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Context of 'May 21, 2004: 9/11 Hijacker Associate Is Deported to Yemen; Later Evidence Will Renew Suspicions He Was Involved in 9/11 Plot'

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Mohdar Abdullah.Mohdar Abdullah. [Source: San Diego Union-Tribune]Mohdar Abdullah, a friend of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar when they live in San Diego, allegedly learns about the hijackers’ attack plans in early 2000. Abdullah helps Alhazmi and Almihdhar adjust to life in the US when they first arrive in San Diego. Abdullah speaks English well, and Alhazmi only speaks a little English and Almihdhar virtually none at all.
Alleged Prison Confessions - While imprisoned in the US in 2003 on minor charges, Abdullah will reportedly brag to other prisoners that he knew the two hijackers were planning a terrorist attack (see September 2003-May 21, 2004). According to one prisoner, Abdullah claims he had been told by an unnamed individual that Alhazmi and Almihdhar would be arriving in Los Angeles to carry out an attack before they arrived there on January 15, 2000 (see January 15, 2000). According to another prisoner, Abdullah claims that after Alhazmi and Almihdhar arrived in San Diego, they told him they planned to fly an airplane into a building and they invited him to join in the attack. Abdullah’s prison boasts will not be completely verified by the FBI. However, Abdullah will admit to the FBI that he knew of the hijackers’ extremist beliefs and that he was involved in the Islamic Army of Aden, a militant group in Yemen with al-Qaeda ties (see 1996-1997 and After and Around October 12, 2000). The 9/11 Commission will later comment, “Abdullah clearly was sympathetic to those extremist views.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 218-219]
Distantly Related to Almihdhar? - Abdullah is a Yemeni citizen, and after 9/11, it will be reported that the name in his Yemeni passport is actually Mohammed al-Mihdhar. Authorities don’t believe he is closely related to Khalid Almihdhar, but he could belong to the same tribe or clan. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/21/2001] There is evidence that Abdullah cases the Los Angeles airport in June 2000 with Alhazmi (see June 10, 2000), and he appears to know about the timing of the 9/11 attacks several weeks in advance (see Late August-September 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Islamic Army of Aden, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mohdar Abdullah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi and one of his associates, Mohdar Abdullah, go to Los Angeles airport with hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, who is returning to the Middle East via Germany (see June 10, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222] Together with a third man, Alhazmi and Abdullah shoot videocamera footage there. They appear to be scouting out the airport and record secretly near the security area. The identity of the third man is not known, but he may be Khallam, an associate of Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s who they met the day before (see June 9, 2000). Al-Qaeda had plotted to bomb Los Angeles Airport not long before (see December 14, 1999). The tapes, which are not found until Abdullah is deported, will cause the FBI to re-start their investigation of him in 2006. [US District Court, Southern District of California, 10/29/2004 pdf file; MSNBC, 9/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Mohdar Abdullah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khallam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Sam’s Star Mart gas station.Sam’s Star Mart gas station. [Source: Daniel Hopsicker]9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi works at a gas station while living in San Diego where other suspected Islamist militants work. This is the only apparent instance of any of the hijackers having a job while in the US. He and 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar frequently socialize at the gas station, but only Alhazmi works there for pay on and off for about a month at some point after Almihdhar has gone overseas in June 2000. [Washington Post, 12/29/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 pdf file]
Gas Station's Owner Was Investigated - The Texaco gas station, Sam’s Star Mart, is owned by Osama “Sam” Mustafa. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] Mustafa was first investigated by the FBI in 1991 after he told a police officer that the US needed another Pan Am 103 attack and that he could be the one to carry out the attack. He also said all Americans should be killed because of the 1991 Iraq War. In 1994, he was investigated for being a member of the Palestinian organizations PFLP and PLO and for threatening to kill an Israeli intelligence officer living in San Diego. The investigation was closed, but reopened again in 1997 when he was tied to a possible plot in North Carolina. Apparently, it was closed again before 9/11. He also associates with Osama Basnan and others who have contacts with the hijackers. Witnesses later claim he cheered when he was first told of the 9/11 attacks. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 pdf file]
Gas Station's Manager Was Also Investigated - The gas station is managed by Ed Salamah (who apparently is also known as Iyad Kreiwesh). [Washington Post, 12/29/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] In January 2000, the brother of an unnamed, known al-Qaeda operative was under surveillance and was seen chatting with Salamah. The Los Angeles FBI office was investigating this operative, and it called Salamah about the person. Salamah refused to come to Los Angeles for an interview, and refused to give his home address to be interviewed there. Faced with a reluctant witness, the FBI dropped the matter. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 pdf file; Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
Other Gas Station Employees May Know of 9/11 Plot - Mohdar Abdullah, a friend of Alhazmi and Almihdhar, also works at the gas station around this time. He may have learned of the 9/11 plot as early as the spring of 2000 (see Early 2000). Additionally, according to one witness, Abdullah, Osama Awadallah, Omar Bakarbashat, and other gas station employees will appear to show foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks one day before they take place (see Late August-September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 219-220, 249-50, 532]
FBI Informant Stays Silent - The hijackers are living with an FBI informant named Abdussattar Shaikh who is aware of their contact with at least Mustafa, and Shaikh has given reports about Mustafa to the FBI in the past. However, Shaikh fails to tell the FBI about their contacts with him. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later strongly imply that Salamah and Mustafa assisted the hijackers with the 9/11 plot, but the FBI will appear uninterested in them and will maintain that the hijackers received no assistance from anyone. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 pdf file] Shaikh will also later admit that he knew Alhazmi was working illegally at the gas station, but he didn’t tell his FBI handler about this (see Autumn 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohdar Abdullah, Khalid Almihdhar, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama Awadallah, Nawaf Alhazmi, Ed Salamah, Osama Basnan, Osama (“Sam”) Mustafa, Omar Bakarbashat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Around August 25, 2001, future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi possibly calls Mohdar Abdullah, a close associate of his when he lived in San Diego in 2000, and tells him about the 9/11 attacks date.
bullet Shortly after 9/11, the FBI will question Abdullah about getting a call from Alhazmi in August; it is unclear how the FBI would have known to ask that question.
bullet In a July 2002 interview with the FBI, Abdullah will ask if the FBI taped the phone call, suggesting that it does take place.
bullet In 2003, Abdullah will be in a US jail, and another prisoner will claim Abdullah says he found out about the 9/11 attacks three weeks in advance.
bullet Abdullah stops making calls from his phone after August 25, 2001.
bullet After 9/11, Abdullah’s friends will say that Abdullah starts acting strangely around this time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 218, 531]
bullet According to a witness, one day before 9/11, Abdullah and some of his co-workers (who are themselves radical Islamists (see Autumn 2000)) will appear to celebrate the upcoming 9/11 attacks, and one of them says, “It is finally going to happen” (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
In 2003 and 2004, more evidence will emerge that Abdullah willingly took part in the 9/11 plot, but he will be deported anyway (see September 2003-May 21, 2004 and May 21, 2004).

