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a.k.a. KSM, Abdulrahman A. A. al-Ghamdi, Mukhtar, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abdul Majid, Salem Ali, Ashraf Refaat Nabith Henin, Khalid Adbul Wadood, Mohmad, Abdul Majid, Abdullah al-Fak'asi al-Ghamdior, Fahd bin Adballah bin Khalid, Khalid Sheikh, Khalid Shaikh, Abu Khalid, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Ali Dustin al-Balushi
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights and works in Afghanistan. KSM, a Pakistani who spent most of his childhood in Kuwait, went to college at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the US from 1983 to 1986. Then, in 1987, he goes to Afghanistan to take part in the struggle against the Russians. Two of his brothers die in the fighting there. Another brother, Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, works for a prominent Islamic charity there and introduces KSM to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan warlord. KSM serves as Sayyaf’s secretary and helps recruit Arabs to fight in Afghanistan for Sayyaf’s faction. (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) At the time, the CIA and Saudi Arabia are spending billions of dollars funding warlords such as Sayyaf. The Los Angeles Times will later call Sayyaf “the favored recipient of money from the Saudi and American governments.” While in Afghanistan, KSM also gets to know bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and many other future al-Qaeda leaders. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002)
Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, the brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), works as the head of the Pakistani branch of the charity Mercy International. A book published in 1999 will allege that this charity, based in the US and Switzerland, was used by the CIA to funnel money to Muslim militants fighting against US enemies in places such as Bosnia and Afghanistan (see 1989 and After). It is not known when Zahid got involved with the charity, but he is heading its Pakistani branch by 1988, when his nephew Ramzi Yousef first goes to Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). (Reeve 1999, pp. 120) In the spring of 1993, US investigators raid Zahid’s house while searching for Yousef (see Spring 1993). Documents and pictures are found suggesting close links and even a friendship between Zahid and Osama bin Laden. Photos and other evidence also show close links between Zahid, KSM, and government officials close to Nawaf Sharif, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. The investigators also discover that Zahid was seen talking to Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during a Mercy International ceremony in February 1993. (Reeve 1999, pp. 48-49, 120) But despite the raid, Zahid apparently keeps his job until about February 1995, when Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995). Investigators learn Yousef had made a phone call to the Mercy office, and there is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed. Pakistani investigators raid the Mercy office, but Zahid has already fled. (Iqbal 4/11/1995; Pallister and Wilson 9/26/2001; McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) It is unclear what subsequently happens to Zahid. In 1999 it will be reported that he is believed to be in Kuwait, but in 2002 the Kuwaiti government will announce he is a member of al-Qaeda, so presumably he is no longer welcome there. (Reeve 1999, pp. 48; McDermott 9/1/2002) Mercy International’s Kenya branch will later be implicated in the 1998 US embassy bombing in that country, as will KSM, Zahid’s brother (see Late August 1998).
Four men, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, Nabil al-Marabh, Raed Hijazi, and Bassam Kanj, meet each other in an Afghanistan training camp. All four of them take part in fighting against the Soviets. This is according to testimony by Elzahabi in 2004 (see April 16, 2004-June 25, 2004). Elzahabi will claim that while there, he met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, later famous for allegedly attacking US soldiers in Iraq, and al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. This appears to be the genesis of a Boston al-Qaeda sleeper cell that will play vital roles in 9/11 and other al-Qaeda plots. The four men go their separate ways in subsequent years, but by 1998 all of them will be working as taxi drivers in Boston (see June 1995-Early 1999). (Kurkjian and DeMarco 6/27/2004)
A Philippine government undercover operative later says that bomber Ramzi Yousef comes to the Philippines at this time to set up a new base for bin Laden. The operative, Edwin Angeles, is posing as a member of the militant group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Angeles will later claim that Yousef approaches him as the “personal envoy” of bin Laden and is looking to set up a new base of operations on the rebellious Muslim island of Mindanao. Bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa is already in the Philippines setting up charity fronts. These early contacts will contribute to the creation of the Abu Sayyaf, an offshoot of the MILF that Angeles will join. (Philippine Daily Inquirer 7/10/2001) Yousef had been studying electrical engineering in Wales until 1989. He first went to Afghanistan in 1988 to learn bomb making at a bin Laden camp (see Late 1980s). After graduating, he moved to Afghanistan, where his father, two of his brothers, and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed are already fighting with bin Laden. (Bone and Road 10/18/1997) Yousef will frequently return to the Philippines to train and plot attacks (see December 1991-May 1992).
