Press Releases

INS arrests Hussein’s
stepson Saffi in Florida

By Terry Spencer, The Associated Press
Friday July 05, 2002

Found to be enrolled in same flight school as one  

of Sept. 11 hijackers 


MIAMI – Saddam Hussein’s stepson has been arrested on immigration charges after enrolling in a flight school that had been used by one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, federal authorities said. 

Mohammed Nour al-Din Saffi, a citizen of New Zealand who has worked as a commercial airline pilot, planned to attend classes at Aeroservice Aviation Center, said James Goldman, an INS assistant director for investigations. 

FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said one of the Sept. 11 hijackers trained at the flight school. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel identified the hijacker as Zaid Jarrah, who is belived to have been one of the organizers and pilots of the attacks along with Mohamed Atta. 

According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Iraqi leader’s stepson was traveling as a tourist and had not applied for a student visa that would have allowed him to take courses. 

There was no evidence that Saffi was connected to any terrorist group. 

Goldman said Saffi was seeking recertification training at the flight school. The FBI said he is employed by an airline in New Zealand. 

Saffi, 36, also failed to tell customs agents of his intent to take courses when he arrived Tuesday in Los Angeles on a flight from New Zealand, Goldman said. 

Phone calls to Aeroservice Aviation Center seeking comment were not answered Wednesday. 

Orihuela, the FBI spokeswoman, said Saffi was tracked Wednesday as he flew from Los Angeles to Miami International Airport. He was taken into custody at a motel shortly after he arrived. 

Saffi was at Krome Detention Center in Miami-Dade County and is being processed for deportation to New Zealand, Goldman said. 

The Weekend Herald, a newspaper in New Zealand, reported in December that Saffi was employed by Air New Zealand as an engineer and had lived in the country six years. 

They said officials in New Zealand had investigated Saffi after Sept. 11 when they learned he was Saddam’s stepson. No action was taken, the paper said. 

Saffi had declined to discuss his relationship with the Iraqi leader when asked by the paper. The Miami Herald reported that Saffi denied any family tie to the Iraqi leader and denied it to federal agents. 

Saffi’s home telephone in Auckland was repeatedly busy Friday. 

Air New Zealand declined comment, citing privacy concerns. 

Mohammed Saffi is the eldest son of Samira al-Shahbandar, Saddam’s second wife. His father is Nour al-Din Saffi, an aviation engineer and former head of the Iraqi Airways. 

According to well-placed sources in Baghdad and in Iraqi exile circles, Saddam forced Nour al-Din Saffi to divorce al-Shahbandar in the late 1970s before Saddam married her. He has since married again.