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohdar Abdullah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Osama Awadallah.Osama Awadallah. [Source: Chris Park / Associated Press]Associates of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego reportedly change their behavior and seem to be aware that “something big” is about to happen. But it is not clear how they would have obtained this information.
bullet The 9/11 Commission will suggest that there is evidence Alhazmi calls Mohdar Abdullah in late August (see (August 25, 2001)). Abdullah, a friend of these two hijackers in San Diego, may have been told some about the 9/11 plot back in 2000 and even invited to join in (see Early 2000 and June 10, 2000).
bullet He will later brag to someone in prison that he was told of the attack date three weeks in advance (see Early 2000).
bullet Both Abdullah and another former associate of the hijackers, Yazeed al-Salmi, suddenly become intent on marrying before 9/11. The 9/11 Commission will quote a witness saying al-Salmi told him, “I knew they were going to do something, that is why I got married.”
bullet In addition, employees at the Texaco station where Alhazmi worked (see Autumn 2000), including one named Iyad Kreiwesh, apparently expect that law enforcement authorities will visit them in the near future.
bullet Further, according to one witness, early on the morning of September 10, Abdullah, Osama Awadallah, Omar Bakarbashat, and others behave suspiciously at the gas station. The witness will say that after the group meets, Awadallah tells the others, “[I]t is finally going to happen” and they celebrate with high fives. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 219-220, 249-50, 532]

