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Context of 'December 2000: 9/11 Hijacker Apparently Seen in Saudi Arabia, Reason for Return Unclear'

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Under interrogation after 9/11, al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash will claim he met some of the 9/11 hijackers at Kandahar airport in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000. Although he will not be able to recall all of them, he will say the group includes Satam Al Suqami, Waleed and Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Hamza Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed. He will say he was closest to Saeed Alghamdi, whom he convinced to become a martyr and whom he asked to recruit a friend, Ahmed Alghamdi, to the same cause. However, doubts will later be expressed about the reliability of such statements from prisoners like bin Attash, due to the methods used to obtain them (see June 16, 2004) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 233-4] Al-Qaeda’s division of passports and host country issues is based at the airport and it alters passports, visas and identification cards. Some people involved in the plot will later be reported to have altered travel documents (see July 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 56 pdf file] 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami and would-be hijacker Mushabib al-Hamlan are also said to be at the same Kandahar camp, Al Farooq, and are assigned to guard the airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] By the late 1990s, the Kandahar airport will become the main logistics lifeline for al-Qaeda and the Taliban to the outside world. One Ariana pilot will later recall, “I would see Arabs with [satellite] phones walking around the terminal, in touch with the Taliban at the highest levels.” On one occasion, he sees Taliban ruler Mullah Omar meeting in the middle of the airport with a rebel leader from Tajikistan, surrounded by aides. “There they were, cross-legged on their mats, chattering into cell phones.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 140] At this time, the Kandahar airport is being mainly used by Ariana Airlines, which has been completely co-opted by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and aircraft companies controlled by international arms dealer Victor Bout (see 1998).

Entity Tags: Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Mullah Omar, Khallad bin Attash, Ariana Airlines, Salem Alhazmi, Satam Al Suqami, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Mushabib al-Hamlan, Hamza Alghamdi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi obtains a visa from the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 pdf file] The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] However, Alghamdi will later get another visa using a different passport, also from Steinger (see June 12, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will say that one or possibly both of his passports may have fraudulent features, presumably related to travel stamps, although it is not certain of this. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 525, 564; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Shayna Steinger, US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office, Saeed Alghamdi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Using new passports obtained three weeks previously (see October 3, 2000), future 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri obtain tourist visas to the US. [US Department of State, 10/24/2000; US Department of State, 10/24/2000] The visas are issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] The Alshehris make several errors in the applications, which should normally lead to them being rejected. They only give their employer’s/school’s address as “South city” and the address they will be staying at as “Wasantwn,” although they do not specify whether this is the city or the state. They also say they will stay for four to six months, although it is unclear how they will support themselves during this time, and on Wail’s application form Steinger does not even bother to complete the section on checking the applicant has the necessary funds. In addition, the Alshehris say they will arrive in the US “after two weeks”—presumably meaning two weeks after the visa’s application was filed. However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Waleed will arrive on April 23, 2001 and Wail will arrive on June 8, 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). They appear to receive their visas on the same day they apply for them. [US Department of State, 10/24/2000; US Department of State, 10/24/2000; National Review, 10/9/2002] The 9/11 Commission will say that their passports may have fraudulent features, presumably related to travel stamps, although this is not certain. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4]

Entity Tags: Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Shayna Steinger, US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Salem Alhazmi.Salem Alhazmi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi flies from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.
Tracked by Saudis - According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhazmi’s passport has an indicator of Islamic extremism (see April 4, 1999). Such indicators are used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007), so the Saudi authorities presumably register his departure.
Alleged Iran Link - The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section of its report dealing with possible co-operation between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda on travel issues (see October 8-13, 2000, After October 12, 2000, and Mid-November, 2000), but there are no direct links between this flight and Iranian operatives. The co-operation consisted of Iran allowing al-Qaeda operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000), so the Commission suggests this flight may be the first step on a journey to Afghanistan. The 9/11 Commission’s statement that Alhazmi took this flight is based on intelligence reports from the NSA, mostly drafted shortly after 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240-1, 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3]
Reason for Presence in Saudi Arabia Unclear - Although several of the hijackers are in Saudi Arabia at this time to obtain visas, it is unclear why Alhazmi would be in the country, as there is no mention of him obtaining a US visa around this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-16 pdf file]
Returns, Leaves Again - Alhazmi leaves Saudi Arabia again on January 1, 2001, traveling to Yemen. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 116 pdf file] He is presumably tracked by Saudi authorities as he enters Saudi Arabia after returning from Beirut and also as he leaves Saudi Arabia for Yemen.

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Salem Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Abdulaziz Alomari in a video released in 2002.Abdulaziz Alomari in a video released in 2002. [Source: Al Jazeera]9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari is reported to leave home in Saudi Arabia for Afghanistan at this time. [Saudi Information Agency, 9/11/2002] However, he appears to have already been to Afghanistan, as he obtained a new passport on June 5, made an ATM withdrawal in Karachi, Pakistan, on July 8, and is said to have been seen near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the summer (see Summer 2000). [US Department of State, 6/18/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 50 pdf file] Several of the other hijackers were in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000 and return to Saudi Arabia briefly at this time to obtain US visas (see, for example, September 4, 2000 and October 24, 2000). However, there is no record of Alomari receiving a visa at this time, so it is unclear why he would return to Saudi Arabia. Salem Alhazmi, with whom Alomari will later travel to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001), also apparently returns to Saudi Arabia at this time, but does not obtain a visa (see November 2000). Alomari finally obtains a US visa in the summer of 2001 (see June 18, 2001).

Entity Tags: Abdulaziz Alomari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application.This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 8] According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
bullet April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. [Associated Press, 9/21/2001]
bullet May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
bullet May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
bullet June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
bullet June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
bullet June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” [Observer, 10/14/2001] CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” [US Congress, 6/18/2002] and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack [CBS News, 10/9/2002] are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohand Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Saeed Alghamdi, Khalid Almihdhar, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour, Salem Alhazmi, George J. Tenet, Hamza Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ahmed Alnami

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari obtains a US visa from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 525] The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Alomari’s application is incomplete, as he lists his home address as the Alqudos Hotel in Jeddah. He is not interviewed and the application is submitted by Attar Travel as a part of the Visa Express program (see May 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file] Further, Alomari leaves blank the fields for his sex, his wife’s name, and his school’s address, although he says he is a student. He claims to be a tourist, that he wants to stay two months from June 25, and that he will first stay at the JKK Whyndam Hotel. [US Department of State, 6/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission will say Alomari’s passport contains fraudulent travel stamps whose use will subsequently be associated with al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 25 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Abdulaziz Alomari, Shayna Steinger, US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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