updated 9/30/2005 12:21:57 PM ET 2005-09-30T16:21:57

The fire department’s new Muslim chaplain abruptly resigned Friday after saying in a published interview that a broader conspiracy, not 19 al-Qaida hijackers, may have been responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“It became clear to him that he would have difficulty functioning as an FDNY chaplain,” Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told reporters an hour before Imam Intikab Habib was to be officially sworn in. “There has been no prior indication that he held those views.”

Habib told Newsday in an interview published Friday that he was skeptical of the official version of the attack on the World Trade Center, which killed 343 firefighters.

“I’ve heard professionals say that nowhere ever in history did a steel building come down with fire alone,” he told the newspaper.

“It takes two or three weeks to demolish a building like that. But it was pulled down in a couple of hours,” he said. “Was it 19 hijackers who brought it down, or was it a conspiracy?”

The 30-year Guyana native joined the department as chaplain on Aug. 15 after the FDNY’s Islamic Society recommended him for the part-time position, which pays $18,000 a year.

Scoppetta said Habib, who was educated in Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and preaches at a New York mosque, had appeared qualified and passed a background check.

“It’s sad,” said Kevin James, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel. “We had no idea those were his views. He’s entitled to his opinion but he’s not the right person for the chaplain.”

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