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Context of '2000-2001: 9/11 Hijackers Atta and Alshehhi Attend Florida Mosque'

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9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, who returned to his native Saudi Arabia after a previous stay in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992), now arrives in the US for the second time, and will spend much of the next three years in the country. Hanjour first stays in Miramar, Florida with a couple that are longtime friends with Abulrahman Hanjour, his eldest brother: Adnan Khalil, a Saudi professor at a local college, and his wife Susan. Susan Khalil later remembers Hani Hanjour as socially inept, with “really bad hygiene.” She says, “Of all my husband’s colorful friends, he was probably the most nondescript. He would blend into the wall.” The Washington Post later reports: “Hanjour’s meek, introverted manner fits a recurrent pattern in the al-Qaeda network of unsophisticated young men being recruited as helpers in terrorist attacks. FBI agents have told people they have interviewed about Hanjour that he ‘fit the personality to be manipulated and brainwashed.’” Yet, Susan Khalil says, “I didn’t get the feeling that he hated me or hated Americans.” Hanjour, she says, “was very kind and gentle to my son, who was 3 years old.” He prays frequently, at their home and at a nearby mosque. After staying for about a month he leaves the Khalil’s, having been accepted at a flight school in California (see April 30-Early September 1996). [Associated Press, 9/21/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 10/2/2001; Washington Post, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 226] Many of the hijackers will later live in this part of Florida. A nearby mosque is run by radical imam Gulshair Shukrijumah, who possibly associates with Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in 2000 and 2001 (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001). [New York Times, 3/22/2003]

Entity Tags: Gulshair Shukrijumah, Hani Hanjour, Adnan Khalil, Susan Khalil

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gulshair Shukrijumah’s mosque in Miramar, Florida.Gulshair Shukrijumah’s mosque in Miramar, Florida. [Source: Fox News] (click image to enlarge)The Congressional Joint Inquiry will later find that several of the hijackers, including Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, attend mosques in the US and that at least one of the mosques is in Florida. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 169 pdf file] The Florida mosque attended by Atta and Alshehhi is the Al Hijrah mosque run by Gulshair Shukrijumah in Miramar, Broward County, Florida. Mohamed Atta and several other hijackers live near the mosque (see April 11, 2001) and train at nearby Opa-Locka airport (see December 29-31, 2000). After 9/11, the FBI will visit the mosque and ask Shukrijumah and his wife if they recognize the hijackers and if their son, Adnan, knew Atta or had mentioned trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. [Miami New Times, 4/3/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006] Atta is seen with Adnan Shukrijumah, a suspected al-Qaeda operative, in 2001 (see May 2, 2001). His father previously served as an imam at the Al Farouq mosque in Brooklyn. In addition to working as a translator for Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, he also testified as a character witness at the WTC bombing trial for one of the defendants, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, who attended Al Farouq. [FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006] Gulshair Shukrijumah is receiving money from the Saudi embassy in Washington at this time. [Newsweek, 4/7/2003] In 2009, an FBI informant will claim that he tried to get close to both Atta and Adnan Shukrijumah at the Al Hijrah mosque in early 2001, but the FBI had him work on easier cases instead, because both of them were secretive and wary (see Early 2001). [ABC News, 9/10/2009] The army’s Able Danger data mining program identifies Atta as a member of an al-Qaeda cell centered on Brooklyn. Exactly how it does this is never disclosed, although Atta’s apparent association with Gulshair and Adnan Shukrijumah is one possibile explanation (see January-February 2000).

Entity Tags: Adnan Shukrijumah, Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Gulshair Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 hijackers have links to several people associated with “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman, the spiritual head of the group that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Abdul-Rahman has been in prison since the mid-1990s.
bullet 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi attend a mosque in San Diego that is visited by an unnamed associate of Abdul-Rahman who is under investigation by the Los Angeles FBI (see June 1999-March 2000);
bullet The mosque is also attended by Osama Basnan, who threw a party for Abdul-Rahman in 1992 (see Spring 2000);
bullet 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is seen with Adnan Shukrijumah, son of Abdul-Rahman’s former translator (see May 2, 2001) and Atta and hijacker Marwan Alshehhi may attend a mosque run by his father (see 2000-2001);
bullet Hijacker Mohand Alshehri is seen near the Minnesota clinic where Abdul-Rahman is being held (see August 2001);
bullet Some hijackers have the same mailing address as Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates (see Before September 11, 2001);
bullet Khalid Almihdhar and other hijackers obtain false ID cards from Mohamed el-Atriss, an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator at Abdul-Rahman’s trial (see (July-August 2001)); [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]
bullet In addition, people attending a Bronx mosque are warned to stay away from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (see Early September 2001).
