Skip to comments.Tabloid editor's wife rented apartment to 2 hijackers
Posted on 10/14/2001 9:51:42 PM PDT by classygreeneyedblonde
Confirming a clear link between the terrorists targeting America and the South Florida company hit by anthrax cases, the FBI said Sunday that the wife of The Sun tabloid editor rented two Delray Beach apartments to two hijack suspects killed in the Sept. 11 suicide missions
The Sun is part of the American Media Inc. tabloid chain, and it employed photo editor Bob Stevens, who died this month from inhalation anthrax. Two other AMI employees were exposed, and five more are being retested to confirm positive blood test results
Sun editor Michael Irish's wife, Gloria, a real estate agent, rented unit 1504 at the Delray Racquet Club, 755 Dotterel Rd., to Hamza Alghamdi and unit 260 at the Hamlet Country Club, 401 Greensward Lane, to Marwan al-Shehhi this summer, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela
Al-Shehhi and Alghamdi were on United Airlines Flight 175, the second jet to strike the World Trade Center.
``There is now a link between the editor's wife and the terrorists,'' Orihuela said
But just as quickly, she said the FBI wasn't drawing immediate conclusions
Right now, it looks like a coincidence,'' Orihuela said from outside the tabloid's Boca Raton headquarters. ``We are not searching the apartments at this time. We are focusing on this building.''
In other developments Sunday, three more anthrax exposures were reported from a letter received at NBC in New York, and four Microsoft workers who came in contact with a contaminated letter in Nevada tested negative for anthrax. The exposures in New York were to a police officer who handled the letter, and to two lab technicians.
In South Florida, the apartment connection marks the most direct link to date between the hijack suspects and the AMI anthrax cases. It was first reported in The Mail newspaper in Great Britain
The Delray Racquet Club apartment in question is central to a massive federal investigation into the terrorist attacks. Investigators trying to piece the puzzle together created a diagram that includes photos of the 19 hijack suspects
At the center of the diagram, which was obtained by The Herald: an image of a house with the address 755 Dotterel Rd. Arrows link nine of the suspects to the icon.
Hamza Alghamdi rented the apartment in Delray Beach just north of Boca Raton, the FBI said. The other seven, including suspected ringleader Mohamed Atta, are connected because they visited the apartment or otherwise had a direct tie to the inhabitants, said a federal official familiar with the investigation.
Previously, only Saeed Alghamdi and another terrorism suspect, Ahmed Alnami, both aboard United Flight 93, which crashed 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, were the only terror suspects connected to the Delray Racquet Club apartment.
It is clear that the apartment was a meeting ground for terrorists, authorities say. Now they must determine whether unit 1504 was also a hatching ground for the anthrax attacks.
Gloria Irish, the wife of tabloid editor Michael Irish, was approached by reporters Sunday afternoon outside her Delray Beach home.
I can't believe you people,'' said Irish, who works for the Pelican Properties real estate company. ``We are not making any comments.''
Irish told the FBI she had several conversations with al-Shehhi and Hamza Alghamdi when they came to her asking to rent two apartments, Orihuela said.
At the AMI building Sunday, a Palm Beach County special operations fire truck dropped off two hazardous materials containers as the investigation continued.
In addition to Stevens and the two other workers who were exposed to the bacteria, AMI general counsel Michael Kahane said, five people tested positive for anthrax antibodies, which indicates that at some point in their lives they were exposed. But officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings are preliminary and that more tests are necessary. Authorities said that none displayed symptoms, and all were being treated with antibiotics.
One AMI employee who asked not to be identified said three of the five work for the National Enquirer, another of the company's publications housed in the same building.
Other employees continue to be tested for the presence of anthrax bacteria and to be interviewed by the FBI.
They asked where I sat in the building, how close I was to where Stevens worked, how often I dealt with the mailroom, if I knew of any employee who might have been a target, or of any animosities among employees,'' said National Enquirer reporter Kevin Lynch
Among other areas of inquiry: if he knew of any disgruntled employees or whether he had any scientists among his relatives or friends. Other AMI workers say they are being asked similar questions, which indicates that the FBI is casting a wide net to trace the source of the anthrax.
As a search for clues continued in South Florida, and the number of anthrax exposures grew across the country, investigators are grappling with whether the cases are the work of the Sept. 11 terrorists.
When the anthrax reports first surfaced, federal officials were quick to say they saw no connection. But the authorities' tone has changed slightly: They now say they can't rule out a link.
One of the nation's leading biological warfare researchers said Sunday that the appearance of multiple anthrax infections suggests the possibility of a bioterrorist attack.
The level of suspicion is high for me, though it's still open for me whether it's a bioterrorist attack,'' said C.J. Peters, former chief of special pathogens at the CDC.
Peters, now a professor of microbiology and coauthor of the 1997 book Virus Hunter, said his suspicion may turn to certainty if strains of the bacteria found in Florida, New York and Nevada are the same. ``If so, then there is one bad guy or one bad organization out there doing this,'' he said.
A federal official familiar with the investigation said that prior to the New York exposures, investigators were treating the Boca Raton incident as an ``isolated criminal case.''
But with the New York and Nevada cases, the same official shifted gears: ``Maybe there is a concerted conspiracy connected to the Sept. 11 attacks
Frederick Southwick, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Florida, said investigators seeking to link the Florida and New York anthrax events must find the same bacteria strain to make the link
The key is whether the DNA fingerprint of the strain in New York matches the DNA fingerprint of the one in Florida,'' he said. ``If it matches, then one person or one organization is perpetrating this thing. If it doesn't match, then New York could be a copycat incident.''
In South Florida, another potential link between the terrorists and anthrax cases involves hijacking suspect Ahmed Alghamdi, killed on the same Boston-to-L.A. flight as al-Shehhi. Using the Internet and an address in Saudi Arabia, he subscribed to Mira!, the Spanish-language tabloid published by AMI, according to law enforcement sources.
It is one of two tabloid subscriptions now under scrutiny by federal investigators, who said they intend to scour the tabloid giant's databases to see whether classified ads were used by the hijackers to communicate.
Also Sunday, the anthrax scare continued to trigger a steady flow of calls to police regarding ``strange powders'' in South Florida and elsewhere.
Hazardous materials team members descended on a Sun-Sentinel newspaper warehouse after two employees reported discovering a suspicious package in the morning. Preliminary tests proved negative, but further tests were planned
Miami police said they continued to receive calls
A month ago or two months ago I doubt we would have had any of this,'' said Miami Lt. Bill Schwartz.
Now people, understandably, are very concerned.''
What are they waiting for, the trial?
Okay, now I've heard it all. Coincidence. STILL an isolated incident. Nothing here, folks. Move along.
I feel safe.
Methinks we're kinda sorta on our own.
Be nice. Just because they voted for the same candidates...
Sabertooth was just making a funny. :-)
You and I know that, but I guess we're not smart enough to work for the Miami Herald.
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