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Context of 'March-August 2001: 9/11 Hijacker Atta Familiarizes Himself with Flying Crop-Duster Planes'

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Imran Mandhai.Imran Mandhai. [Source: crimelibrary (.com)]The FBI in Florida investigates a group of Muslims it suspects of being terrorists, including an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta named Adnan Shukrijumah (see April-May 2001 and May 2, 2001). The investigation starts with the November 2000 Florida arrest of Turkish immigrant Hakki Aksoy, who is found to be in possession of instructions for making a car bomb. An FBI informer named Howard Gilbert enters the Darul Aloom mosque in Pembroke Pines (a town just north of Miami) to check out one of Aksoy’s associates, Imran Mandhai. Gilbert starts plotting with Mandhai and a friend of Mandai’s named Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan. [New Times Broward-Palm Beach, 8/1/2002; Miami New Times, 8/8/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003] Gilbert is replaced by another FBI informant known as “Mohamed the bomb maker,” who agrees to wear a wire and testify in court. Mohamed and Mandhai drive around South Florida selecting local bomb targets including a National Guard armory, electrical substations, Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli consulate in Miami, plus Mount Rushmore in the Midwest. Mandhai and Jokhan are unable to buy weapons themselves, but Gilbert, the first informant, had given Mandhai a copy of a bomb-making manual, and Mohamed, the second informant, shows Mandhai the range of guns and explosives he can provide. [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit: appeal, 7/2/2004 pdf file] The FBI interviews Mandhai and Jokhan in late spring 2001 and they acknowledge they are training for jihad. However, the FBI’s surveillance of them stops shortly after this. The FBI takes no action against them for a year, and then indicts them in May 2002. At the trial they are both found guilty; Mandhai receives twelve years and Jokhan five. It is unclear why the FBI acts in this way, although it is possibly related to a forced curtailment of electronic surveillance that is taking place at this time. In the summer of 2000, the bureau was ordered to shutdown certain wiretaps after an FBI official was found to have been misrepresenting petitions for taps on terror suspects (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001). Coincidentally, after Gilbert and Mandhai develop a series of courses for potential recruits entitled “Skills Necessary for Jihad” in the spring of 2001, Mandhai prints them at the same Kinko’s copy shop in Hollywood that is used by Mohamed Atta and Hamza Alghamdi to buy their tickets for 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001). [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; Salon, 12/3/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Imran Mandhai, Hakki Aksoy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Adnan Shukrijumah, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan, Howard Gilbert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A crop duster at South Florida Crop Care.A crop duster at South Florida Crop Care. [Source: Colin Braley / Reuters]In March and August 2001, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta visits a small airport in South Florida and asks detailed questions about how to start and fly a crop-duster plane. People there easily recall him because he was so persistent. After explaining his abilities, Atta is told he is not skilled enough to fly a crop-duster. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] Employees at South Florida Crop Care in Belle Glade, Florida, later tell the FBI that Atta was among the men who in groups of two or three visited the crop dusting firm nearly every weekend for six or eight weeks before the attacks. Employee James Lester says, “I recognized him because he stayed on my feet all the time. I just about had to push him away from me.” [Associated Press, 9/15/2001] Yet, according to US investigators, Atta and the other hijackers gave up on the crop-duster idea back around May 2000.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, South Florida Crop Care, Mohamed Atta, James Lester

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Zacarias Moussaoui, living in the US, makes some professional inquires about crop-dusting. He uses the pretext of launching a crop-spraying company. Information about this, including a computer disk about the aerial dispersal of pesticides, will be found on Moussaoui’s computer after 9/11. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 146] Roughly around the same time, Mohamed Atta expresses interest in flying crop-duster planes (see March-August 2001). Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later comment that this suggests al-Qaeda was already working on another plot using crop-duster aircraft to distribute unconventional weapons. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 146]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives $100,000 from accounts in Pakistan. The money is transferred to two of his accounts in Florida. [Fox News, 10/2/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001; US Congress, 10/3/2001; CNN, 10/6/2001; CNN, 10/8/2001] This will later be reported in various media. For example, ABC News will say that federal authorities track “more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan to two banks in Florida to accounts held by suspected hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta.” [ABC News, 9/30/2001] Law enforcement sources will tell CNN, “[T]he wire transfers from Pakistan were sent to Atta through two banks in Florida.” [CNN, 10/1/2001] One of the hijackers’ financiers, the Pakistan-based Omar Saeed Sheikh, is said to wire Atta around $100,000 in August (see Early August 2001). The transfers from Pakistan will be disclosed a few weeks after 9/11 but will then fade from view (see September 30-October 7, 2001), until 2003 when John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, tells the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs that the FBI has traced the origin of funding for 9/11 back to accounts in Pakistan (see July 31, 2003). However, in 2004 the 9/11 Commission will fail to mention any funding coming directly from Pakistan (see Late-September 2001-August 2004).

Entity Tags: Saeed Sheikh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John S. Pistole, Counterterrorism Division (FBI), Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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