One of the men suspected of commandeering a plane in Newark that crash-landed in a Pennsylvania field lived in squalor in an East Brooklyn apartment and left behind books on how to obtain Social Security cards, his landlord and neighbors said.
"The apartment smelled like dead animals. There were open cans of food everywhere," said Jason Matos, whose mother owns the East 3rd Street apartment house where Ziad Jarrah lived for a year.
Jarrah, 26, and two roommates left the apartment in February 1996 without warning, leaving behind a filthy mess, along with a computer monitor and modem, Arabic cassette tapes and books on how to get Social Security numbers, Matos said.
"(Jarrah) disappeared and his roommate couldn't pay the rent," Matos' brother, Anthony, said. "They never told my mom they were leaving. All (the roommate) took was the TV in the trunk of his car and they were gone."
Jarrah, a Lebanese national, is suspected of helping hijack a plane that was destined to slam into a Washington target. The terrorists were apparently thwarted by heroic passengers who were somehow able to divert the aircraft and crash-land it into a rural Pennsylvania field, officials say.
U.S. authorities say one of the hijackers was Ziad Jarrahi while aviation officials list Ziad Jarrah as a passenger on the flight.
Jarrah's family in Lebanon said he may have been on the plane but they believe he was a victim - not a key player in the horrifying terror plot.
"If he had been on the plane, then he would have gone down as a victim, like the other passengers, and his family deserves compassion and condolences," his uncle, Jamal Jarrah, told the Associated Press.
In Brooklyn yesterday, Matos showed the Herald pictures of the dingy apartment vacated by Jarrah and two other men. The lease for the three-bedroom apartment lists the residents as Ziad Jarrah and Ihssan Jarrah. Neighbors said a Jordanian man named Hussein also lived there. They paid $800 per month rent and lived in the second-floor apartment from March 1, 1995, until they left without warning in late February 1996.
The pictures reveal filthy living conditions. The tub was stained and appeared unused. The floors were covered in dirt. There were holes in the wall and dirty mattresses left on the floors.
"When I took the apartment, they didn't have any furniture, just a mattress," said Yvonne Matos, who moved into the apartment after Jarrah moved out. "It wasn't painted or anything. The cupboards were bare and the fridge was ancient."
Ihssan Jarrah drove for a New York livery service while Jarrah claimed he was a photographer and often disappeared for long periods, Anthony Matos said. "He always carried around a camera and would leave for weeks at a time," Matos said.
U.S. and German officials suspect Ziad Jarrah was part of a terrorist cell formed in Hamburg this year that included Marwan Al-Shehhi and Mohammed Atta. Atta and Al-Shehhi are believed to have been part of the hijacking teams that slammed two commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center.
"We used to joke around and say that they were terrorists after they left," said Jason Matos. "It's weird now because they say (the attacks) were planned for five years and that's when they lived here - five years ago."