CNN BREAKING NEWS
FBI Posts Lookout for Five Men of Interest
Aired December 29, 2002 - 16:25 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. As part of the ongoing war on terrorism, the FBI said it is on the lookout for five men of interest who they suspect may have entered the country illegally. Our Jeanne Meserve is in Washington following this developing story -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the FBI is enlisting the help of the public and law enforcement all around the country and around the world to try and find these five men who they believe may have entered the United States illegally on or around the 24th of December, last Tuesday.
An inlets has been sent out to 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies across the country. Law enforcement internationally has been alerted. In addition, the FBI is posting on its Web site pictures and names and dates of birth for the five individuals involved.
Let me read you those names. They are Abid Noraiz Ali, date of birth 8/18/77. Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, date of birth 11/20/81. Mustafa Khan Owasi, date of birth 11/12/60. Adil Pervez, 12/12/83 is his date of birth. And Akbar Jamal, 11/01/74.
Now, the FBI does caution in its press release that these names and dates of birth may, indeed, be fictional. That's why those pictures on the Web site are potentially so important. An administration official tells me that these names were developed in conjunction with information developed in a terrorism investigation. No more specifics on that given to me.
However, the same administration official saying that it is possible that these individuals came into the U.S. over the border from Canada. They don't know how they did that, and so there are a number of agencies involved in this investigation, including the INS, the Customs Service and the Transportation and Security Administration, as well, of course, as the FBI.
It is not known if these individuals are, indeed, involved in anything illegal, if there is, indeed a terrorism link. However, the FBI does at this point, in its words, believe that they have entered the country illegally. They want to sit down and talk to these individuals about what they might be up to, and so they want the public's help. They're asking anybody with any information about these five men, who are described as being of Middle Eastern origin, but no further information than that, asking individuals to please call the nearest FBI office if they have sighted these individuals or know anything about them -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Now, Jeanne, let's look one more time at these photographs that we have and the names. You said the names could be, of course, different from what they are identifying themselves as. But there was something about their photographs or at least their IDs that raised a red flag to authorities?
MESERVE: No, no, it wasn't their photographs or the IDs. These are name that came up in conjunction with an ongoing investigation. They worked with those names and came up with these photographs and dates of birth. But as they say, they don't know if they're genuine or these are fictitious. As we know, many individuals use multiple identifications, particularly if they're doing things like entering countries illegally.
WHITFIELD: And if they entered illegally, they suspect it was somewhere along the Canadian boarder?
MESERVE: That's a possibility. They don't know definitively that that's what happened, but that's one of the things that is definitely being looked at at this point in time.
As to the level of concern about these individuals, administration officials will not quantify that for me. But clearly if they've gone to the unusual step of putting these names and these pictures up on the FBI Web site on a Sunday afternoon, clearly there is some level of concern about these individuals and what they're doing here.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jeanne Meserve, from Washington, of course we'll continue to follow developments on this story. Again, we'll be seeing you at the top of the hour on CNN SUNDAY. I'm Fredricka Whitfield from the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. We're going to take a short break right now.
WHITFIELD: We're continuing to follow a breaking story coming out of Washington where the FBI says it is on the lookout for five men that they believe entered the country, possibly through a Canadian border, illegally and possibly on Christmas Eve. Our Jeanne Meserve is in Washington, D.C., where she's been following the developments there. And Jeanne, we're still trying to figure out a little bit more about why these five men raised suspicion and what, if anything, they may have done to spark the interest of the FBI, besides the fact of possibly crossing a border.
MESERVE: Well, if they crossed, and it's an if, they may have crossed illegally. And that would be one reason for concern. But these names came up, I'm told by an administration official, in conjunction with information developed during an ongoing terrorism investigation. And so they want to find these individuals and find out what they are doing here. They are not saying that they're involved in anything illegal, beyond crossing the border, but they do want to talk to these individuals, and so the names and pictures have been put up on the FBI Web site. They want the public to contact their nearest FBI office if they have any information about these then.
In addition, an inlets has been sent out to state and local law enforcement, giving them this information, asking them to be on the lookout. In addition, international law enforcement agencies have been involved. Homeland security officials, INS, Customs, TSA, all involved in this search, ongoing now for these five individuals -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Now, Jeanne, obviously, the FBI and other agencies are asking for the public's help. That's exactly why they've released these photographs. And is there a special line that they're encouraging people to use, or do they refer to their local police departments and then go on to the larger federal agencies?
MESERVE: They are recommending that people call their nearest FBI office. You can find that in the telephone book. So look it up, look for the number. Those are the people to contact, if you have information about these individuals -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And Jeanne, what do we know, if anything, as to who may have helped the FBI pinpoint or take notice of these individuals?
MESERVE: We wish we had more information. At this point, we only have the barest of details, and that is that these names came from an ongoing investigation.
There have been instances in the past, I should mention, Fredricka, when they've put names and pictures on the FBI Web site, hoping to enlist the public in the search for the individuals. I'm advised that none of those have been successful. This has not ever led to the apprehension of one of the individuals they're looking for, but it's an avenue they're trying once again because they want to find these five and find out exactly what they're up to.
WHITFIELD: And we still don't know clearly as to any details as to why these individuals were even on a list of interesting individuals to the FBI?
MESERVE: No, we don't. We don't. We have very little information beyond their pictures, their names and their dates of birth. They're described to me as being of Middle Eastern origin, but I'm not told what country or countries these individuals may be from. So information at this point still very, very sketchy, but the pictures are key. You may look at these pictures and recognize this as someone you've passed on the street, someone who lived near you.
That's unlikely, however, since they just came in on December 24. But you may have seen them somewhere in passing. They want to know if you've seen them.
WHITFIELD: And Jeanne, would you mind going over the ages or the believed ages of these individuals again?
MESERVE: Yeah, I'm doing some quick calculations here. My math is not very good.
WHITFIELD: Well, birth dates?
MESERVE: But the oldest of these appears to have been born in 1969, the youngest of these would appear to have been born in 1983. So there's a range of ages there. I can go over the names for you if you'd like. My pronunciation probably isn't any better than anyone at home reading these. Abid Noraiz Ali. He was born 8/15/77, or so they believe. Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, date of birth 11/20/81. Mustafa Khan Owasi, date of birth 11/12/69. Adil Pervez, 12/12/83, and Akbar Jamal, 11/01/74. But again, the FBI putting out the caution that this may not be their genuine identities.
WHITFIELD: And Jeanne, you're encouraging people, by way of the FBI's instruction, that people should call their local FBI office if they see that these names or photographs are in any way familiar.
And of course, we're showing you now an FBI tip line Web site that people can refer to as well. It's fbi.gov. For those of you who may be rather handy at your computer, and perhaps you can help in this ongoing search, nationwide search now for five people that the FBI seems to believe has somehow made their way into the United States illegally.
And of course, all these details are still trickling in about exactly who these individuals are. They may be using different names, but the photographs are being made public at that point, at this point, and that's why we're showing them to you. Jeanne Meserve from Washington, thank you very much.
And I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN center in Atlanta.
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