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Under Close Scrutiny

Authorities found a plaque with the word "Hamas" and a calendar with Sept. 11 highlighted at the home of a Lebanese man arrested on a weapons charge, police said Tuesday.

Police Chief Mark Kroeker said 39-year-old Ali Khaled Steitiye told police he received training at Lebanese guerrilla camps, and that two guns were found in Steitiye's car. "Hamas" is the name of the radical group that has staged recent suicide bombings in Israel.

It was not clear whether Steitiye had highlighted the date before or after the attacks on Sept. 11, or whether he had any link to the attacks, Kroeker said.

Steitiye is not on the list of 23 people in Portland whom federal authorities want to interview as part of the nationwide anti-terror investigation, Kroeker said.

Kroeker said Steitiye was arrested on Oct. 24 after a gun dealer alerted police that Steitiye had tried to fraudulently buy an assault rifle.

Portland's joint terrorism task force - which consists of federal agents and city police - then placed the man under surveillance. Investigators later searched Steitiye's car and his home.

In the car, they found a fully loaded 9mm pistol, an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a machete, Kroeker said.

At the suspect's Portland home police found Social Security cards, credit cards and an immigration green card that are also believed to have been fraudulently obtained, Kroeker said.

Besides the calendar and plaque, police who searched the home also found $20,000 in cash, Kroeker said.

Steitiye's lawyer, Dennis Balske, said authorities were overreacting to a basic gun case because of the terrorist attacks.

"There is a little bit of hysteria in the air," Balske said. "I think we need to look at this calmly. They're making this out to be a lot bigger than it is."

Steitiye's wife told Portland's KATU-TV that authorities had the wrong man and that her husband was not a terrorist.

Steitiye has been an American citizen since last year but is believed to have obtained his citizenship fraudulently, Kroeker said.

Steitiye was in federal custody at an undisclosed location, Kroeker said.

By William McCall © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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