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After Flight to U.S., Stepson of Hussein Held on Visa Charge

Security: Relative of Iraqi leader is arrested in Miami, where he had arrived to attend aviation training class.

July 04, 2002|JESSICA GARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

U.S. officials arrested the stepson of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Miami, where he had arrived Wednesday to take flight training courses without the proper visa, FBI officials said.

The South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force tailed Mohammad Saffi to a Comfort Inn in Miami and arrested him about 5:30 p.m., said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela. He had arrived that day from New Zealand via Los Angeles.

"We don't have any information to connect him with any terrorist activity," Orihuela said.

Saffi, a citizen of New Zealand, where he works for an airline, entered the country on a tourist visa but did not have the student visa necessary for foreign students to enroll in flight training.

He also failed to tell customs agents in Los Angeles of his intent to take flight courses when he arrived Tuesday from New Zealand, INS officials said.

FBI officials said Saffi, 36, is cooperating, but they declined to say if he had made any statement to authorities. He was taken to a facility south of Miami and is likely to be deported unless officials determine that he is engaged in terrorist activities.

Officials said they do not know whether Saffi is also a citizen of Iraq. They also were not sure whether his mother is still married to the Iraqi leader. Orihuela also declined to elaborate on how authorities learned that Saffi planned to enter flight school.

A New Zealand newspaper reported in December that Saffi was employed by Air New Zealand as an engineer and had lived in the country for six years. New Zealand officials investigated the man then, but no action was taken.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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