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) first “earned his spurs” in al-Qaeda by serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s first bodyguards. Then, in 1991, bin Laden sends KSM to the Philippines where he trains members of the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in bomb making and assassination. He works with bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to establish an operational base there and also in Malaysia. Presumably he also works with his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who trains Abu Sayyaf militants the same year (see December 1991-May 1992). Gunaratna says that “After proving himself an outstanding organizer, [KSM] was given substantial operational authority and autonomy by bin Laden.” However, KSM’s work with the Abu Sayyaf and MILF is soon discovered and he “has been on the run since 1991.” KSM will return with Yousef to the Philippines in 1994 to exploit the network they built and develop the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxiv-xxix)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lives in Qatar during these years. He is invited there by Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs at the time. He works on a farm owned by al-Thani and lives in the open, not even bothering to use an alias. He works as a project engineer for the government. One US official will later recall that al-Thani “has this farm and he always had a lot of people around, the house was always overstaffed, a lot of unemployed Afghan Arabs…. There were always these guys hanging around and maybe a couple of Kalashnikovs [machine guns] in the corner.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) KSM continues to plot and travel extensively, including a 1995 trip to fight in Bosnia with the trip’s expenses paid for by al-Thani. Apparently the CIA becomes aware that KSM is living there in 1995 and is also already aware of his role in the 1993 WTC bombing and the Bojinka plot (see October 1995). KSM will finally have to leave his Qatar base after his presence becomes too well known in early 1996 (see January-May 1996). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488) KSM will return to Qatar occasionally, even staying there with the knowledge of some Qatari royals for two weeks after 9/11 (see Late 2001).
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights and fundraises in Bosnia. The 9/11 Commission will later state, “In 1992, KSM spent some time fighting alongside the mujaheddin in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147) He reportedly fights with the elite El Mujahid battalion, and gains Bosnian citizenship. (Schindler 2007, pp. 281) He also works for Egypitska Pomoc, an Egyptian aid group in Zenica, Bosnia, and in 1995 becomes one of its directors. (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) KSM mostly lives in Qatar for the next three years (see 1992-1996), but in 1995 he is back fighting in Bosnia as the violence escalates that year. Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs, underwrites the costs of the trip. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488) This second trip to Bosnia means that KSM fights there at the same time as 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, though it is not known if they meet (see 1993-1999). The FBI will later suspect that KSM helped build a bomb used to blow up a police station in neighboring Croatia while KSM was in the area (see October 20, 1995).
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his nephew Ramzi Yousef have high-level protection in Pakistan around 1993, at least. This is according to Rehman Malik, who is head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the time. In July 1993, KSM and Yousef are unsuccessful in an attempt to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see July 1993). Malik will later say, “It seemed to us [in the FIA] that the entire family were involved in this business [of terrorism]. Ramzi and Khalid were both out to make a name for themselves. They had close connections with the jihadis, but it was unclear who they were working for. They were both extremely dangerous men, and to us in the FIA, it always appeared that they had protection at a higher level. When we raided Ramzi’s house in Quetta, he had been warned. Likewise with Zahid [Shaikh Mohammed, KSM’s brother] in Peshawar.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 96) Also around this time, US investigators find KSM and his brother Zahid are linked to the ISI. They even find photographs of them with high-ranking Pakistani political leaders (see Spring 1993).
An attempt to topple the World Trade Center fails, but six people are killed and over 1000 are injured in the misfired blast. An FBI explosives expert later states that, “If they had found the exact architectural Achilles’ heel or if the bomb had been a little bit bigger, not much more, 500 pounds more, I think it would have brought her down.” Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to bin Laden, organizes the attempt. (Friedman 3/30/1993; US Congress 2/24/1998) The New York Times later reports on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who will be the key government witness in the trial against Yousef. Salem testifies that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan, and the bombing was not stopped. (Blumenthal 10/28/1993) Other suspects were ineptly investigated before the bombing as early as 1990. Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war, and the CIA later concludes, in internal documents, that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing (see January 24, 1994). (Marshall 11/1/1998) 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is an uncle of Yousef and also has a role in the WTC bombing (see March 20, 1993). (Gumbel 6/6/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002) One of the attackers even leaves a message which will later be found by investigators, stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” (Neumeister 9/30/2001)
