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Around 8:15 p.m. September 10, 2001: 9/11 Hijackers Apparently Attempt to Penetrate Secure Area at Dulles Airport

A group of five Arabs attempts to penetrate a secure area leading to parked aircraft at Washington’s Dulles Airport. However, they are seen by two security guards, Eric Gill and Nicolas de Silva. Gill, who will later identify two of the men as 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, notices they approach a door to the secure area in a suspicious manner and that only three of them are dressed as United Airlines ramp workers and have the correct passes. Gill, a Pakistani, prevents the two without passes from entering the secure area, and realizes that he does not recognize the other three, and that their uniforms are unusually dirty for United employees. The men tell Gill to “f_ck off” and say that they are “important people,” but Gill still refuses to let the two without passes enter, and eventually all five men retreat. Gill goes off duty at 10:00 p.m. and his supervisor will comment after 9/11, “If someone wanted access to the aircraft, say to plant weapons, it would have been easy for the group Eric saw to come back after he got off duty and simply use the ID cards they had to activate the electronic lock and slip through.” Reporters Joe and Susan Trento, who break this story, will be unable to interview another security guard, Khalid Mahmoud, who was guarding the next door, as he will be immediately taken by the INS after 9/11 and presumably deported. De Silva has a poor memory for faces and will recall the incident happening, but will not be able to identify any of the Arabs. The FBI and 9/11 Commission will apparently not place much weight on Gill’s identification of the hijackers, as Alshehhi is believed to be in Boston at this time (see Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 2-6, 44-5] However, Alshehhi checks out of his hotel on this date and his last recorded action in Boston is before noon, so he may have flown to Dulles in the afternoon and could return by the following morning (see September 10, 2001). An INS employee will tell journalist Seymour Hersh that guns were placed on the planes on 9/11 (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Security cameras record two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles this same day, but it is unclear whether their presence is related to this incident. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 281 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Nicolas De Silva, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, Eric Gill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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