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Authorities Arrest Man Responsible For Death of 22 in 1986 Skyjacking

By Ken Fireman
NEWSDAY -- WASHINGTON

Federal authorities have arrested a man convicted of killing 22 people, including two Americans, during a botched skyjacking in Pakistan in 1986 and will bring him to trial in the United States on capital murder charges, the Bush administration said Monday.

President Bush, who announced the arrest of Zayd Hassan Safarini, acknowledged that the detained man had no connection to the al-Qaida network believed to be responsible for the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He asserted, however, that Safarini’s arrest demonstrated the government’s resolve to strike at terrorism on a broad front throughout the world.

“He’s an example of the wider war on terrorism and what we intend to do,” Bush said during an appearance at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The lesson of this case, and every case, is that this mighty nation won’t rest until we protect ourselves, our citizens and freedom-loving people throughout the world.”

Bush, who will visit New York on Wednesday for the second time since the terror attacks when he goes to an elementary school in Chinatown, released new data that he said demonstrated “that we’re making progress on many fronts” in the campaign against terrorism.

The president said federal authorities had succeeded in freezing $6 million in bank accounts “linked to terrorist activity” since he signed an executive order last week granting new powers to attack terrorists’ financial resources. He said 30 accounts linked to al-Qaida in the United States and another 20 overseas have been frozen.

More than 400 people have been arrested or detained by the FBI in its investigation of the attacks, and another 150 people believed to be “terrorists and their supporters” have been arrested in 25 other countries, Bush said.

In its campaign against Osama bin Laden, whom it blames for organizing the terror assaults, and the Afghan Taliban regime that shelters him, the administration will give assistance to anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan, officials said.

“The United States is not going to get in the business of choosing who rules Afghanistan,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “But the United States will assist those who are seeking a peaceful and economically developed Afghanistan that does not engage in terrorism ... through a variety of ways which can involve political, diplomatic, military, financial -- all of the above.”

The arrest of Safarini on Friday came after he was freed from prison in Pakistan after serving 14 years for the 1986 hijacking, according to the Justice Department. The department said he was arrested abroad but declined to say in what country.