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Context of 'Before July 2000: 9/11 Hijackers Reportedly Living and Attending Flight School in Punta Gorda, Contradicting Official Account'

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Mohamed Atta, along with others of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, is believed by some to have resided in Punta Gorda, Florida before July 2000 (see Before July 2000), prior to his attending flight school in Venice, about 30 miles north of there (see July 6-December 19, 2000). He is also witnessed in Punta Gorda around July-August 2001 (see Mid-July-Mid-August 2001), well after the time he leaves Venice. Additionally, Atta and some other hijackers are reportedly witnessed at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda. Cathy Mohr, the owner of a cafe there, later says, “The picture [of Atta] in the paper looked really familiar and people from the airport said, ‘Hey you know they were here.’” [NBC 2 (Fort Myers), 4/24/2002] After seeing photos of them after 9/11, Frank Cvelbar, whose Aero Precision flight school is based at the airport, believes he has seen four of the alleged hijackers “very occasionally” visiting the airport, shopping in his school’s pilot supplies shop, or hanging around the airport’s lobby. Cvelbar will say he is “very sure” about having seen Atta, and “pretty sure” about seeing Marwan Alshehhi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami. [Charlotte Sun, 10/3/2001] A salesperson at Eastern Avionics, a vendor at the airport, later recalls Marwan Alshehhi having bought a pilot’s headset from them. After the sale, he starts receiving e-mails, apparently sent by Mohamed Atta (see Before September 11, 2001). After 9/11, the Punta Gorda Police Department will confirm handing over half a dozen pieces of information to the FBI. [Charlotte Sun, 10/2/2001; NBC 2 (Fort Myers), 4/24/2002] Yet according to official accounts, Atta and Alshehhi were only in this area when attending flight school in Venice. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223-253] When asked to corroborate or refute reports of the hijackers having been in Charlotte County, FBI spokeswoman Sara Oates will only respond, “The FBI has information but the FBI cannot disclose the information because the investigation is pending.” [Charlotte Sun, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohamed Atta and another of the 9/11 hijackers (presumably Marwan Alshehhi) rent rooms in New York City, according to a federal investigator. These rooms are in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Following 9/11, Atta is traced back to Brooklyn by a parking ticket issued to a rental car he was driving. However, immigration records have Mohamed Atta entering the US for the first time on June 3, 2000 (see June 3, 2000). The Associated Press article on this subject does not specify if Atta first stayed in New York before or after that date. [Associated Press, 12/8/2001] According to a brief mention in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, in the month of June, “As [Atta and Marwan Alshehhi] looked at flight schools on the East Coast, [they] stayed in a series of short-term rentals in New York City.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224; Washington Post, 8/13/2005] Earlier in 2000, a US Army intelligence program called Able Danger identified an al-Qaeda terrorist cell based in Brooklyn, of which Atta is a member (see January-February 2000). Also, a number of eyewitnesses later report seeing Atta in Maine and Florida before this official arrival date (see April 2000; Late April-Mid-May 2000).

