Federal authorities raided a busy New Jersey beach front motel Thursday night and arrested a fugitive indicted earlier this month in the alleged plot to blow up the United Nations building and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.
Egyptian-born Matarawy Mohammed Said Saleh, described in the indictment as "Wahid," was arrested in Wildwood, N.J., shortly after 10 p.m. by local police and a FBI tactical team. Ashraf Mohammed, a longtime acquaintance of Saleh, also was arrested. He was charged with harboring a fugitive.
A U.S. magistrate ordered Saleh and Mohammed held without bail.
Saleh's attorney, Richard Coughlin, an assistant federal public defender, said that Saleh had bruises and abrasions on his upper back, forearm, hips and legs. FBI officials said that Saleh was physically "taken down" in routine fashion when he picked up one of three children at the scene and attempted to flee.
Meanwhile, the State Department, at the request of the FBI, offered a $2 million reward yesterday for information leading to the arrest of a fugitive wanted in the Feb. 26 World Trade Center bombing. Authorities are conducting an international search for Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who is believed to have fled the country shortly after the bombing.
Investigators probing the two New York bomb plots are examining a number of connections between the two groups of alleged conspirators, many of whom worshiped in mosques led by Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman is being held in a federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., pending deportation proceedings.
The arrest of Mohammed, also of Egypt, illustrates the support network that the alleged terrorists found in the close-knit community of Muslim extremists in and around New York, authorities said. Saleh and Mohammed, both of Jersey City, are believed to have worshiped at mosques ministered to by Abdel Rahman.
On July 13 in Jersey City, FBI special agent John Allison and another agent interviewed Mohammed as part of their manhunt for Saleh, who the indictment alleges met with other conspirators in a Jamaica, Queens, safe house where they mixed chemicals for explosives.
Mohammed told the investigators that he had known Saleh for 12 years, but had not seen him for six to eight weeks, according to a criminal complaint. Mohammed agreed to cooperate, telling the agents that if he became aware of Saleh's whereabouts, he would contact them.
The agents subsequently learned that on Wednesday, Mohammed along with his wife; Saleh and Saleh's son checked into the Sea Wolf Inn in Wildwood, a bustling South Jersey resort town. Mohammed's wife registered for the room, using an assumed Hispanic name.
After his arrest, Mohammed "stated in substance he knew that Saleh was wanted by the FBI for the attempted bombings in New York, and that he had wanted to help Saleh see Saleh's son," the complaint states. "He stated that he was planning to leave North Wildwood with Saleh, perhaps to go to Florida."
Just last week, authorities charged another Egyptian-born man with conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying that he conspired with two of the principals in the plot to blow up the U.N. building.
Abdo Mohammed Haggag, 24, of New Jersey, allegedly collaborated with Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, a Sudanese citizen, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El, a U.S. citizen and converted Muslim, in a failed "suicide" mission to murder Mubarak, who has been sharply criticized by Abdel Rahman.
The complaint ties Hampton-El and Siddig Ali to the assassination plot, but the two have not been indicted in the third alleged conspiracy. The U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York is contemplating a superseding indictment to the U.N. conspiracy allegations that could expand the number of suspects charged and the list of alleged offenses documented.
Stassen-Berger reported from New York.