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May 16, 2001: Two 9/11 Hijackers Refused Entry to Bahamas; US Immigration Mistakenly Thinks They Have Left US

Waleed Alshehri.Waleed Alshehri. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijackers Satam Al Suqami and Waleed Alshehri attempt to enter the Bahamas, but are refused entry because they do not have visas. They fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Freeport, Bahamas, where they have a hotel reservation for three nights, but are turned away by the local authorities and have to return to the US. The 9/11 Commission will speculate that the trip is an unsuccessful attempt to extend Al Suqami’s visa, which is due to expire within days (see May 20, 2001). However, as they are refused entry to the Bahamas, they are regarded as never having left the US and Al Suqami is not given an extension to his permitted length of stay when he returns to Florida. Alshehri is stopped by US customs during pre-clearance in the Bahamas, but he is not searched and his luggage is not X-rayed; the inspection lasts one minute. There is an error regarding Alshehri’s port of departure on his INS record which indicates that he leaves from Fall River, Massachusetts, not Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The two hand over their departure records when they leave, but, since they do not enter the Bahamas, they do not receive new arrival records when they return to the US. This causes INS records to incorrectly indicate that the two are outside the country from this date until 9/11. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 23, 41 pdf file)


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