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Context of 'October 1999: 9/11 Hijacker Atta Reportedly Gets Engaged and Asks His Parents If He Can Stay in Egypt'

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Mohamed Atta.Mohamed Atta. [Source: Der Spiegel]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta leaves Hamburg for some time in late 1997 and early 1998, and he may go to militant training camps in Afghanistan, possibly with hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. When Atta returns in the spring of 1998 he tells his roommate that he has been on another pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, although author Terry McDermott will later note, “He had been on hajj just 18 months earlier, and it would be unlikely for a student—even one so devout—to go twice so quickly or stay so long.” This is Atta’s longest absence since arriving in Hamburg, and there is no record of him spending any substantial portion of it at home in Cairo. According to McDermott, he leaves Hamburg “as he usually did over the winter holiday.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 57] But according to the 9/11 Commission, the gap is in February-March 1998, “a period for which there is no evidence of his presence in Germany.” Atta’s friends hold a party for him on his return, which is unusual for a student who has just returned from home. After returning to Germany, Atta applies for a new passport, something he will also do after returning from Afghanistan in early 2000 (see Late 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 167] There are other unexplained absences from Hamburg by members of the same cell around this time (see Summer-Winter 1998). Although the 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from detainees during interrogation, will say that Atta and his associates do not travel to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda until late 1999, some commentators will disagree and say that this happens earlier. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 57] For example, McDermott will say of the cell members’ various disappearances in 1997-8, “Practically, there is only one place they likely would have gone—Afghanistan.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 166] Jane Corbin will say that “[t]he time that Mohamed Atta spent in Afghanistan in 1998 was a period of ambitious reach for Osama bin Laden.” [Corbin, 2003, pp. 142] Jason Burke will say that “[i]n early 1998, [Atta] is thought to have traveled to Afghanistan, probably to Khaldan camp.” [Burke, 2004, pp. 243] In mid-2002, Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan (see April, June, or August 2002). In a book he co-writes in 2003, he will claim that an al-Qaeda operative known only by a nickname Fouda gave him so he could call him something—Abu Bakr—helped set up the interview. At one point, Bakr allegedly told Fouda that he met Atta and bin al-Shibh at a training camp around this time, saying: “They came together. I did not know who they were.… Brother Ramzi was very active and very much into media, and brother Atta was very kind.” Bin al-Shibh disappears in Germany for several months in late 1997, and re-enters Germany on a new visa in December 1997. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 124]

Entity Tags: Terry McDermott, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Yosri Fouda, Jane Corbin, Jason Burke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Woodland Park Resort.The Woodland Park Resort. [Source: Woodland Park Resort]9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta takes flying lessons in the Philippines, and 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi is with him. They stay at the Woodland Park Resort Hotel near Angeles City, which is about 60 miles north of Manila and near the formerly US controlled Clark Air Base. Victoria Brocoy, a chambermaid at the hotel, will later claim that Atta stayed at the hotel for about a week while he learned to fly ultra-light planes at the nearby Angeles City Flying Club. [Gulf News, 9/29/2001; Gulf News, 10/2/2001] She also says, “He was not friendly. If you say hello to him, he doesn’t answer. If he asks for a towel, you do not enter his room. He takes it at the door.… Many times I saw him let a girl go at the gate in the morning. It was always a different girl.” [International Herald Tribune, 10/5/2001] Atta stays with some other men who call him Mohamed. She recalls that one of them is Marwan Alshehhi, who is treated like Atta’s sidekick. However, there are no recollections of Alshehhi going to the nearby flight school. [Manila Times, 10/2/2001; Gulf News, 10/2/2001] She says Atta was hosted by a Jordanian named Samir, who speaks Filipino and runs a travel agency in Manila. She adds that many Arab guests stayed at the hotel between 1997 and 1999, and Samir always accompanied them. Samir denies knowing any of the hijackers. [Gulf News, 9/29/2001; Manila Times, 10/2/2001; International Herald Tribune, 10/5/2001] The Philippine military will later confirm that Atta and Alshehhi were at the hotel after finding four other employees who claim to have seen them in 1999. Other locals, such as the manager of a nearby restaurant, also recall seeing them. [Philippine Star, 10/1/2001; Gulf News, 10/2/2001; International Herald Tribune, 10/5/2001; Asia Times, 10/11/2001] Atta and/or Alshehhi were seen at the same resort in 1997 (see 1997) and will return to it later in 1999 (see December 1999). A leader of a militant group connected to al-Qaeda later confesses to helping 9/11 hijacker pilots while they were in this area (see Shortly After October 5, 2005).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Woodland Park Resort Hotel, Victoria Brocoy, Samir, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The presentation page of Mohamed Atta’s thesis.The presentation page of Mohamed Atta’s thesis. [Source: Serra Antoine / Corbis]After future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta completes his master’s degree in Hamburg, Germany, he goes home to Cairo, Egypt, one last time. By this time, his parents are estranged from each other. His father tells Atta they should find him a wife, and has a potential bride lined up. According to his father, they visit a family, Mohamed meets the daughter and they like each other. The woman’s parents also likes Atta, but their only condition to the marriage is that their daughter doesn’t have to leave Cairo. Mohamed gets engaged to her, and then goes back to Germany. According to Mohamed’s aunt, Mohamed asks his mother, who is ill, whether he can remain in Egypt permanently, to begin a career and care for her. However, she insists he continue his education and go on to a doctoral program in the US. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] There have been no reports that Atta ever gets married.

