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Context of 'December 19, 2001: Al-Qaeda Operative Sufaat Arrested, May Hold Key to 9/11-Crop Duster Mystery'

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Zaini Zakaria, a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al-Qaeda operative who has been assigned to a 9/11-style operation, is instructed to take flight training by al-Qaeda commander Mohammed Atef and travels to Malaysia to obtain a pilot’s license. He meets fellow JI operative Faiz abu Baker Bafana in Kuala Lumpur and visits the Royal Selangor Flying Club at a nearby Malaysian Air Force base. Zaini had earlier traveled to Afghanistan with JI leader Hambali, Bafana, and another operative called Zamzulri in 1999 to receive military training, and had met Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Karachi, Pakistan. Zaini obtains a pilot’s license and makes inquiries in Australia about learning to fly jets, but eventually drops out of the plot in 2001. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004, pp. 17; London Times, 2/10/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006] The school may have been recommended by Yazid Sufaat. An important al-Qaeda summit was held at Sufaat’s Kuala Lumpur condominium in January 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000). Sufaat will later claim that some of the summit attendees (including two future 9/11 hijackers) asked him about flying schools in Malaysia, and he recommended the one in the region where the Royal Selangor Flying Club is. [Time (Asia), 2/5/2002] Zacarias Moussaoui will later visit the same flying school while staying with Sufaat (see Early September 2000). The CIA stopped the surveillance of Sufaat’s condominium some point in 2000 (see Between February and September 2000); it is not known if this happened before or after Zakaria was in Malaysia.

Entity Tags: Zaini Zakaria, Yazid Sufaat, Zamzulri, Royal Selangor Flying Club, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hambali, Faiz abu Baker Bafana, Jemaah Islamiyah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The CIA is informed that the possessions of Zacarias Moussaoui, which were searched after 9/11, contain a letter from a company called In Focus Tech (see August 16, 2001). The CIA finds that the company’s manager is Yazid Sufaat, who hosted an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that was attended by hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Various al-Qaeda leaders were also present at the meeting, which was monitored by the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000). CIA director George Tenet will later comment: “and with that the circle closed and things started to come together in a hurry… [T]his was the same Yazid Sufaat whose condo in Kuala Lumpur had been the venue for what turned out to be the first operational meeting in the planning for 9/11—the meeting… that was attended by Almihdhar and Alhazmi.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 204]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Yazid Sufaat, George J. Tenet, Khalid Almihdhar, Central Intelligence Agency, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Yazid Sufaat.Yazid Sufaat. [Source: FBI]Yazid Sufaat is arrested in Malaysia. Sufaat is a Malaysian who owns a condominum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where a January 2000 al-Qaeda summit was held (see January 5-8, 2000). He also graduated in 1987 from a California university with a degree in biological sciences. According to interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hambali, and other captured prisoners, Sufaat was given the lead in developing chemical and biological weapons for al-Qaeda, but he apparently had been unable to buy the kind of anthrax he wanted for an attack. Zacarias Moussaoui, Mohamed Atta, and other al-Qaeda operatives appeared to have had an interest in crop dusters before 9/11. It has been suggested that this interest served to further Sufaat’s biological weapons plot. This would especially make sense in the case of Moussaoui, since he stayed with Sufaat in Sufaat’s Malaysia apartment for two months in late 2000 (see September-October 2000). The US will only be able to directly interview Sufaat on one brief occasion, in November 2002. [Washington Post, 3/28/2003; CNN, 10/10/2003; Chicago Tribune, 12/7/2003] Sufaat will be released in 2008. The Malaysian government will never try or charge him (see December 4, 2008).

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Yazid Sufaat, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Malaysian government releases alleged al-Qaeda operative Yazid Sufaat. Malaysian Interior Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar announces that Sufaat and five other detained Islamist militants are being freed because “they are no longer a threat and will no longer pose a threat to public order.” Albar adds that Sufaat “has been rehabilitated and can return to society.” Sufaat was arrested in Malaysia in December 2001 (see December 19, 2001). However, he was never tried or even charged. Malaysian law allows suspects to be held for up to two years without charge, and the two year period can be renewed multiple times. But apparently the Malaysian government decided to release him rather than put him on trial or hold him another two years.
Sufaat's History - Sufaat, a Malaysian, received a biological sciences degree in the US in the 1980s. There are allegations that he led al-Qaeda’s effort to get biological and chemical weapons until his arrest (see December 19, 2001). An important al-Qaeda summit was held in his apartment in January 2000; at least two 9/11 hijackers attended (see January 5-8, 2000). Later in 2000, Sufaat hosted al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, and he provided papers that helped Moussaoui get in the US (see September-October 2000).
Concern about Sufaat's Release - Sufaat is supposed to be kept under close observation. However, Newsweek reports that US counterterrorism officials have “expressed doubt that Sufaat has abandoned his radical al-Qaeda views or his desire to attack the United States with biological weapons.” One unnamed official says, “This individual is considered dangerous.” [Newsweek, 12/16/2008]

Entity Tags: Yazid Sufaat, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Zacarias Moussaoui

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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