US agents uncover photographs showing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has ties with the Pakistani ISI. Several weeks after the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), US agents come to Pakistan to search for Ramzi Yousef for his part in that bombing. Searching the house of Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle, they find photographs of Zahid and KSM, who is also one of Yousef’s uncles, with close associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) According to another account, the pictures actually show Zahid with Sharif, and also with Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, president of Pakistan until his death in 1988. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 66) Pictures of Osama bin Laden are also found. US agents are unable to catch Yousef because Pakistani agents tip him off prior to the US raids. Yousef is able to live a semi-public life (for instance, he attends weddings), despite worldwide publicity naming him as a major terrorist. The Financial Times will later note that Yousef, KSM, and their allies “must have felt confident that their ties to senior Pakistani Islamists, whose power had been cemented within the country’s intelligence service [the ISI], would prove invaluable.” (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) Several months later, Yousef and KSM unsuccessfully attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s (see July 1993). She is an opponent of Sharif and the ISI. (Bhutto 9/21/2001; Gunaratna 3/3/2003) The Los Angeles Times will later report that KSM “spent most of the 1990s in Pakistan. Pakistani leadership through the 1990s sympathized with Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist rhetoric. This sympathy allowed [him] to operate as he pleased in Pakistan.” (McDermott 6/24/2002)
An internal FBI report finds that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) played a role in the bombing of the World Trade Center. According to the report, KSM wired $660 from Qatar to a bank account of Mohammed Salameh, one of the key bombers, on November 3, 1992. This is apparently the first time KSM has come to the attention of US law enforcement. Transaction records show the money was sent from “Khaled Shaykh” in Doha, Qatar, which is where KSM is living openly and without an alias at the time (see 1992-1995). (US Congress 7/24/2003) KSM also frequently talked to his nephew Ramzi Yousef on the phone about the bombing and sent him a passport to escape the country, but apparently these details are not discovered until much later. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488)
The FBI places Ramzi Yousef on its “Ten Most Wanted” list, after determining his prominent role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). An international manhunt ensues. The FBI works with a State Department program that publicly offers generous rewards and a new identity for informants giving information about wanted terrorists. A $2 million reward is announced for information on Yousef and a large publicity campaign about the reward is launched, with a focus on Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Huge numbers of matchboxes are distributed with Yousef’s photograph and reward information on them. In early 1995, one of Yousef’s associates will learn of the program and turn Yousef in for the reward money (see February 3-7, 1995). The matchbox program will be used for other wanted suspects, such as Abdul Rahman Yasin and Mir Kansi. However, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) will never be placed on the most wanted list before 9/11, and while there eventually will be a $2 million reward for him, no similar massive manhunt or large publicity campaign will take place for him, even after he is identified as a mastermind in the WTC bombing, Bojinka plot, African embassy bombings, and many other attacks. (Reeve 1999, pp. 42-43, 56-57)
Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) unsuccessfully try to assassinate Behazir Bhutto, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan at the time. Yousef, with his friend Abdul Hakim Murad, plan to detonate a bomb near Bhutto’s home as she is leaving it. However, they are stopped by a police patrol. Yousef had hidden the bomb when the police approached, and after they left the bomb is accidentally set off, severely injuring him. (Ressa 2003, pp. 25) KSM is in Pakistan at the time and will visit Yousef in the hospital, but his role in the bombing appears to be limited to funding it. (Ressa 2003, pp. 25; Gunaratna 3/3/2003) Bhutto had been prime minister in Pakistan before and will return to power later in 1993 until 1996. She will later claim, “As a moderate, progressive, democratically elected woman prime minister of Pakistan, I was a threat to the fundamentalist zealots on multiple levels…” She claims they had “the support of sympathetic elements within Pakistan’s security apparatus,” a reference to the ISI intelligence agency. (Bhutto 9/21/2001) This same year, US agents uncover photographs showing KSM with close associates of previous Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto’s main political enemy at the time. Presumably, this failed assassination will later give KSM and Yousef some political connection and cover with the political factions opposed to Bhutto (see Spring 1993). Sharif will serve as prime minister again from 1997 to 1999. (Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lives in the Philippines for a year, planning Operation Bojinka until the plot is exposed in January 1995 and he has to flee (see January 6, 1995). Police later say he lives a very expensive and non-religious lifestyle. He goes to karaoke bars and go-go clubs, dates go-go dancers, stays in four-star hotels, and takes scuba diving lessons. Once he rents a helicopter just to fly it past the window of a girlfriend’s office in an attempt to impress her. This appears to be a pattern; for instance, he has a big drinking party in 1998. (McDermott 6/24/2002) Officials believe his obvious access to large sums of money indicate that some larger network is backing him by this time. (Drogin and Meyer 6/6/2002) One of the participants in Bojinka is a Pakistani businessman with alleged ties to the ISI and the drug trade. This Pakistani is said to use counterfeit US currency to help fund the Bojinka plot (see September 18-November 14, 1994). It has been suggested that KSM, a Pakistani, is able “to operate as he please[s] in Pakistan” during the 1990s (McDermott 6/24/2002) , and he is linked to the Pakistani ISI by 1993 (see Spring 1993). His hedonistic time in the Philippines resembles reports of hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in the Philippines in 1998-2000 (see December 1999). KSM returns to the Philippines occasionally, and he is even spotted there after 9/11 (see September 1998-January 1999).