In early 2000, the Able Danger data-mining program apparently identifies Atta, Alshehhi, Alhazmi, and Almihdhar as members of al-Qaeda through their associations with people linked to Abdul-Rahman (see January-February 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohamed el-Atriss, Adnan Shukrijumah, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Osama Basnan, Mohand Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Nawaf Alhazmi, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Almihdhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pan Am Boeing 767 flight simulator used by the hijackers.The Pan Am Boeing 767 flight simulator used by the hijackers. [Source: FBI]Having finished their flight training at Huffman Aviation and passed their commercial pilot license tests (see August 14-December 19, 2000), future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi spend December 29 and 30 at the SimCenter flight school at Opa-Locka Airport, near Miami. Saying they want to join an Egyptian airline and need experience in a large plane, they each pay $1,500 in cash and spend six hours, split over the two days, training in the school’s Boeing 727 simulator. Henry George, the school’s owner who trains them, will later describe their training as a “mini, mini introduction,” and say they spend most of their time practicing maneuvers and turns. George will describe Atta and Alshehhi as “average pilots,” and say they are “quite ordinary. They were respectful and quiet almost to the point of being shy.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Aviation International News, 11/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001] The FBI will claim that Atta and Alshehhi spend December 31 at Pan Am International, also in Opa-Locka, training on a Boeing 767 simulator there. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant, 3/7/2006] Yet no other reports, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will mention this. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel will specifically claim the alleged hijackers “never approached Pan Am,” although it will not say how it arrived at this conclusion. It will point out that, in contrast to the 767s Atta and Alshehhi allegedly pilot on 9/11, the 727 the two men train to fly at the SimCenter “is a rather old three-engine jet with an old-fashioned cockpit, including a cramped instrument panel loaded down with small dials, knobs, and gauges.… But the 767 and 757 have highly sophisticated ‘glass cockpits,’ featuring video screens and digital readouts, and requiring an advanced level of computer skills.” Furthermore, according to Steven Wallach, an aviation consultant and former airline captain, if the hijackers “took the controls at high altitude and a long distance from their targets, then they likely had considerable training in a 767 or 757. They would have had to descend and navigate to Washington and New York. They would have had to know how to operate the autopilot, as well as other intricate functions.” However, “if the hijackers took over the controls at the last moment, that would indicate a minimum of 767-757 training.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/22/2001] SimCenter owner Henry George will claim: “I suppose Atta had just enough training to keep the plane in the air—how to make turns and move it up and down. He could not, however, have taxied a 757 or 767 from the gate, got it airborne, or landed it safely.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: SimCenter, Henry George, Pan Am International Flight School, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Elie Assaad. Elie Assaad. [Source: ABC News]Elie Assaad is working as an undercover operative for the FBI, and he is sent to infiltrate the Al Hijrah mosque in Miramar, outside of Miami, Florida. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, who lives nearby at the time, frequents the mosque with Adnan Shukrijumah (see 2000-2001). Several years after 9/11, the US will call Shukrijumah an important al-Qaeda operative and will put out a $5 million reward for him. Assaad will later claim, “There was something wrong with these guys.” The small mosque is run by Adnan’s father, Gulshair Shukrijumah, who previously worked as a translator for Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” who was convicted of a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Assaad is posing as a personal representative of Osama bin Laden under the name “Mohammed.” He will later claim that Adnan invites him to meet him at his home, but the FBI tells him to stay away, because Atta and his associates are suspicious and secretive. Instead, Assaad’s FBI handlers assign him to go after easier targets: two “wannabe terrorists” whose cases are easy to solve (see November 2000-Spring 2002). Both targets are eventually convicted and sent to prison. After 9/11, Assaad will continue to work as an undercover operative for the FBI, and his work will be praised in 2006 by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. But others will criticize the cases he is involved in as entrapment against mostly harmless targets. ABC News will report on Assaad’s story after he retires from government work in 2009. In response, the FBI will issue a statement, saying, “The claims made in the news report and the factual conclusions contained in the story are not supported by the evidence.” The FBI will not specify which claims or conclusions it is referring to, and much of the story is a critique of post-9/11 FBI undercover stings in general. