Planning of the September 11 attacks
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On September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four airplanes and were targeting the World Trade Center in New York City, The Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and an additional target in Washington. Two planes hit the World Trade Center; one hit the Pentagon. However, one plane never arrived at its target, believed to be either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House. About 3,000 people died, making it the most deadly terrorist attack to ever take place on US soil. It was carefully planned by al-Qaeda, who sent 19 terrorists to take over Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft, operated by American Airlines and United Airlines.
Al-Qaeda's origins date back to 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Soon after the invasion, Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan and helped organize Arab mujahadeen. Together with Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian-Jordanian who influenced bin Laden, they formed Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) in 1984, to provide support for Arab mujahadeen who came to join the jihad in Afghanistan.
Towards the end of the 1980s, the Soviets were retreating in defeat. Bin Laden and Azzam had discussions about the future of MAK and what to do with the mujahadeen force that had built up. Bin Laden and Azzam both wanted to use the force as a "rapid reaction force" to defend oppressed Muslims around the world. Bin Laden wanted to train the mujahadeen in terrorist tactics, while Azzam strongly disagreed with this approach, issuing a fatwa saying that it would violate Islamic law. Azzam reiterated the hadith that orders Muslims not to kill any women or children.
In November 1989, soon after bin Laden and Azzam split, Azzam was killed in Peshawar, Pakistan. Azzam and his two sons were travelling to Jummah (Friday prayer) when a remote-control activated bomb detonated and killed them. It is not known for certain if bin Laden was behind this, but thought unlikely. Nonetheless, bin Laden was free to take full control of MAK, laying groundwork for Al-Qaeda. Under guidance of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden became more radical.
In 1991, bin Laden moved to the Sudan, where he led operations in East Africa, including the 1993 assault on American troops at Mogadishu in Somalia. Under international pressure, the Sudanese forced bin Laden out of Sudan in 1996, and he returned to Afghanistan.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 marked a point where bin Laden turned his attention toward the United States. He strongly urged the Saudi regime not to host the 500,000 American troops, instead advocating the use of a mujahidin force to oust the Iraqis. Bin Laden strongly opposed the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia. He interpreted the Prophet Muhammad as banning the "permanent presence of infidels in Arabia". This is why bin Laden attacked American military targets in Saudi Arabia. Also, the date chosen for the 1998 Kenyan embassy bombings (August 7), was eight years to the day that American troops were sent to Saudi Arabia.
Bin Laden also stated that he viewed the House of Saud (the Saudi royal family) as apostates. In Islam, the charge of apostasy is made against Muslims that have become non-believers and reject Islam. Apostasy is a very serious charge, which may result in capital punishment in many Muslim countries (especially for males). Bin Laden also objects to American alliances with the governments of Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt.
He viewed Israelis as infidels, who are not welcome in "Muslim land". He objected to U.S. foreign policy in relation to Israel. He noted that key figures Madeline Albright, Sandy Berger, and William Cohen, who were all Jewish, "drove Washington's undoubtedly pro-Israel policy" during the Clinton administration.
In 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwa, calling for American troops to get out of Saudi Arabia. It is interesting to note that in Islam, a Fatwa can only be given by an Islamic scholar. However, Osama bin Laden on the other hand, was a political fighter who used Islam to motivate his fighters. The 1998 United States Embassy bombings marked a turning point, with bin Laden intent on attacking the United States. Bin Laden issued another fatwa in February 1998, together with Ayman al Zawahiri, declaring war against Americans. Bin Laden stated "We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they [Americans] are all targets." Bin Laden cited grievances including the presence of American infidels (troops) in the Saudi holy land, suffering of Iraqi people due to sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and U.S. support of Israel. In the December 1999 interview with Rahimullah Yusufzai, bin Laden reiterated his ideology and objected to America's military presence in Saudi Arabia. He proclaimed that Americans were "too near to Mecca." He considered this a provocation to the entire Muslim world. He also believed Israel "was killing and punishing Palestinians with American money and American arms."