While Ramzi Yousef occasionally plots attacks not in line with Osama bin Laden’s goals (see June 20, 1994), there is considerable evidence that he usually works in concert with bin Laden. Pakistani investigators will later determine that in the middle of 1994 a group of militant Saudi businessmen visit Pakistan and meet with al-Qaeda operatives to discuss setting up a series of secret radio transmitters to broadcast propaganda into Saudi Arabia. Yousef is present at several of the meetings with two senior al-Qaeda leaders when wider plots to overthrow the Saudi government are discussed. Yousef also spends parts of 1994 in the Philippines, responding to bin Laden’s request to further train the Abu Sayyaf militant group there (see August-September 1994). (Reeve 1999, pp. 71-72) The 9/11 Commission will not mention evidence such as this, and instead it will conclude that Yousef’s ties to bin Laden were tenuous, saying that in the early 1990s Yousef and his uncle, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were “rootless but experienced operatives… who—though not necessarily formal members of someone else’s organization—were traveling around the world and joining in projects that were supported by or linked to bin Laden, the Blind Sheikh, or their associates.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 59)
Sam Karmilowicz, a security officer at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, will later claim that on September 18, 1994 the embassy receives a call from an anonymous person speaking with a Middle Eastern accent that there is a plot to assassinate President Clinton, who is scheduled to visit Manila from November 12 through 14, 1994. The caller says that a Pakistani businessman named Tariq Javed Rana is one of the leaders of the plot. Further, Rana is using counterfeit US money to help pay for the plot. An interagency US security team is immediately notified and begins investigating the threat. A few weeks later, Karmilowicz is told by members of this team that the plot was a hoax. Clinton comes to the Philippines as scheduled and no attack takes place. (Cockburn 3/9/2006) However, bomber Ramzi Yousef moved to the Philippines in early 1994, along with his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and associate Wali Khan Amin Shah. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Yousef will later confess to FBI agents that he planned to assassinate Clinton by blowing up his motorcade with a missile or explosives, but gave up because the security was so tight. Shah will also confess to this plot and add that the order to kill Clinton came from bin Laden. (Younge 8/26/1998) CNN will report in 1998, “The United States was aware of the planned attempt before the president left for the Philippines and as a result, security around the president was intensified.” (CNN 8/25/1998) Secret Service sources will later report that large sums of counterfeit US currency were entering the Philippines during the time of the plot. Karmilowicz will conclude that the warning about the assassination was accurate and that Tariq Rana was involved in the plot. CNN reporter Maria Ressa will later tell Karmilowicz that her sources in the Philippine intelligence and police believe that Rana is a close associate of Yousef and KSM. Additionally, her sources believe Rana is connected to the Pakistani ISI. (Cockburn 3/9/2006) Rana will be monitored by Philippines police and eventually arrested in April 1995 (see December 1994-April 1995).
Sudanese intelligence files indicate that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) visited bin Laden in Sudan. The file on KSM calls him “Khalid Mohammed” and reads, “He visited Sudan for a short period while bin Laden was [here] and met him and went to Qatar.” The file also mentions KSM’s relationship with Ramzi Yousef and says that KSM used to “work in relief and aid” in Peshawar, Pakistan, and took part in the Afghan war in the 1980s. (Miniter 2003, pp. 251) While most of the Sudanese intelligence files will not be given to the US until shortly before 9/11 (see July-August 2001), apparently Sudan tips off an FBI official about much of what it knows regarding KSM not long after he moves to Qatar (see Shortly Before October 1995).
9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi fight in the Bosnian civil war against the Serbs. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ) The 9/11 Commission will later say that the two “traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the Balkans in 1995,” but will not give any other details. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 155) Ramzi bin al-Shibh fights there too. A witness will later recount traveling to Hamburg from Bosnia with bin al-Shibh in 1996 (see (1995-1996)). (Schindler 2007, pp. 281-282) 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights in Bosnia in 1995 as well (see 1992-1995), but it is not known if any of them are ever there together. Under interrogation, KSM will say that in 1999 he did not know Almihdhar. However, doubts will be expressed about the reliability of statements made by KSM in detention, because of the methods used to extract them (see June 16, 2004). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006, pp. 17 ) Alhazmi and Almihdhar will later go on to fight in Chechnya (see 1993-1999).
