BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanese authorities found maps and bombing plans on the personal computer of an al-Qaida suspect accused of plotting to attack New York train tunnels, a senior Lebanese official said.
Acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat described the information found on Assem Hammoud’s computer as “very important.”
“It contained maps and bombing plans that were being prepared,” Fatfat said in a local television interview.
Lebanese security officials told The Associated Press that they obtained “important information” from Hammoud’s computer and CDs seized from his office at the Lebanese International University, where he taught economics.
“This information helped the investigators make Hammoud confess to his role in plotting a terror act in America,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
The FBI announced Friday that it had uncovered a plot to attack Hudson River tunnels that which carry more than 215,000 passengers each weekday between New York and New Jersey. U.S. officials said the plot involved at least eight people, including
Hammoud. At least two besides Hammoud have been arrested, Lebanese officials said.
U.S. officials said the suspects hoped to pull off an attack involving “martyrdom and explosives” in October or November, but federal investigators working with six other countries intervened before the suspects could travel to the United States.
“We received information from the FBI in April about an attempt to plot a terror act in New York City through Internet communications in Lebanon,” Fatfat said in the interview Saturday. “Based on this information, security forces acted and arrested Mr. Assem Hammoud.”
Officials said Hammoud, 31, confessed to the plot, and to swearing allegiance to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
“During the investigation, Assem Hammoud admitted that he was planning to go to Pakistan for four months for training on the implementation of this operation in New York and that the implementation date was the end of 2006,” Fatfat said.
Bin Laden and his closest aides are believed to be hiding in the mountains along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported that a Syrian suspect had been lured to Libya and arrested there, along with a third suspect whose nationality was unknown.
Other suspects still at large include a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Iranian Kurd and a sixth whose nationality was unknown, As-Safir said.
The denial below from Assem’s family reflects how successfully he followed the al-Qaida manual:
The suspect’s family denied that he had any al-Qaida links. His mother, Nabila Qotob, said Hammoud was an outdoorsy person who drank alcohol, had girlfriends and bore none of the hallmarks of an Islamic extremist.
The Canadian Press, citing a source familiar with the case, reported that Hammoud attended Montreal’s Concordia University in the mid-1990s.