Origins of the 9/11 attacks
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According to the intelligence authorities in the United States and the Philippines, the September 11 attacks originated with Operation Bojinka (a plan that was not executed), which was conceived by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his nephew, Ramzi Yousef. The first stage would be the assassination of Pope John Paul II. The second involved the bombing of eleven airliners bound for the United States. The third stages called for a small airplanes loaded with explosives to be crashed into the CIA headquarters and possibly other buildings in major cities across the U.S. The plot was discovered by Manila police on January 6, 1995 and Abdul Hakim Murad was arrested. Ramzi Yousef was arrested in Pakistan in February 1995. Wali Khan Amin Shah escaped after his arrest, but was re-arrested in Malaysia in December 1995. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed escaped, and Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, was overlooked.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed first presented the idea for the September 11 plot to bin Laden in 1996 in Afghanistan. However, nothing came of the idea at the time. At that point, bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were in a period of transition, having just relocated back to Afghanistan from Sudan.
Mohammed moved to Qatar. Before the government there could arrest him (after a request by the United States), he fled to Afghanistan. The leaders of Al-Qaeda liked the idea of the modified Phases II and III Mohammed presented to them. Instead of using small airplanes loaded with explosives, as Murad planned to do, Mohammed planned to use commercial airliners. Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah became the managers of the plot. During late 1996 and 1997, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stayed in the Czech Republic, as the Taliban allegedly did not approve of his womanising. German officials believe that the leaders of Al-Qaeda planned almost the entire September 11 plot in Afghanistan. Six of the hijackers that were chosen later down the line would have some say in the plot.
According to the September 11 Commission, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed envisioned a hijacking of twelve planes on both the East and West coasts, and for eleven of them to be crashed into the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, the White House and the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C, the George Bush Center for Intelligence in Langley, Virginia, the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, California, the Willis Tower (then Sears Tower) in Chicago, Illinois, Government Plaza in Binghamton, New York and the Columbia Center in Seattle, Washington. The commission stated that Mohammed also wanted to personally hijack a twelfth airliner, kill all of the adult males on board, land the plane in the U.S., make a political speech, and then free all of the women and children on the plane. However, Bin Laden rejected this part of the plan, stating that it would have been too difficult to pull off such an operation. The September 11 Commission also stated Al Qaeda had planned to attack gasoline stations in many major U.S cities, as well as hijack even more airplanes and crash them into nuclear power plants and major bridges on both coasts. According to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Bin Laden rejected this plan because there was not enough time to prepare for such an operation. The plan to implement other hijackings on both coasts was also rejected for the same reason.
In December 1998, the Director of Central Intelligence Counterterrorist Center reported to the president that Al-Qaeda was preparing for attacks in the USA, including the training of personnel to hijack aircraft.
In late 1998 or early 1999, bin Laden summoned Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Kandahar and gave approval for Mohammed to go forward with the plot. The plot was now referred to within Al-Qaeda as the "planes operation". In addition to flying planes into buildings, there was a plan to simultaneously crash additional planes in Asia, which could be done by operatives not granted a U.S. visa and without flight training. Bin Laden canceled the latter part of the planes operation in the spring of 2000, because of difficulties of coordination. The commission said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed probably would have arranged to have six planes hijacked, even later on, if he was able to find more hijackers. He also considered a Phase II, but he and his colleagues spent so much time on the current plot that they could not plan a second phase.
A series of meetings occurred in spring of 1999, involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden, and his deputy Mohammed Atef. Bin Laden recommended four individuals for the plot, including Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Walid Muhammad Salih Bin 'Attash (Khallad), and Abu Bara al-Taizi. Al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were both Saudi citizens, thus making it simple for them to obtain U.S. visas. Khallad and al-Taizi were both Yemeni citizens, thus not able to easily obtain visas to the United States. The two Yemenis were assigned for the Asia component of the plot. When Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell arrived in Afghanistan, bin Laden was involved in selecting them for the plot, and assigning Atta to be the leader.