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of the founders and top leaders of al-Qaeda (see August 11-20, 1988), periodically lives in the Philippines during these years. Philippine officials will later note that their country makes a good place for Islamic militants to hide out due to lax immigration and “places of refuge” in the southern Philippines where a number of Islamic groups are fighting the government. (Burgos 10/1/2001; Abuza 12/1/2002) In addition, Salim is believed to have visited Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in 1994 while they were working on the Bojinka plot in the Philippines. It is thought that he already had close ties to KSM by that time. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 139) Salim will be arrested in Germany in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998) and charged with helping to plan the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Between 1994 and his 1998 arrest, it is believed he traveled to more than 20 countries, including Russia and Canada. (Bonner 12/5/1998)
Responding to an apartment fire, Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that is scheduled to take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that scheme, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). (Gumbel 6/6/2002; McDermott 6/24/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002) Many initial reports after 9/11 will claim the fire was accidental and the police discovery of it was a lucky break, but in 2002 the Los Angeles Times will report that the police started the fire on purpose as an excuse to look around the apartment. In the course of investigating the fire, one of the main plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, is arrested. (McDermott 9/1/2002) The plot has two main components. On January 12, Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Manila and stay for five days. A series of bombs along his parade route would be detonated by remote control, killing thousands, including the Pope. Yousef’s apartment is only 500 feet from the residence where the Pope will be staying. (Reeve 1999, pp. 78; Lance 2006, pp. 138) Then, starting January 21, a series of bombs would be placed on airplanes. (Insight 5/27/2002) Five men, Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abd al-Karim Yousef (a.k.a., Adel Anon, Yousef’s twin brother), and Khalid Al-Shaikh (thought to be an alias for KSM) would depart to different Asian cities and place a timed bomb on board during the first leg of passenger planes traveling to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. They would then transfer to another flight and place a second bomb on board that flight. In all, 11 to 12 planes would blow up in a two day period over the Pacific. If successful, some 4,000 people would have been killed. (Agence France-Presse 12/8/2001; Insight 5/27/2002; Abuza 12/1/2002) According to another account, some of the bombs would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. (Lance 2003, pp. 260-61) A second wave of attacks involving crashing airplanes into buildings in the US would go forward later, once the pilots are trained for it (see February-Early May 1995).
After the Bojinka plot is exposed in the Philippines on January 6, 1995 (see January 6, 1995), most of the plotters are either arrested or flee the country. An exception is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). According to Philippine police reports, he stays in the country until September 1995. He is most likely under the protection of Abu Sayyaf, a local al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group. When he leaves, he goes to the Persian Gulf, where he already has protection in Qatar (see 1992-1996 and January-May 1996). (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 100) KSM trained Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines in 1991 (see 1991), his nephew Ramzi Yousef had done the same in 1994 (see August-September 1994), and some Abu Sayyaf figures were involved in the Bojinka plot (see Late 1994-January 1995). Abu Sayyaf has been deeply penetrated by informants at this time. In fact, a Philippine informant named Edwin Angeles is so deeply embedded in Abu Sayyaf that he actually is the group’s second in command (see Late 1994-January 1995). Angeles gives up his cover in February 1995, he was closely involved in the Bojinka plot, and he is debriefed for weeks and helps get a number of Abu Sayyaf leaders arrested. But it is unknown if he attempts to help find KSM (see Early February 1995).
As the Bojinka plot is foiled (see January 6, 1995), a document found on Ramzi Yousef’s computer spells out the Bojinka plotters’ broad objectives. “All people who support the US government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government’s actions and they support the US foreign policy and are satisfied with it.… We will hit all US nuclear targets. If the US government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include…” At this point, the document comes to a halt in mid-sentence. (Struck et al. 9/23/2001) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, much more than Ramzi Yousef, is the mastermind of the Bojinka plot. He will continue to work on the plot until it eventually morphs into the 9/11 attack. (Gomez 6/25/2002) Philippine Gen. Renado De Villa will later state, “They didn’t give up the objective.” Captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad “clearly indicated it was a large-scale operation. They were targeting the US. And they had a worldwide network. It was very clear they continued to work on that plan until someone gave the signal to go.” (Struck et al. 9/23/2001)
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah is arrested in the Philippines on January 11, 1995, and he quickly implicates Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) as a key member in the Bojinka plot. The Bojinka plot was exposed on January 6, and the plotters attempt to flee the Philippines, but Shah gets caught (see January 6, 1995). He is found with a detonating cord, mercury, a quartz timer, springs for a pistol, a firing pin, and other incriminating items. He tells interrogators that he was given these items by KSM. Shah escapes just two days after his arrest (see January 13, 1995). An interrogation report containing the above information will be made the same day. Shah refers to KSM by the aliases Adam Ali and Abu Khalid. (It is not clear when investigators realize these aliases refer to KSM.) (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 100, 103) In 1996, an al-Qaeda informant will reveal that Shah is a key al-Qaeda operative, so KSM could have been linked to al-Qaeda through Shah (see June 1996).
