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Suspect in tunnel bombing plot had maps, Beirut official says

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on July 10.)

NEW YORK -- The Lebanese authorities found maps and bombing plans on the personal computer of a supporter of Al Qaeda who was accused of plotting to attack train tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey, a Lebanese official said. A United States official disclosed that the man had visited the country at least once.

The official of the Beirut government, the acting interior minister, Ahmed Fatfat, described the information found on the computer of the man, Assem Hammoud, as "very important."

"It contained maps and bombing plans that were being prepared," Mr. Fatfat said on Saturday in a television interview in Lebanon.

In the United States, a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said that Mr. Hammoud had visited the United States at least once — a trip to California six years ago. The official said that Mr. Hammoud, who is 31, had come on a visa for a brief stay and was believed to have been visiting either family or friends.

Lebanese security officials said in interviews that they had obtained important information from Mr. Hammoud's computer and CD's 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 Lebanese official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Mr. Hammoud has been in Lebanese custody since April. Two others are also in custody in the case. United States investigators said the plot had been disrupted after coordinated efforts with officials in six other countries. Five suspects are at large.

The F.B.I. said the suspects had planned to attack trains under the Hudson River using suicide bombers and backpack bombs.

The plan, which authorities said the suspects had hoped to carry out in October or November, was to flood Lower Manhattan by attacking the PATH train tunnels.

Monday, July 10, 2006

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