Several Al-Qaeda members are said to have attended a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from January 5 to January 8, 2000, that regarded the planning of the USS Cole bombing (which took place on October 12, 2000), and the forthcoming September 11, 2001 attacks. Hambali, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Tawfiq bin Attash attended the meeting. The men were also photographed when they came out of the meeting. U.S. investigators did not identify these men until much later. The meeting was not wiretapped but it was videotaped.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the head of Al-Qaeda's 'military committee'. He provided operational support, such as selecting targets and helping arrange travel for the hijackers. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed explained to Fouda, "We had a large surplus of brothers willing to die as martyrs. As we studied various targets, nuclear facilities arose as a key option"... but the nuclear targets were dropped for concerns the plan would "get out of hand."
According to several captured Al-Qaeda members, the leaders decided that the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the United States Capitol were the targets, and that leaders rejected the White House as it was too difficult to see from the air. According to captured member Abu Zubaydah, the White House was the intended target of United Airlines Flight 93. According to his courtroom confession (which he recanted after being sentenced to life in prison) Zacarias Moussaoui intended to hijack a fifth plane with Richard Colvin Reid which would use GPS to find the White House.
Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah came into the picture in 1999, when they arrived in Kandahar from Germany. The Hamburg cell was formed starting in 1998 shortly after Mohammed got approval by Al-Qaeda leadership for his plot. Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Zakariyah Essabar, and fifteen others were all members.
Mohamed Atta was very religious, but not fanatically so when he came to Germany in Fall 1992 to study urban planning at the Technical University of Hamburg. While in Germany, he was drawn to Al Quds Mosque in Hamburg, which adheres to a "harsh, uncompromisingly fundamentalist, and resoundingly militant" version of Sunni Islam. A friend of Atta's recalled meeting him at the Al-Quds mosque in 1993, though it is not known when he started going there. Atta had always lived as a strict Muslim. He went to Mecca in 1995, and returned to Germany as more of a Muslim fanatic. Also in late 1997, Mohamed Atta told his roommate that he was going to Mecca, but he most likely went to Afghanistan instead. Atta had already made his Mecca pilgrimage 18 months earlier. According to Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda, Atta went to the mosque around this time "not to pray but to sign his death will." He is known to have attended Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who also went under the name "Ramzi Omar", was a citizen of Yemen. In 1995, he came to Germany seeking asylum, claiming to be a political refugee from Sudan. The judge refused the asylum request, and bin al-Shibh returned to the Hadramawt region of Yemen. Bin al-Shibh later got a German visa under his real name, and came to Germany in 1997. There, he met Mohamed Atta, the leader of the Hamburg cell, at a mosque. For two years, Atta and bin al-Shibh were roommates in Germany. In late 1999, bin al-Shibh traveled to Kandahar in Afghanistan, where he received training at Al-Qaeda training camps, and met others involved in planning the 9/11 attacks. Original plans for the 9/11 attacks called for bin al-Shibh to be one of the hijacker pilots, along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. From Hamburg, Germany, bin al-Shibh applied to take flight training in the United States. At that time, he also applied to Aviation Language Services, which provides language training for student pilots. Bin al-Shibh applied for an entry visa to the United States, four times, and was refused each time. He made visa applications in Germany on May 17, 2000, and again in June, on September 16, and October 25, 2000. According to the 9/11 Commission, this refusal of a visa was out of general concern by U.S. officials that people from Yemen would illegally overstay their visit and seek work in the United States. His friend, Zakariyah Essabar, was also denied visas. After he failed to enter the United States, bin al-Shibh took on more of a "coordinator" role in the plot, and a link between Atta in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Afghanistan.
