Czech Officials Confirm Atta Met With Iraqi Diplomat in Prague

Czech officials confirmed Friday that suspected Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi diplomat during a trip to Prague.

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross did not give a precise date or venue of the meeting and would not answer questions about the meeting.

"We can confirm now that during his next trip to the Czech Republic he did have a contact with an officer of the Iraqi intelligence, Mr. Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani," Gross said.

However, he said the meeting took place sometime before the diplomat's expulsion from Prague on April 22, 2001. Al-Ani was forced to leave the Czech Republic for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status.

Gross did not provide further details or reveal al-Ani's whereabouts.

Intelligence sources had suspected for weeks that Atta had contacts with Al-Ani.

Gross said Atta first entered the Czech Republic from Germany on June 2, 2000 and flew to the U.S. the next day.

Atta, an Egyptian who studied in Germany, is believed to have been one of the hijackers aboard  American Airlines Flight 11 that smashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.