WASHINGTON -- Mohamed Atta was a busy man before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, checking out flight schools in Oklahoma and Florida, meeting Islamic extremists in Spain, inquiring about crop dusters in Florida, conferring with an Iraqi intelligence agent, skipping a traffic court date.
Atta was so busy, in fact, that the trail he left behind has made him a key figure in efforts by investigators to link the multiple attacks and trace their source.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said public reports of Atta's activities before the attacks suggest that he may well be "the pied piper of the hijackers" who nearly simultaneously crashed four jetliners in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, killing thousands of people.
Atta, 33, believed by authorities to have been at the controls of the plane that slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower, has been connected publicly with suspected hijackers on two of the other three flights involved in the attacks.
Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah studied together in Hamburg, Germany, during the 1990s, and German authorities say they believe the three were part of a cell formed there early this year to attack targets in the United States. Two other alleged members of the cell are being sought by German authorities on warrants charging each with more than 5,000 counts of murder.
U.S. authorities have said Al-Shehhi, believed to be a cousin or nephew of Atta, piloted the plane that hit the trade center's south tower. Jarrah was believed to have been on the hijacked United Airlines flight that crashed in a field in southwestern Pennsylvania.
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