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, working as an ABC News consultant, will call the case “yet another example of the way the system broke down prior to 9/11. If the system had worked, we might have been able to identify these people before the attacks.” [ABC News, 9/10/2009] It appears that the FBI is interested in Adnan Shukrijumah in two different cases around this time, but is unable to get close to him (see (Spring 2001)). In one case, an involved informant is known as “Mohamed,” which may well be Assaad using his alias “Mohammed.” A story on that case will suggest that Shukrijumah had a strong suspicion that “Mohamed” was a government informant (see April-May 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Elie Assaad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah, Gulshair Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Adnan Shukrijumah.Adnan Shukrijumah. [Source: FBI]The FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001), in connection with a South Florida-based Islamic militant group that is plotting to recruit operatives and finance attacks and assassinations in the Middle East (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The group includes Jose Padilla associates Adham Amin Hassoun and Mohammed Hesham Youssef, and is connected to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the suspect charity Benevolence International Foundation (see 1988-1989). Shukrijumah keeps his distance from the core plotters and despite FBI wiretaps on the group’s phones, the FBI is unable to establish a firm connection between him and the plans. Shukrijumah is also being investigated over a plot to attack various businesses in Florida and blow up Mount Rushmore around this time (see April-May 2001). The FBI later determines that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and will issue a $5 million reward for his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Benevolence International Foundation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Tara Gardens Condominiums complex.The Tara Gardens Condominiums complex. [Source: Coralsprings.com]Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move into Apartment 122 in the Tara Gardens Condominiums complex in Coral Springs, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale in southeast Florida. Atta rents the apartment using his own name and they pay $840 per month in rent. Atta will list the apartment as his address when he applies for a driver’s license in May. According to the London Times, while in Coral Springs, Alshehhi spends his days “washing piles of laundry for the gang in the development’s washing machines,” and Atta is “often in the parking lot, chain smoking.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/13/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 9/23/2001; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 228, 230] Diana Padilla, who lives upstairs from them, later recalls, “You would say hello to [Atta] and nothing—no reaction.” [Detroit Free Press, 9/22/2001] Atta and Alshehhi are seen at a local restaurant, apparently being given instructions by an unknown robed man (see April-August 2001). The two of them stay in Coral Springs until mid-May, and then move to Hollywood, Florida, about 30 miles away. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Adnan Shukrijumah.Adnan Shukrijumah. [Source: FBI]Mohamed Atta, Adnan Shukrijumah, and another man go to the Miami District Immigration Office to request a visa extension for the third man, whose identity is not known but who is believed to be Ziad Jarrah. The man received only a six-month visa, while Atta received one for eight months after returning from Europe in January 2001 (see January 10, 2001). The inspector rejects the request, and instead decides that Atta was given an incorrect length of stay and rolls back his visa’s expiry date to July 9, 2001. Atta is quiet and polite throughout and even thanks her at the end, despite his visa having been shortened by two months. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 22-3 pdf file]
Shukrijumah - After 9/11, both Mohamed Atta and Adnan Shukrijumah are identified by the immigration officer as two of the men who visited her office. Upon seeing Shukrijumah’s photo, she will say that she is “75 percent sure” it is him, and will provide a description that matches his profile. At this time, Shukrijumah is being investigated by the FBI and is thought to be a well-connected al-Qaeda operative (see November 2000-Spring 2002, (Spring 2001), April-May 2001, and March 21, 2003 and After). Atta and Marwan Alshehhi also attend a Florida mosque run by Shukrijumah’s father (see 2000-2001). An FBI informant sees both Atta and Adnan Shukrijumah at the mosque in early 2001, but he is unable to get close to them (see Early 2001).
Is Jarrah the Third Man? - The immigration officer will not be able to identify the third man. The 9/11 Commission will believe that he was Ziad Jarrah. Jarrah entered the US in January 2001 with a six-month tourist visa, left the States in February, and then returned as a business visitor with a visa for three and a half months (see March 30-April 13, 2001). Another reason to believe that this third man may have been Jarrah is that Atta and Jarrah are known to have been together on this date, for DMV records show that the two obtained drivers’ licenses later in the day. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40-1 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Adnan Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the weeks before 9/11, an associate of the 9/11 hijackers, Adnan Shukrijumah, travels around the US, visiting New York, Washington, and Chicago, as well as Montreal in Canada, for about a week each. (Nabil al-Marabh, a militant linked to the 9/11 attacks, is likely in Toronto, Canada, for most of this time period (see January 2001-Summer 2001 and Shortly Before July 11, 2001).) According to the FBI, he is scouting potential terrorist targets. Shukrijumah then visits his childhood home, Charlieville in Trinidad and Tobago, for a week, around the date of the attacks. Shukrijumah lives near the hijackers in Florida in 2001 and is apparently seen with Mohamed Atta (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001). He was also investigated by the FBI in the spring of 2001, as it thought he might be involved in terrorism (see (Spring 2001) and April-May 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006] According to neighbors of his parents, Shukrijumah is still seen in Florida until March 2003. But other accounts claim that he does not return to the US after 9/11 (see Between March 16 and 20, 2003).

