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Malaysia frees suspected al-Qaida terrorist pilot

MALAYSIA has released three men held under suspicion of terrorism, including one believed to be linked to a foiled 2002 plot to crash an aircraft into a building in the United States, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

Syed Hamid Albar, the minister in charge of security, confirmed the three men linked to the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, including Malaysian Zaini Zakaria, had been freed on Friday, the Star newspaper reported.

Zaini had been detained without trial under Malaysia's Internal Security Act since 2002, suspected of being part of a so-called "second-wave" of attacks on the US after the September 11 attacks.

Syed Hamid did not give further details, the newspaper said. The minister confirmed the report to Reuters but did not give details or say why the men had been freed.

The US government has said Zaini was one of three potential pilots recruited by al-Qaida to carry out a September 11-style attack on the US west coast in 2002. Zaini later backed out of the operation, which the US government said it derailed.

The Star said the three men had been asked to report to the police daily so their movements could be tracked.

The other two men freed were businessmen Suhaimi Mokhtar and Mohd Khider Kadran, the Star report said.

Two months ago the government freed a man who provided lodging for two of the September 11 terrorists.


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