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Feds investigating possible Florida links to terrorist attacks

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MIAMI — Federal agents in Florida were investigating several men Thursday as suspects in the terrorist attacks after searching homes and poring over through student records at flight schools across the state.

Two men who came to Florida for flight training school a year ago emerged Wednesday as suspects in the FBI investigation into the terrorist attacks, witnesses interviewed by the FBI told The Associated Press.

Charlie Voss, a former employee at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla., said FBI agents told him Mohamed Atta and another man identified only as Marwan were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center. The men had stayed briefly with Voss in July 2000 while attending flight school.

Azzan Ali, a student at Huffman Aviation, identified the second man as Marwan Alshehhi.

Federal agents had warrants to search the Florida homes of at least four men listed as passengers aboard one of the jetliners that was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center, The Miami Herald reported Thursday.

The warrants are among several executed by federal investigators looking into possible Florida links to Tuesday's attacks.

The Herald, citing federal authorities it did not identify, said the four men were listed on the manifest of American Airlines Flight 11, the first of the two planes that smashed into the trade towers just minutes apart. There were no survivors from any of the hijacked planes.

Voss, the Venice flight school employee, said FBI agents told him authorities found a car at Boston's Logan Airport registered to two men who were once students at Huffman. Both jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center had left Boston bound for Los Angeles.

Voss said the two men said they had just arrived from Germany and wanted to take flight training at Huffman, which offers instruction in light, single-engine aircraft but not commercial jetliners. Rudy Dekkers, Huffman's president and owner, said they attended the school for about five months beginning in July 2000, then left to take training elsewhere.

Ali said the friends referred to each other as "cousin," kept a low profile at the school and said they planned to fly corporate jets in the United Arab Emirates.

More than 400 agents in Florida were working on the investigation and leads were "coming in fast and furious," Miami FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said Wednesday.

FBI agents removed student files from the Florida Flight Training Center, which is down the street from Huffman Aviation and offers the same type of pilot training. School owner Arne Kruithof would not give specific information about what the agents were seeking but said one of the files was related to a student from Tunisia.

In Coral Springs, witnesses said about 50 FBI agents and police officers on Tuesday night blanketed the apartment complex Atta had listed on his Florida driver's license.

In Vero Beach, FBI agents searched four homes in three neighborhoods.

Agents asked Hank Habora about a neighbor, Amer Kamfar, 41. Kamfar was licensed as a flight engineer to fly turbojets and listed a Saudi Airlines post office box as his address in FAA records.

Habora said the family moved into the house in February but recently left abruptly.

"They threw out everything they had — clothes, dishes," Habora said.

Habora said Kamfar told him his name was John, and he wore a pilot's uniform similar to those worn at Flight Safety Academy, which trains commercial jet crews.

In another neighborhood, agents searched two adjacent houses for 12 hours, leaving with several garbage bags of evidence. Officials towed away two cars. Neighbor Everett Tripp said a Middle Eastern family with four children moved out of one of the homes last weekend.

Landlord Paul Stimelind identified the tenant in the other home as Adnan Bukhari, who told Stimelind that he worked for Saudi Airlines and was training at Flight Safety Academy in Vero Beach.

Bukhari and his wife began renting a home from Stimelind in June 2000, Stimelind said. He said Bukhari's wife returned to Saudi Arabia on Aug. 30.

The couple's lease was up Aug. 31, but Bukhari asked for a two-week extension, through Sept. 15.

"Then last weekend I received another call from him," Stimelind said. "He indicated that he would need another two or three days."

Stimelind said Bukhari told him he would be leaving by Sep. 17.

"He never gave a reason," Stimelind said. "He said he had a couple of things to clear up."