Entity Tags: Adnan Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Gulshair Shukrijumah, Adnan’s father.Gulshair Shukrijumah, Adnan’s father. [Source: Fox News]Suspect Adnan Shukrijumah is able to escape the US despite growing evidence of his involvement with al-Qaeda and even his connection with some 9/11 hijackers. Shukrijumah lives in Miramar, Florida, and neighbors claim to have seen him as recently as March 15 and 16, 2003. For instance, one neighbor, Orville Campbell, says he saw Shukrijumah at a neighborhood barbeque on the afternoon of March 16. On March 20, just four days later, the FBI announces a $5 million reward for Shukrijumah, after he apparently has left the country (see March 21, 2003 and After). Just after the announcement, the New York Times reports, “Residents of Miramar, Fla., said a man who appeared to be Mr. Shukrijumah was living there as recently as last weekend.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003] It is unclear why Shukrijumah was not monitored closely enough to prevent him leaving the US. CNN reports that Shukrijumah’s name first came up in documents recovered after 9/11 associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002. Additionally, his name came up again in documents seized in early March 2003 when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan. Those documents referred to him as someone who would carry out a suicide attack. Additionally, by March 19, Mohammed identified him as one of his deputies. [CNN, 3/22/2003; US News and World Report, 3/30/2003] But those were hardly the first times US intelligence saw a link between Shukrijumah and al-Qaeda.
bullet His father, Gulshair Shukrijumah, was the imam of a Florida mosque, and appears to have been under suspicion before 9/11 because of his links to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and others convicted of roles in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (2000-2001).
bullet From November 2000 to the spring of 2002, the FBI in Florida investigated a group of Muslims it suspected of being terrorists, including Adnan Shukrijumah. Two members of the group were arrested in May 2002 and later found guilty and given prison sentences (see November 2000-Spring 2002). In April and May 2001, the focus was on Shukrijumah, but he was careful and the FBI was only able to prove that he lied on his green card application regarding a prior arrest (see April-May 2001).
bullet An FBI informant, Elie Assaad, infiltrated the mosque run by Adnan’s father in early 2001, and grew suspicious of Adnan and his friend, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. However, his FBI handlers assigned him easier targets instead (see Early 2001). Assaad claims that shortly after 9/11, he grew very upset after he realized that Atta was one of the hijackers. “I curse on everybody. I destroyed half of my furniture. Uh, I went crazy.” Presumably Assaad would have told his FBI superiors about the link between Shukrijumah and Atta, if they didn’t know about it already. [ABC News, 9/10/2009]
bullet It appears that 9/11 hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi attended the same small mosque as Adnan Shukrijumah and Atta. Shortly after 9/11, the FBI visited the mosque and asked Adnan’s parents if they recognized any of the hijackers and if Adnan knew Atta or had mentioned trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan (see 2000-2001).
bullet In the spring of 2001, the FBI also investigated Shukrijumah in connection with another Florida-based Islamist militant group. While the FBI developed evidence against others in the group, Shukrijumah kept his distance from the main plotters and he could not be linked to their plans (see (Spring 2001)).
bullet Shukrijumah was also seen going to the Miami District Immigration Office with Atta and one other man, who may have been 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah (see May 2, 2001).
bullet One article published in March 2003, shortly after the announcement of the reward money to find Shukrijumah, claims that in the months after 9/11, US agents went to his parents’ Florida home six times to ask about him, but he was never there. Furthermore, his parents claimed he had been gone since before 9/11 and rarely called. His parents also claim he is innocent of any links to Islamic militancy. [US News and World Report, 3/30/2003] It is unclear if the neighbors who knew Shukrijumah were mistaken that he was still in Florida well after 9/11, or if he was able to stay in the US for a long time without the FBI finding him.

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Gulshair Shukrijumah, Elie Assaad, Ziad Jarrah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohamed Atta, Adnan Shukrijumah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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