Al-Qaida look-alikes seen in Avon
Men whom residents thought resembled al-Qaida terror suspects have twice been reported to Avon Police in the last few days.
Avon Police and an FBI agent determined one man was not one of the seven al-Qaida suspects federal officials are searching for. A second sighting, reported to police 24 hours later, could not be confirmed. Photographs of seven suspected terrorists, along with warnings of possible attacks from the federal government, have been widely published in newspapers this week.
A man identified as Samuel Mac, who called himself a manager at Denny’s in Avon, recently complained to the Denver Post that FBI agents seemed uninterested when he reported seeing two men who resembled the pictures of al-Qaida suspects.
Avon Police weren’t notified of the sighting, which allegedly occurred Wednesday, until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, said Det. Mike Leake. A person relayed a story he or she heard from servers who waited on the two men for dinner Wednesday evening.
Police interviewed the two servers, who said the men told them they were from Iran and were driving to the West Coast, Leake said. One of the servers pointed Leake to two pictures of federal suspects that were published on the front of the Denver Rocky Mountain News on Wednesday. The man interviewed by the Denver Post said the two men resembled suspects Adnan G. El Shukrijumah and Abderraouf Jdey.
But Mac hasn’t worked for Denny’s for some time, restaurant officials said.
“He did not work for us at the time this was being reported,” said Richard Wozniak, vice president of operations for Denny’s. “If he was in our restaurant, he was calling as an individual.”
Wozniak said the Denny’s in Avon does have records of someone named Sam working there, but no one with the last name of Mac. An employee reached at the Avon Denny’s said only that the man no longer worked there. She declined to comment further or give her name.
Leake said only the servers were interviewed by Avon Police, and the man interviewed by the Denver Post is an ex-manager who is friends with the two servers. But by the time Avon Police found out, there wasn’t much they could do.
“The guys seen here are long gone,” Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman said. “We don’t even know who they were. Had they called the local police right away, we might have been able to track them down.”
On the flip side, Avon Police were called to the Avon Post Office Thursday when a postal worker identified a customer as one of the suspects. Police arrived just as the man was leaving, but were able to provide other patrol officers a description of the man as well as a the truck he was driving.
The man was stopped at the entrance of Beaver Creek while an FBI agent from the Glenwood Springs office arrived to check him out. The man was later released when the FBI agent determined he was not one of the al-Qaida suspects, Leake said.
Citizens who believe they’ve spotted someone who resembles an al-Qaida suspect should contact their local police department first – not the FBI office in Washington, D.C., local police say.
“If you feel like you are seeing someone like that, by all means call us,” Layman said. “But call your local law enforcement agency rather than trying to get a hold of the FBI.”
The closest FBI office is in Glenwood Springs.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, local police have responded to three suspected anthrax reports that turned out to be unfounded. This is the first time Avon Police have received a report of a suspected terrorist in the area.
Attempts to locate Mac for comment were unsuccessful. The Sheriff’s Office has not received reports of terrorist suspect sightings. The Vail Police Department did not return calls for comment.
Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by calling (970) 949-0555, ext. 607.
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