Entity Tags: Iyad Kreiwesh, Yazeed al-Salmi, Osama Awadallah, Nawaf Alhazmi, Omar Bakarbashat, Mohdar Abdullah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In September and October 2003, Mohdar Abdullah, an associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar who is being held in a US jail, allegedly brags to fellow prisoners that he knew the two hijackers were planning a terrorist attack (see Early 2000 and see Late August-September 10, 2001). Despite suspicions that he knowingly assisted the hijackers’ plans, Abdullah is only being held for an immigration violation, and he is due to be deported soon. But, according to the 9/11 Commission, the US Attorney for the Southern District of California decides not to prosecute him on charges stemming from these new allegations. Furthermore, the US Justice Department does not even delay his deportation to allow further investigation of this new information. In May 2004, the 9/11 Commission first hears about the new evidence against Abdullah. However, Abdullah is deported to Yemen on May 21, 2004 (see May 21, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 217-219] Abdullah is a Yemeni citizen, and he has been stuck in prison for many months because the Yemeni government does not want him back. According to his lawyer, he is only able to be deported after intense pressure by the State Department on the Yemeni government (see May 21, 2004). [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/26/2004] Not long after Abdullah is deported, a surveillance video will be discovered from the Los Angeles airport, showing Abdullah, Alhazmi, and an unknown third man seemingly casing the airport and recording security measures with a video camera (see June 10, 2000). It is not known when exactly this video is discovered, but a grand jury subpoena for it will be dated October 2004. In September 2006, some anonymous law enforcement officials will tell NBC News that they regret deporting Abdullah, given the discovered video. These officials will say that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Abdullah and is reexamining all of his contacts in the US. NBC News will comment: “Why didn’t they find these tapes until 2004 isn’t known—especially since the FBI knew that on the day these tapes were shot in June 2000, one of the hijackers went to Los Angeles Airport for a flight home to Yemen. Critics are certain to question whether the FBI again missed an important clue, and let a possible accomplice get away.” [MSNBC, 9/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, Khalid Almihdhar, Mohdar Abdullah, US Department of State, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohdar Abdullah is quietly deported to Yemen after spending nearly three years in US prisons. Abdullah was arrested shortly after 9/11 and held as a material witness. He was eventually charged with an immigration violation. He pled guilty to lying on an asylum application and then served a six-month sentence. However, he chose to remain imprisoned so he could fight deportation. He is a Yemeni citizen, and the US wanted to deport him to Yemen, but the Yemeni government would not take him. According to his lawyer, Yemen twice refused to admit him and only finally agreed after intense pressure from the US State Department. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/26/2004]
Suspicious Links to 9/11 Hijackers - Officials said in court documents that Abdullah regularly dined and prayed with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour. Additionally, he helped Alhazmi and Almihdhar adjust to life in the US in a variety of ways, including help with: interpreting, computer use, finding a job, finding a place to live, obtaining Social Security cards, and obtaining driver licenses. He also worked with Alhazmi at a gas station where many other radical Islamists worked, including some who had been investigated by the FBI (see Autumn 2000). [San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/26/2004; San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/2/2004]
9/11 Commission Not Allowed to Interview Him before Deportation - The 9/11 Commission’s work is almost done by the time that Abdullah is deported; its final report will be released two months later. However, the Commission is not allowed to interview Abdullah even though he is being held in a US prison (and not in Guantanamo or some secret overseas prison). 9/11 Commission co-chair Tom Kean will later say, “He should not have been let out of the country when the 9/11 Commission wanted to interview him.” Kean will not comment on why the Commission does not or is not able to interview him before his deportation. [MSNBC, 9/8/2006]
Justice Department Will Not Delay Deportation to Help Investigation - In late 2003, new evidence emerged that Abdullah may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. But US prosecutors decided not to charge him based on that new evidence, and the Justice Department does not even try to delay his deportation to allow investigators time to pursue the new leads (see September 2003-May 21, 2004).
FBI Will Reopen Investigation into Abdullah - The new evidence suggested that Abdullah may have learned about the 9/11 attack plans as early as the spring of 2000 (see Early 2000). He also seemed to show foreknowledge of the attacks shortly before they occurred (see Late August-September 10, 2001). By October 2004, it will be discovered that he cased the Los Angeles airport with Alhazmi and an unknown man (see June 10, 2000), and this revelation will cause the FBI to reopen its investigation into him—after he is deported (see September 2003-May 21, 2004). In September 2006, it will be reported that the investigation is still continuing. [MSNBC, 9/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, Hani Hanjour, Mohdar Abdullah, US Department of State, Khalid Almihdhar, Thomas Kean, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Larry Mefford.Larry Mefford. [Source: James Kegley / San Francisco Chronicle]FBI officials maintain that 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar did not have anyone knowingly supporting their al-Qaeda activities when they lived in San Diego in 2000 and 2001.
FBI: Hijackers Had No Witting Support in San Diego - Larry Mefford, who was the FBI’s head of counterterrorism until November 2003, says: “Maybe there’s been something new. But as of the time of my retirement, there was no credible indication that anyone in Southern California helped the two terrorists with knowledge of the 9/11 plot.” And Richard Garcia, head of the FBI in Los Angeles, says, “If there was support, I think it was unwitting.” Garcia says that whatever support the hijackers received was from Muslims innocently helping other Muslims.
9/11 Commission Suggests Otherwise - However, the 9/11 Commission’s final report, published the same day as these comments, suggests otherwise. The report details extensive help the hijackers received, and strongly implies that at least some of their helpers, such as Mohdar Abdullah and Anwar al-Awlaki, were radical Islamists with a similar agenda as the hijackers. For instance, the report comments, “We believe it is unlikely that [Alhazmi] and Almihdhar… would have come to the United States without arranging to receive assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/24/2004]
9/11 Congressional Inquiry Also Suggests Otherwise - The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report concluded that at least six 9/11 hijackers received “substantial assistance” from associates in the US, though it is “not known to what extent any of these contacts in the United States were aware of the plot.” The inquiry focused on associates in San Diego, including Abdullah and al-Awlaki (see July 24, 2003). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]
What about Abdullah and Al-Awlaki? - In late 2003, new evidence emerged that Abdullah might have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, but he was deported anyway, in May 2004 (see May 21, 2004). In late 2004, several months after the comments by Mefford and Garcia, more evidence against him will emerge, causing the FBI to reopen its investigation into him (see September 2003-May 21, 2004). In 2008, US intelligence will finally conclude that al-Awlaki is an al-Qaeda operative (see February 27, 2008), and he will be connected to a number of attacks in the US.

Entity Tags: Anwar al-Awlaki, Richard Garcia, Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohdar Abdullah, Khalid Almihdhar, 9/11 Commission, Larry Mefford

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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