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FBI searches former Saudi residence

GREENACRES, Fla., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- FBI agents who Wednesday combed a house and yard in suburban Palm Beach County, Fla., for the second day wouldn't say why, but neighbors speculated terrorism might be involved.

They said the family said it was returning to Saudi Arabia and left within a week of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Their adult son was also attending flight school.

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FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela would not comment except to say agents were serving a sealed federal search warrant.

Greenacres City Councilman Richard Radcliffe said the FBI told him "it's not a health or safety issue at all."

At least 12 of 19 men who hijacked jets Sept. 11 had lived in Palm Beach County at some point before the attacks.

Real estate records show Mohamed al Masri bought the house for cash in the summer of 2000 and neighbors said he and his family lived there until September 2001.

Lisa Dickerson, 43, who lives next door, said al Masri and his son, Turki, packed the other two members of the family into a car and sent them away Sept. 9, 2001.

"The people were waving and saying they're going back to Saudi Arabia. The way he put those people in the car so fast -- I thought it was bizarre," Dickerson said.

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Two days later, terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington. Two days after that, al Masri and his son left, Dickerson said.

The house remained abandoned and David Remsen, president of the neighborhood association, got legal permission to enter the house.

He said it look like the family left at a moment's notice. Mail was piled by the front door and there were dishes full of food on the dining room table.

Neighbor Rodney LaMarca said the FBI has visited the house periodically over the last few months. He said they changed locks and removed a computer.

Then Tuesday without warning the FBI backed up a huge trailer to the house and the search began. Some agents were wearing white biohazard suits and others were using metal detectors. One car was taken out of the garage and hauled away.

Neighbors said they were glad the FBI was finally investigating but they didn't understand the timing.

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