One of the Bojinka plotters, Abdul Hakim Murad, confesses the importance of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in a number of plots. Murad was arrested on January 6, 1995 (see January 6, 1995), and within days he begins freely confessing a wealth of valuable information to Philippine interrogator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. Murad does not know KSM’s real name, but uses an alias known to investigators. Mendoza will write in a January 1995 report given to US officials that KSM was one of the main Bojinka plotters attempting to blow up US-bound airliners over the Pacific Ocean. In addition, he says KSM worked with Ramzi Yousef to “plan the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993” (see February 26, 1993). He also says that KSM “supervised the plan to assassinate Pope John Paul II with a pipe bomb during a visit to the Philippines,” which was part of the Bojinka plot. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxvii) Over the next few months, Murad will give up more information about KSM in further interrogation, for instance revealing that KSM has been in the US and is planning to come back to the US for flight training (see April-May 1995). Yet despite all these revelations, US intelligence will remain curiously uninterested in KSM despite knowing that he is also Yousef’s uncle. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later comment that Murad’s confessions about KSM “were not taken seriously” by US intelligence. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxvii)
Philippine and US investigators learn that Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different attacks when they were foiled in early January. In addition to the planned assassination of the Pope, and the first phase of Operation Bojinka previously discovered, they also planned to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. It is often mistakenly believed that there is one Bojinka plan to blow up some planes and crash others into buildings, but in fact these different forms of attack are to take place in two separate phases. (Lance 2003, pp. 259) Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this second phase through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad’s latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Yousef ] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit, and dive it at the CIA headquarters. He will use no bomb or explosives. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.” (Insight 5/27/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 277-78)
While Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad is being interrogated by Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995), he mentions that he had pilot training in the US and ten other operatives are being trained to fly in the US. The second wave of the Bojinka plot required many suicide pilots. Mendoza will later recall that Murad said, “There is really formal training [going on] of suicide bombers. He said that there were other Middle Eastern pilots training and he discussed with me the names and flight training schools they went to.” Murad also mentioned some of their targets had already been picked and included CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, and an unidentified nuclear facility. (Lance 2003, pp. 279) The ten other men who met him at US flight schools or were getting similar training came from Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The names of these men have never been publicly released, but apparently none of them match the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers. The Associated Press will later report, “The FBI interviewed people at the flight schools highlighted by Filipino police but did not develop evidence that any of the other Middle Easterners other than Murad were directly plotting terrorism. With no other evidence of a threat, they took no further action…” (Gomez and Solomon 3/5/2002) Murad also revealed that between November 1991 and July 1992, he had trained at four different flight schools in the US. His friend Nasir Ali Mubarak and another man named Abdullah Nasser Yousef were roommates with Murad as they trained at the same schools at the same time. Mubarak appears to be one of Murad’s ten pilots, because he had served in the United Arab Emirates air force and the Associated Press mentioned one of the ten was “a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates.” (Gomez and Solomon 3/5/2002; Rosenfeld 6/16/2002; Rosenfeld 1/12/2003) Richard Kaylor, the manager of Richmor Aviation in Albany, New York, later says that FBI agents interviewed him in 1996 about the three men who studied at his school. He says he was told that the FBI was first alerted to his flight school after a Richmor business card was found in the Philippines apartment where Murad, Ramzi Yousef, and KSM had lived. But that is the only time the FBI interviewed him on these matters before 9/11. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) An assistant manager at Richmor will later say of Murad and his roommates, “Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” (Gomez and Solomon 3/5/2002) The FBI investigates Mubarak in 1995 and does not find that he has any ties to terrorism. Mubarak will continue to openly live and work in the US, marrying an American woman. He will claim the FBI never interviewed him until hours after the 9/11 attacks, so apparently the ten named by Murad may not have been interviewed in 1995 after all. He will be deported in 2002, apparently solely because of his association with Murad ten years earlier. Nothing more is publicly known about Abdullah Nasser Yousef. (Rosenfeld 1/12/2003) Murad will also mention to the FBI a few months later that future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had a valid US visa and has been thinking about learning to fly in the US. Murad says he had recommended Richmor Aviation to KSM (see April-May 1995). There appears to have been little knowledge of Murad’s ten pilot claim inside US intelligence before 9/11; for instance FBI agent Ken Williams will not mention it in his July 2001 memo about suspected militants training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001).
As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
An unidentified nuclear power plant.