Marwan al-Shehhi came to Bonn, Germany in 1996, on scholarship from the United Arab Emirates Army to study marine engineering. Al-Shehhi met Atta in 1997, and in 1998, he moved to Hamburg to join Atta and bin al-Shibh. As the son of a religiously trained father, al-Shehhi was very religious, well-educated in Islam, and adhered to a strict form of the faith. However, he had a friendlier, more humorous personality than Atta, who was very serious and more reclusive.
Ziad Jarrah came from Lebanon to Germany in April 1996, where he enrolled in a junior college in Greifswald. There, he met his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen, a medical student. By late 1996, Jarrah started to become radical in his religious views. In September 1997, he transferred to the Technical University of Hamburg to study aircraft engineering. In the summer of that year, he worked at a paint shop factory for Volkswagen in Wolfsburg.
Other members of the Hamburg cell included Said Bahaji, who came to Germany in 1995. He had been born there, but moved to Morocco at age 9. In 1996, Said Bahaji enrolled in the electrical engineering program at the technical university. He spent weekdays at a student home and weekends at the home of his aunt, Barbara Arens. Arens, his "high tech aunt", put a stop to the weekend visits when she saw his religious beliefs turn more radical.
Selection for 9/11 plot
In 1999, this group decided to go to Chechnya to fight. While still in Germany, they met Khalid al Masri who put the group in contact with Abu Musab in Duisburg, Germany. Abu Musab turned out to be Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an important Al-Qaeda operative. Slahi advised them that it would be difficult to get into Chechnya and advised them instead to go to Afghanistan for training first. In late 1999, the Hamburg group met with bin Laden, and pledged loyalty to him. They agreed to undertake a highly secret mission, and were told to go enroll in flight training. Atta was selected by bin Laden to lead the group. Bin Laden met with Atta several more times for additional instructions. The selection of hijackers was entirely a decision made by bin Laden and Mohammed Atef. The hijackers had not yet met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. At the time, the hijacking team also included Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who were selected in early 1999 by Osama bin Laden.
Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah all obtained new passports, claiming the old ones were lost, before applying for U.S. visas. Atta, Jarrah, and bin al-Shibh returned to Hamburg, early in 2000, while al-Shehhi went back to the United Arab Emirates to get a new passport and U.S. visa. Once back in Germany, they made efforts to appear less radical: they distanced themselves from the others, stopped attending extremist mosques, and changed their appearance and behavior. Jarrah, for example, began to behave more the way he did when he first met Senguen.
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Hani Hanjour arrived in San Diego on December 8, 2000, joining Hamzi there. Hani Hanjour had previously lived in the United States, attending some flight training in 1996 and 1997. In 1997, after three months of training in Arizona, he obtained his private pilot's license. With further training, Hanjour earned a commercial pilot's certificate, issued by the FAA, in April 1999. Hanjour aspired to become a commercial pilot, applying to a civil aviation school in Jeddah, in 1999, but was rejected.
In Spring 2000, Hanjour went to Afghanistan. At the Al Farouq training camp, he was identified as a trained pilot, and asked to report to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He returned to Saudi Arabia on June 20, and obtained a U.S. visa on September 25, 2000. He arrived back in San Diego on December 8, 2000. Hamzi and Hanjour then left for Mesa, Arizona, where Hanjour enrolled in refresher training at Arizona Aviation. He had difficulties with multi-engine training, due to his poor English language skills. He did some training at Pan Am International Flight Academy, on a Boeing 737 simulator, but struggled there, as well. Though he struggled, Hanjour completed the initial training by the end of March 2001. At that point, they left Arizona and headed East. By April 4, they had arrived in Falls Church, Virginia.
Arrival in the United States
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Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000. On January 18, Marwan al-Shehhi applied for a visa into the United States while he was in the United Arab Emirates. He was the first member to apply for a visa in the Hamburg cell.
