they in turn took action to crash it rather than be captured. ®