Entity Tags: Able Danger, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After arriving in the US on May 29 and June 3, 2000, 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta meet up and reportedly spend all of June in the New York area. The 9/11 Commission later reports them spending the month staying in a series of short-term rentals in New York City while searching for a flight school to attend, e-mailing a New Hampshire school on June 5 and inquiring with a New Jersey school on June 22. A day after arriving in the US, Atta receives a mobile phone he bought listing his address as an Oklahoma flight school he subsequently visits (see July 2-3, 2000). According to the FBI, Alshehhi enrolls at an English language school, and the pair remains in the area until July 2. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 519] However, some accounts suggest they leave before this. According to the owner of the Venice, Florida flight school subsequently attended by Atta and Alshehhi, the pair first visits his school on July 1. [US Congress, 3/19/2002] And according to the later statement of a local sheriff, some of the hijackers, including Atta, may live and take flight training in Punta Gorda, Florida, prior to moving to Venice (see Before July 2000). After 9/11, a federal investigator will reveal that Atta and Alshehhi rented rooms in the Bronx and Brooklyn in spring 2000. Whether this included the period prior to when Atta officially first entered the US, in June, is unstated (see Spring 2000). [Associated Press, 12/8/2001]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Sheriff William E. ClementSheriff William E. Clement [Source: Charlotte County Sheriff's Office]In the weeks after 9/11, Sheriff William E. Clement will say he believes some of the 9/11 hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, resided in the area of Punta Gorda, Florida, and attended a flight school at Charlotte County Airport. Clement will say that some local businesses recognize Atta from pictures shown after 9/11, and say he may have used an alias. According to Clement, “It looks like some of these terrorists were here and then went to Venice.” [Charlotte Sun, 9/21/2001] Along with hijacker Marwan Alshehhi, Atta moves to Venice, about 30 miles north of Punta Gorda, at the beginning of July (see July 1-3, 2000). Yet, according to official accounts, Atta first enters the US on June 3, 2000, and, along with Alshehhi, remains in the New York area until the start of July (see June 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brenda Keene.Brenda Keene. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, who are looking for a flight school to attend, visit the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to evaluate its training program. Atta had e-mailed the school in April 2000, requesting information. On June 4, 2000, the day after he arrived in the US, he’d received a prepaid cellular telephone from Voicestream Wireless, which he’d purchased actually listing Airman Flight School as his address. The pair stay the night of July 2 at the school’s dormitory in the nearby Sooner Inn, as is shown by documents, including the hotel’s guest list. The next day they take a tour of the school, reportedly lasting “maybe an hour,” before deciding not to attend. [Boston Globe, 9/18/2001; Washington Post, 9/19/2001; US Congress, 9/26/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/16/2004; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/7/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/7/2006] Several months later, al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui will attend Airman, and other Islamic extremists have previously attended the school (see February 23-June 2001). Shohaib Nazir Kassam, a student at the time of Atta and Alshehhi’s visit, will recall bumping into them when they are being given their tour. Kassam subsequently becomes a flight instructor and is Zacarias Moussaoui’s primary instructor at Airman. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/7/2006] Brenda Keene, Airman’s admissions director who gives Atta and Alshehhi their tour, says during the 2006 Moussaoui trial that she does not recall doing so. But, she adds, “After 9/11 and [Atta’s] picture was everywhere, he’s got a very distinctive face, and then I do remember seeing him at the school. I don’t recall anything in specific about… the tour, but just remembered his face.” [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006] Atta and Alshehhi subsequently start lessons at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida (see July 1-3, 2000). In August 2001, they will allegedly be witnessed at an Oklahoma City hotel together with Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Airman Flight School, Brenda Keene, Shohaib Nazir Kassam, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Huffman Aviation logo.Huffman Aviation logo. [Source: Huffman Aviation]9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta attend Huffman Aviation, a flight school in Venice, Florida and enroll in its Accelerated Pilot Program, aiming to get commercial pilot licenses. According to the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers, Atta already has a private pilot’s license—though where and how he gained this is unstated—and wants to obtain a commercial license. Alshehhi wants to obtain both licenses. They begin their training in a Cessna 172 with instructor Thierry Leklou. According to the 9/11 Commission, by the end of July both are already taking solo flights. However, in August Leklou complains to Chief Flight Instructor Daniel Pursell that the two are failing to follow instructions and have bad attitudes. Pursell considers expelling them, but, according to Dekkers, after a warning they improve their behavior and continue without further problems. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224, 227; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Yet Pursell later testifies that the school’s instructors breathed “a collective sigh of relief” when the two left Huffman. [Associated Press, 3/23/2006] Furthermore, reportedly, “Atta and al-Shehhi would rent a plane from Huffman and be gone for days at a time, Pursell said. They could fly to 20 airports across the state and never be noticed.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Mark Mikarts, another of the school’s instructors, says Atta has “big problems with authority,” and doesn’t take instructions well. [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file] Susan Hall, Huffman’s office manager, refers to Atta as “the little terrorist” while he is at the school, because, she later says, “I just didn’t like the aura he gave off.” [Reuters, 3/22/2006] In the middle of their training, in late September, Atta and Alshehhi enroll at another flight school, in nearby Sarasota. However, they are soon asked to leave it, and return to Huffman in October (see Late September-Early October 2000). While Atta and Alshehhi attend Huffman Aviation, another of the alleged hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, is taking lessons at a flight school just down the road from them (see (June 28-December 2000)). Yet no reports describe the three ever meeting up while they are all in Venice. According to official accounts, Atta and Alshehhi complete their schooling at Huffman on December 19, 2000, when they take their commercial pilot license tests. Rudi Dekkers says that after returning to the school to settle their bills, they leave and are never seen there again. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file] Yet Daniel Pursell will later allege that early in 2001 the two are still connected with Huffman, being reported to the school for practicing nighttime landings in one of its planes at another Florida airport (see Between January and February 2001).

Entity Tags: Huffman Aviation, Daniel Pursell, Susan Hall, Mohamed Atta, Thierry Leklou, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jean Waldorf, the owner of the Shipping Post, a mail service business in Punta Gorda, Florida, will later report seeing Mohamed Atta and an unidentified associate visiting her store some four to six times. According to Waldorf, Atta purchases US postal money orders in denominations of $100 to $200, paying for them with cash, but she does not know how they are spent. Waldorf says that the money orders, which can only be cashed in the US, are “not traceable.” The owner of a local childcare center, Anna Brookbank, later says she recognizes Atta, having seen him shopping at a Punta Gorda supermarket during this period. [CNN, 10/1/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001; Charlotte Sun, 10/2/2001; Charlotte Sun, 10/3/2001] Punta Gorda is about 30 miles south of Venice, where Atta, along with Marwan Alshehhi, previously attended flight school in 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000). According to official accounts, the only time Atta was in this area was during his time at the flight school. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223-253]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At some point, a man later believed to be 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi buys a pilot’s headset from Eastern Avionics, a vendor at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida (see (2000-August 2001)). Subsequently, in the months leading up to 9/11, the salesperson receives e-mails, which may have been sent by hijacker Mohamed Atta as part of a mass mailing. Some are in Arabic, and appear to express Muslim concerns, with one including a photo taken in the Middle East of a dead child. After 9/11, the FBI will take hold of all these e-mails. The local sheriff will point out that there are some other people’s e-mail addresses that can be gleaned from the messages, although the FBI never publicly reveals the identities of these individuals. [Charlotte Sun, 9/21/2001; Charlotte Sun, 10/2/2001; NBC 2 (Fort Myers), 4/24/2002] Investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker, who later obtains copies of the e-mails, will report that some of the 40 or so addresses Atta sent to belong to employees of US defense contractors. [Atta, 4/24/2002; Hopsicker, 2004, pp. 104-105]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Daniel Hopsicker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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