The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
The Sears Tower in Chicago.
The World Trade Center.
John Hancock Tower in Boston.
The White House. (Brzezinski 12/30/2001; Lance 2003, pp. 278-280; Gunaratna 6/1/2005)
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. (Lance 2003, pp. 303-4) Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). (Cockburn 3/9/2006)
Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan, in a safe house owned by Osama bin Laden (see February 1992-February 7, 1995). At the time, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef’s capture. (Lance 2003, pp. 328) Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka, but Parker got cold feet and instead turned in Yousef (see February 3-7, 1995). (Lance 2003, pp. 284-85) Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will later report that at this time the CIA “fought with the FBI over arresting Yousef in Pakistan—the CIA reportedly wanted to continue tracking him—and President Clinton was forced to intervene.” (Friedman 3/17/1995) Yousef is rendered to the US the next day and makes a partial confession while flying there (see February 8, 1995).
Shortly after bomber Ramzi Yousef is arrested (see February 7, 1995), investigators discover a computer file of a letter on his laptop that is signed by “Khalid Sheikh, and Bojinka.” An eyewitness account of the arrest is given to Time magazine by a “Khalid Sheikh,” who is also staying in the same building. (McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) Investigators also discover that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had frequently visited Yousef’s apartment in Manila, Philippines, where the bombs for the Bojinka plot were being made. (PBS Frontline 10/3/2002) They also find Yousef has multiple fax and phone numbers for a “Khalid Doha.” Doha is the capital of Qatar. KSM has been living there openly since 1992 (see 1992-1995). Shortly after being apprehended, US authorities notice that Yousef calls one of these numbers in Qatar and asks to speak to a “Khalid.” The US already connected KSM to the 1993 WTC bombing just weeks after that attack and knew that he was living in Doha, Qatar (see March 20, 1993). (US Congress 7/24/2003) There is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle and KSM’s brother. Not long after this discovery is made, Pakistani investigators raid Zahid’s offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, but Zahid has already fled (see 1988-Spring 1995). In 1993, US investigators already discovered the connections between Yousef, Zahid, and KSM, after raiding Zahid’s house in Pakistan and finding pictures of them (see Spring 1993). (McDermott 2005, pp. 154, 162) The FBI successfully arranges for a photograph to be taken of KSM. He is positively identified from the photo in December 1995. This results in his indictment in January 1996 for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. US intelligence labels him a “top priority,” according the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003)
One day after Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he makes a partial confession while being flown to the US. Due to the speed of events, only two US officials, FBI agent Chuck Stern and Secret Service agent Brian Parr, sit with Yousef during the flight. Both officials had been part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) operation to catch him, and they have many questions for him.
Confession - Yousef, under the mistaken impression that anything he says to them is not admissible in court if no notes or recordings are taken, talks to them for six hours. He confesses to bombing the WTC (see February 26, 1993). He says he tried to shear the support columns holding up one tower so it could fall into the other and kill up to 250,000 people. When asked who funded him, he says he had been given money by friends and family, but refuses to elaborate. (Reeve 1999, pp. 107-109) In fact, the agents secretly take notes and they will be used as evidence in Yousef’s trial.
Comment on WTC - As Yousef is flying over New York City on his way to a prison cell, an FBI agent asks him, “You see the Trade Centers down there, they’re still standing, aren’t they?” Yousef responds, “They wouldn’t be if I had enough money and enough explosives.” (Hansen 9/23/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 135)
Some Information Forthcoming, Other Information Withheld - Yousef also soon admits to ties with Wali Khan Amin Shah, who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law, who is being held by the US at this time (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). But although Yousef talks freely, he makes no direct mention of bin Laden, or the planned second wave of Operation Bojinka that closely parallels the later 9/11 plot (see Spring 1995). (Lance 2003, pp. 297-98) He also fails to mention his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who is still at large and was a co-mastermind in most of Yousef’s plots. When talking about his preparations to assassinate President Clinton in Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994), Yousef makes a vague mention of an “intermediary” who is actually KSM, but refuses to discuss him any further. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxiv-xxv) However, Yousef’s arrest will soon lead investigators to KSM in other ways (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996).
Philippines investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza makes a remarkably accurate flow chart connecting many key operators in the Bojinka plot, and sends it to US investigators. The chart is based on what he is learning from interrogating Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see February-Early May 1995), while also drawing on a terrorism report he recently finished (see December 15, 1994) and debriefings of a key undercover operative (see Early February 1995). The chart identifies the following key organizations as being involved in the plot:
Al-Harakat al-Islamiya. Meaning “Islamic Movement,” this is an apparently meaningless group name used by Ramzi Yousef and others to disguise their connections to al-Qaeda. Yousef also sometimes uses the equally meaningless name “The Liberation Army.”
