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Is Zacarias Moussaoui really the 20th hijacker?

The feds seem to think so. Moussaoui has been charged in US District Court with conspiring to participate in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors say he was training to be one of the hijackers at the time of his arrest. If convicted, he will likely face execution -- which if he's really so into martyrdom, shouldn't bug him too much.

The so-called 20th hijacker was arrested in August after employees at the Minnesota flight school he was attending became suspicious and contacted the FBI. Apparently, he paid the school's $6,300 tuition in cash and requested a jumbo jet simulator even though he wasn't skilled as a pilot.

Moussaoui was supposedly evasive when asked about his background. (Repeatedly addressing his instructor as "Mr. Infidel Heathen Hellbound Pig-Dog" probably didn't help either.) The feds knew from French officials that he was a militant Muslim with terrorist pals, but had no evidence that he himself was a terrorist until after September 11. Charges were filed when investigators determined that Moussaoui's crash-course in aviation was strangely similar to those of the 9-11 hijackers, and was funded by equally sketchy overseas sources. In addition, Ahmed Ressam, a convicted terrorist currently in US custody, says that he and Moussaoui attended an al-Qaeda terrorist training camp together in Afghanistan in 1998. We'll have to wait for the trial to reveal whether they made s'mores or went on burkha-raids at the nearby girls' terrorist camp.

If you're the "guilt by association" sort, you might be interested to know that records indicate Moussaoui and alleged shoe-bomber Richard C. Reid spoke to each other on the telephone in 2000. If prosecutors know what it is the Martyrdom and Dumber twins talked about, they ain't saying.

For the record, Moussaoui pled not guilty to all of the charges against him. Even if he is guilty, you can't blame him. Who'd wanna 'fess up to being the Pete Best of terrorism?

E-mail your war questions to andisheh@creativeloafing.com.

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