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Pilot Probed for Links to al-Qaida

October 5, 2002

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Authorities say a Sudanese pilot indicted on immigration fraud charges is being investigated for possible ties to al-Qaida.

Two government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity have said federal authorities believe Mekki Hamed Mekki Hamed Mekki is linked to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group.

They also said authorities were investigating the possibility that he may have been plotting to fly a plane into a U.S. target.

``There were no surprises in the indictment,″ said Louis Allen, Mekki’s attorney. Asked about about possible terrorist ties, Allen said, ``We just have not been made privy to anything that would substantiate those links.″

The indictment alleges Mekki, 30, made false statements while applying for and obtaining a tourist visa to visit the United States, lied on an unsuccessful asylum application and made illegal multiple entries for himself, his brother and his wife in an immigration lottery.

It charges that Mekki omitted his service in the Sudanese Air Force from a June 2001 asylum application, saying his only employment in the past five years was with an air transport company in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Acquaintances of Mekki’s in Greensboro, where he has lived since 2000 and most recently drove a taxi, have said Mekki is peace-loving and wanted nothing more than to stay in the United States. Mekki’s father told a Sudanese newspaper that his son would never plot against the United States.

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Associated Press White House Correspondent Ron Fournier contributed to this report.

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