Sunday, September 23, 2001

FBI sorting data from N. Ky. raid on immigrants

Dozens detained, but none arrested in terrorist hunt

By Jane Prendergast and Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Authorities released little new information Saturday about their investigation of the two dozen Muslims rounded up in Northern Kentucky on Friday, except to say agents didn't find anything that makes them concerned about security locally.

        “Many times, searches fail to produce the evidence we anticipated we would find prior to the searches,” said David Beyer, spokesman for the FBI in Louisville. “As we're sorting through the information, that is our initial impression at this time.”

        He said he did not know whether anyone remained in custody Saturday. No one was arrested.

        The Boone County Sheriff's Department also clarified that employees of their county clerk's office are now not suspected of making fake driver's licenses and identification cards, something which had been reported by television news.

        “That information appears to be false,” said Lt. Jack Banks said in a statement. The department got involved in the case after Sheriff Mike Helmig got two phone calls that led him to assign detectives to investigate. He did not elaborate on the nature of the calls.

        The raids on at least two apartment buildings in Florence and Burlington on Friday ended with at least 25 people detained for investigations into their immigration status, the FBI said

        Agents also searched some apartments, removing computers and other belongings, residents said. Search warrants authorizing those searches were sealed, leaving not publicly known the government's specific reasons for targeting these immigrants.

        U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Democrat from Boone County, said Saturday that he was notified of the detentions Friday night as he sat in a session of Congress.

        The agents' actions are similar to what federal authorities have done elsewhere since the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon. Around the country, while officials investigate the attacks, many Muslims, Middle Eastern or African immigrants have been held as possible immigration violators or material witnesses.

        Peoples Court in Burlington and Tamarac Apartments in Florence were sites of the roundup. Residents of another complex, Parkland Apartments in Florence, also reported police activity Friday. The FBI would not confirm where the raids took place.

        Nasser Weddady, 25, a native of Mauritania, was among those rounded up Friday. At least several of the immigrants taken in were from the West African Muslim nation.

        “I think now there is a whole frenzy, a panic going on because some idiot supposedly from a Middle Eastern background ... blew himself up,” he said.

        In Louisville, four people from Mauritania remained in custody Friday. They were taken in three days after the Sept. 11 attack.

        Mr. Weddady said the actual number of people detained was 45 to 50. He said he was asleep when agents came to his door, handcuffed him and went through his things. They asked why he is in the country, where he came from and what his plans are. His collection of aviation magazines prompted questions, he said.

        A couple from Crittenden, Ky., also fell under federal scrutiny this week, but neighbors say authorities have told them the couple was not suspected of any involvement in terrorist activities.

        The couple, whose names have not been released by authorities, could not be reached Saturday. But a neighbor, Cliff Masters, said he spoke to the woman Saturday morning outside her home on Indian Hill Drive.

        He said local police and federal agents swarmed over the home Friday, searching it for more than an hour and seizing a computer.

        “She was distraught,” Mr. Masters said of his neighbor. “She was upset that somebody went into her house without her being there.”

        Mr. Masters said one of the FBI agents told him Saturday that his neighbors were not linked to terrorists.

        “It sure takes a load off,” he said. “You don't have to worry about if this guy is part of the I'm-not-afraid-to-die brigade.”

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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