By the end of June, Atta, Jarrah, and al-Shehhi left for the United States. Bin al-Shibh and Essabar wanted to join Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah, but they were denied U.S. visas several times. Bin al-Shibh's visa was denied since he was a citizen of Yemen. He made several more attempts at receiving a U.S. visa. One such attempt was a $2,200 deposit he had sent to the Florida Flight Training Center, on a down payment for a similar training course taken by Ziad Jarrah. He used that application as a basis for a new attempt to get a student visa, as opposed to the visitor visa he had sought previously. On another occasion, he arranged for several thousand dollars to be deposited in his Yemen bank account, to demonstrate financial wherewithal. After his final attempt failed, he was advised by a consular official that they could not help him, and to stop trying. It was then that Bin al-Shibh decided to support the cell by sending money to it. Mohammed was making repeated trips to Indonesia and the Philippines in Southeast Asia at the time. Jarrah nearly abandoned his role in the plot and probably would have been replaced by Zacarias Moussaoui had he done so.
A man named Omar al-Bayoumi was in San Diego, California since 1995. He was raising a family and received a monthly stipend from his former employer, an aviation company in Saudi Arabia. He was seen regularly videotaping various locations. Al-Bayoumi was quick to house immigrants who needed housing. In 2000, he settled in Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. According to al-Hazmi, al-Bayoumi met him and al-Mihdhar at a restaurant in Los Angeles. Al-Bayoumi offered a ride to San Diego after he heard the men speak Arabic. Al-Bayoumi threw the men a welcome party and al-Hazmi, who said he was in the United States to learn English, signed a six-month lease. He often surfed the Internet from the San Diego State University Library.
The first two months of the lease were paid for, yet the men complained that the lease was too expensive. In the spring, al-Hazmi told a friend that someone was going to wire $5000 to him, and that the money would come from Saudi Arabia. Al-Hazmi told his friend that he had no account. The friend allowed him to use his account, and later found that the money came from a man named "Ali", and that it didn't originate from the United States. The two men wanted to take flight lessons, which is why they got the money. A friend took them to Montgomery Field and arranged lessons for them. They took a single flight lesson and did not return. Fereidoun "Fred" Sorbi, the instructor, recalled, "The first day they came in here, they said they want to fly Boeings. We said you have to start slower. You can't just jump right into Boeings."
Al-Hazmi had season passes to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. The men frequented a men's club in San Diego called Cheetah's, which is near the Islamic Center. Al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi frequently drove to Las Vegas in the Toyota sedan they bought.
In March 2000, Mohamed Atta contacted the Academy of Lakeland in Florida, via e-mail, inquiring about flight training, "Dear sir, we are a small group of young men from different Arab countries. Now we are living in Germany since a while for study purposes. We would like to start training for the career of airline professional pilots. In this field we haven't yet any knowledge but we are ready to undergo an intensive training program (up to ATP and eventually higher)." He sent 50-60 similar e-mails to other flight training schools in the United States.
On May 18, 2000, Atta applied for and received a U.S. visa. After obtaining his visa, Atta traveled to Prague before going to the United States. Atta, along with Marwan al-Shehhi arrived in Venice, Florida, and visited Huffman Aviation to "check out the facility." They explained that "they came from a flight school in the area, they were not happy and they were looking for another flight school". By December, Atta and al-Shehhi left Huffman Aviation, and on December 21, Atta received a pilot license.
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During the Summer and Fall of 2000, bin Laden and other senior Al-Qaeda leaders began selecting the "muscle" hijackers. With Hamzi and al-Mihdhar already selected, thirteen additional hijackers were selected. They were all from Saudi Arabia, except for Fayez Banihammad who was from the United Arab Emirates. They were all between age 20 and 28, most were unemployed with no more than a high school education, and were unmarried. The muscle hijackers included Salem al-Hazmi, a younger brother of Nawaf al-Hamzi. They came to Afghanistan for flight training in Chechnya. In the Summer and Fall of 2000, they were identified as candidates for the 9/11 operation, and brought before bin Laden and Atef. Bin Laden personally selected the 13 hijackers from the candidates. They briefly left Afghanistan to acquire U.S. visas, then returned for further training in late 2000 or early 2001. In late April 2001, the muscle hijackers began arriving in the U.S.