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta enters a lottery for permanent resident status in the US. The application is submitted over the Internet to the National Visa Service, a company that, for a $50 fee, helps individuals enter green card lotteries for permanent resident status in the US. Atta submits another lottery application in November, but both applications are unsuccessful. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 19-20 pdf file] This may indicate that Atta is already involved in the 9/11 plot in some way prior to December 1999, when the 9/11 Commission suggests he joins the plot (see Late November-Early December 1999). He appears to have traveled to Afghanistan (see Late 1997-Early 1998) and has discussed studying in the US with his parents (see October 1999). In addition, he and fellow Hamburg cell member Marwan Alshehhi may have already started taking flying lessons (see April 1999 and October 1999).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, 9/11 Commission, National Visa Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000.Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000. [Source: London Times]Hamburg cell members Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and possibly Said Bahaji travel to Afghanistan via Turkey and Karachi, Pakistan. They travel along a route often used by one of their associates, al-Qaeda recruiter Mohammed Haydar Zammar, to send potential operatives to Afghanistan for training. Turkish intelligence is aware of the route and informed German intelligence of it in 1996, leading to an investigation of Zammar (see 1996). However, it is unclear whether German or Turkish intelligence register the Hamburg cell members’ travel and how and whether they disseminate and act on this information. Jarrah is reportedly noticed by an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates on his return journey from Afghanistan (see January 30, 2000). [New York Times, 9/10/2002; CBS News, 10/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 167; McDermott, 2005, pp. 89]

Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Turkish intelligence, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is stopped at a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver’s license. He will get a new Florida driver’s license on May 5. However, he will fail to show up for his May 28 court hearing, and a warrant will be issued for his arrest on June 4 (see June 4, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 12/14/2001] Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to a Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed Atta had overstayed his visa. [GovExec, 3/16/2004] An FBI timeline compiled after 9/11 does not mention whether this incident is entered into the NCIC, a nationwide police database. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 138 pdf file] Curiously, on the day of 9/11, a woman claiming to be Atta’s wife will go to a Florida courthouse and attempt to clear this from Atta’s record, but Atta did not have a wife (see September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A warrant is issued for the arrest of Mohamed Atta in the state of Florida. On April 26, Atta had been stopped in a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver’s license (see April 26, 2001). He failed to show up for his May 28 court hearing, resulting in the arrest warrant. After this, Atta will fly all over the US using his real name, and even flies to Spain and back in July (see July 8-19, 2001), but is never stopped or questioned. The police apparently never try to find him. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001] Atta will be stopped for speeding in July, but apparently his arrest warrant will not have been added to the police database by then (see July 5, 2001). Three other future 9/11 hijackers are also stopped for speeding in the US (see April 1, 2001, August 1, 2001, and September 9, 2001). Curiously, on the day of 9/11, a woman claiming to be Atta’s wife will go to a Florida courthouse and attempt to clear this from Atta’s record, but Atta does not have a wife (see September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s “wife” attempts to clear Atta’s driving record. On April 26, 2001, Atta was issued a citation for driving without a license (see April 26, 2001). Because he failed to show up for a hearing, an arrest warrant was issued for him on June 4, 2001 (see June 4, 2001). According to an FBI report on hijacker activities after 9/11, “A woman claiming to be Atta’s wife arrived at Broward County Courthouse on September 11, 2001 and attempted to clear his record.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] There will be no known reports of Atta having a wife, although he may have gotten engaged once (see October 1999). A search of article databases shows that Atta’s name is first mentioned in the media on September 12. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9/12/2001] The FBI makes no further mention of who this woman may be or what her motive may be, and this incident will not be reported by the media.

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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