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The report by the September 11 Commission stated that Osama bin Laden aggressively pushed the September 11 plan as it formed, even when some of his closest aides were advising him to cancel the plans. Osama bin Laden envisioned an increase in recruiting and fundraising after the attacks.
One week after he was given the money, Moussaoui came to Minnesota from Oklahoma. He paid $6,300 in cash to the Pan Am International Flight Academy on August 10. He was arrested for immigration violations on August 17. Some investigators think that this sparked the move to the attacks.
About three weeks prior to the attacks, the targets were assigned to four teams. The United States Capitol was called "The Faculty of Law". The Pentagon was dubbed "The Faculty of Fine Arts". Atta codenamed the World Trade Center "The Faculty of Town Planning".
A conspirator named Abu Abdul Rahman sent a "love message" on an Internet chat room to his "German girlfriend", who was really Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The message said, "The first semester commences in three weeks [how long it would be before the attacks]. Two high schools and two universities [two high schools refer to the two towers of the World Trade Center, and the universities refer to the Pentagon and the United States Capitol]... This summer will surely be hot ...19 [the eventual number of hijackers] certificates for private education and four exams [the number of planes used]. Regards to the professor. Goodbye."
Between August 25 and August 28, the hijackers had bought their tickets. Some September 11 hijackers bought their reservations over the Internet on sites such as Travelocity, and some bought them in person at the airport.
Two of the United Airlines Flight 175 hijackers paid $4,500 for each of their tickets. Three of the other hijackers on that flight paid $1,600 and $1,760 for their tickets. Atta booked seat 8D. Waleed al-Shehri and Wail al-Shehri, who sat in seats 2B and 2A, used the same Hollywood post-office-box address to buy their tickets. Satam al-Suqami would pay in cash and sit in seat 10B. Abdulaziz al-Omari also planned to be on this flight.
US investigators say that Atta sent a package to Mustafa Ahmed, the alleged al-Qaida paymaster on September 4. Mustafa Ahmed was in the United Arab Emirates at the time.
Said Bahaji left Germany and flew to Karachi via Istanbul on September 4. German police found that two other men on the flight stayed with Bahaji at the Embassy Hotel in Karachi. The men had false identification papers. Zakariya Essabar disappeared around the same time. Investigators think that he may have been one of the passengers on the plane.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh returned to Spain on September 5, flying from Düsseldorf. Investigators say that he stayed at his private home in the Madrid area, and he never used his return ticket. He instead headed for Afghanistan.
Around this time, the FBI had been unable to access Moussaoui's computer. Agents were notified by the Central Intelligence Agency at this time that they needed to look for Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Ziad Jarrah wrote a letter to his girlfriend and sent it to her on September 10. He wrote "I have done what I had to do" and "You should be very proud, it is an honor, and you will see the result, and everyone will be happy" as well as "Hold on to what you have until we meet each other again." The letter was returned to the U.S., as Jarrah made an error in writing the address.
Mohamed Atta spent September 10 with Abdulaziz al-Omari in South Portland, Maine and Scarborough, Maine. Atta called Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that day. Intelligence officials think that Mohammed gave him a coded signal to proceed. On September 11, 2001, 2 planes went into the World Trade Center, one in the Pentagon, and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
The 9/11 Commission stated in their final report that the "9/11 plotters eventually spent somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to plan and conduct their attack" but the "origin of the funds remains unknown." The Commission noted: "we have seen no evidence that any foreign government-or foreign government official-supplied any funding." Some people have claimed that the operation was financed by elements of the Pakistani government, specifically within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as well as agents of the Saudi Arabian government working from within the United States.
A senior-level U.S. government source told CNN in October 2001 that U.S. investigators believed Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh), a long time ISI asset, using the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, sent more than $100,000 from Pakistan to Mohamed Atta, the suspected hijack ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"Investigators said Atta then distributed the funds to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before the deadliest acts of terrorism on U.S. soil that destroyed the World Trade Center, heavily damaged the Pentagon and left thousands dead [...] Syed also is described as a key figure in the funding operation of Al-Qaeda, the network headed by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden."
CNN later confirmed that it was "Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh, whom authorities say used a pseudonym to wire $100,000 to suspected hijacker Mohammad Atta, who then distributed the money in the United States."
Soon after the money transfer was discovered, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Gen. Mahmood (Mahmud) Ahmed, resigned from his position. Indian news outlets reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating the possibility that Gen. Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send the $100,000 to Atta, while most Western media outlets only reported his connections to the Taliban as the reason for his departure from the ISI.
The Wall Street Journal was one of the few Western news organizations to follow up on the story, citing the Times of India: "US authorities sought [Gen. Mahmud Ahmed's] removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 [was] wired to WTC hijacker Mohamed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen Mahumd." The best coverage came from The Daily Excelsior, reporting "The FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the "link" between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, sensational information surfaced with regard to the transfer of $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, one of the Kamikaze pilots who flew a Boeing into the World Trade Center. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta."
According to the Washington Post, "on the morning of Sept. 11, [Porter] Goss and [Bob] Graham were having breakfast with a Pakistani general named Mahmud Ahmed -- the soon-to-be-sacked head of Pakistan's intelligence service" On September 12 and 13, Lt. Gen. Mahmood met with United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Senator Joseph Biden, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. An agreement on Pakistan's collaboration in the new "war on terror" was negotiated between Mahmood and Armitage.
Lt Gen Mehmood Ahmed then led a six-member delegation to the Afghan city of Kandahar in order to hold crisis talks with the Taliban leadership, supposedly in an attempt to persuade them to hand over Osama bin Laden.
In June 2001, a "high-placed member of a US intelligence agency" told BBC reporter Greg Palast that "after the  elections, the agencies were told to "back off" investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals".
In May 2002, former FBI Agent Robert Wright, Jr. delivered a tearful press conference apologizing to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. He described how his superiors intentionally obstructed his investigation into Al-Qaeda financing.
Agent Wright would later tell ABC's Brian Ross: "September 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit," specifically referring to the Bureau's hindering of his investigation into Yasin al-Qadi, whom Ross described as a powerful Saudi Arabian businessman with extensive financial ties in Chicago. One month after September 11, the US government officially identified Yassin al-Qadi as one of Osama bin Laden's primary financiers and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
In an interview with Computerworld Magazine, a former business associate described his relationship with al-Qadi: "I met him a few times and talked to him a few times on the telephone. He never talked to me about violence. Instead, he talked very highly of his relationship with [former President] Jimmy Carter and [Vice President] Dick Cheney."
The Muwafaq Foundation, which U.S. authorities have confirmed was an arm of bin Laden's terror organization, was headed by Yassin al-Qadi, who was also known as the owner of Ptech -- a company that has supplied high-tech computer systems to the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Congress, the United States Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the White House. A former FBI counter terrorism agent commented: "For someone like [al-Qadi] to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems, would be of grave concern." Also sitting on Ptech's board of directors was Yacub Mirza— "a senior official of major radical Islamic organizations that have been linked by the US government to terrorism." In addition, Hussein Ibrahim, the Vice President and Chief Scientist of Ptech, was vice chairman of a now defunct investment group called BMI, a company the FBI has named as a conduit used by al-Qadi to launder money to Hamas terrorists.
According to Senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, "Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship," as reported by the Miami Herald.
"And in Graham's book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees."
- Gunaratna, Ronan (2002). Inside Al Qaeda. Berkley Books.
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