The Abu Sayyaf. This Philippine Muslim militant group is believed to help with the Bojinka plot that is also penetrated by Philippine intelligence (see Late 1994-January 1995). The chart mentions 20 Abu Sayyaf operatives trained by Yousef in 1992 (see December 1991-May 1992). (Lance 2003, pp. 303-4)
IRIC (International Research and Information Center). Most of the money for Bojinka is believed to flow through this charity front. The chart names the only three employees: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (bin Laden’s brother-in-law), Abu Omar (whose real name is Ahmad al-Hamwi (see 1995 and After), and Dr. Zubair. Mendoza’s 1994 report names Abdul Salam Zubair as an Iraqi working as Khalifa’s assistant in running a number of charity fronts. (Agnote 4/24/1995; Lance 2003, pp. 303-4)
Konsonjaya. Money for the Bojinka plot also flows through this Malaysian business front (see June 1994). Amien Mohammed (real name: Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari) is named and is one of the company directors. There is a link to Wali Khan Amin Shah, another company director. Hambali, a major al-Qaeda figure, is also a company director but is not included in the chart.
The chart also mentions many other key figures in the plot:
Osama bin Laden, who is connected to the IRIC and Yousef’s group.
“Usama Asmorai / Wali K” is Wali Khan Amin Shah.
“Yousef / Adam Ali / A Basit” is Ramzi Yousef.
“Salem Ali / Mohmad” is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM).
Abdul Hakin Murad. (Lance 2003, pp. 303-4)
“Ibrahim Muneer / Munir.” Ibrahim Munir, a rich Saudi Arabian businessman, has close ties to bin Laden. He came to the Philippines in November and witnesses say he was Yousef’s constant companion. In 2003, it will be reported he is still wanted by authorities. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 139; Ressa 2003, pp. 20)
The names in hexagonal boxes are the girlfriends of the plotters. Some Bojinka money is transferred in their names.
However, despite the accurate information in this chart, only Shah, Yousef, and Murad will be caught before 9/11. Khalifa is actually in US custody at the time the US is given this chart (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), but he is allowed to be deported a short time later (see April 26-May 3, 1995). The US also learns about a connection between Konsonjaya and bin Laden by searching Yousef’s apartment. But the other Konsonjaya directors, including Hambali, will not be apprehended, and the IRIC will be allowed to continue functioning with the same staff after being taken over by another charity front connected to Khalifa (see 1995 and After). (Lance 2003, pp. 303-4)
The FBI interrogates Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad and learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has been in the US and is planning to return for flight training. Murad had already been interrogated in the Philippines by Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995). The Associated Press will say that KSM “had traveled to Israel and the United States, according to [Mendoza’s] report.” Further, Murad met KSM several times in Pakistan in 1993, and “their conversations focused mainly on aircraft because of Mohammed’s intense interest in pilot training, Mendoza quoted Murad as saying.” (Gomez 6/25/2002) After Murad is handed over to the FBI around April, along with Mendoza’s report on him, he repeats much the same information to the FBI and adds more details about a man he calls Abdul Majid (which Mendoza had already learned was one of KSM’s many aliases). (Gomez 6/25/2002; Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002) An FBI account of his April 1995 interrogation dated May 11, 1995, states, “Murad also advised that Majid had a United States visa and was planning to travel to the US sometime in the near future. Murad stated that he thought that Majid might go to the Richmor Flying School in Albany, New York, because Majid seemed interested in obtaining his pilots license and Murad suggested the Richmor Flying School.” (Gomez 6/25/2002; Lance 2006, pp. 501-502) Despite this warning, apparently KSM will still be able to travel to the US, because in the summer of 2001 an al-Qaeda operative will reveal that KSM visited the US at least through the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998).
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) goes to Sudan, but he is soon discovered there by the Sudanese intelligence agency. Sudan is facing increasing trouble with Western countries due to its reputation as a terrorist haven, so KSM is told to leave and given a few weeks to move on. Later in the year, Sudanese intelligence tells an FBI agent about KSM’s recent visit and also reveals that he was headed to Qatar (where he has already been based for several years 1992-1996). By October 1995, the FBI tracks KSM to a certain apartment building in Qatar, but he will escape capture (see October 1995). (Miniter 2003, pp. 85-86)
According to a later account by CIA agent Melissa Boyle Mahle, “a tidbit received late in the year revealed the location” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Qatar (see 1992-1996). (Mahle 2005, pp. 247-248) This presumably is information the FBI learned in Sudan that KSM was traveling to Qatar (see Shortly Before October 1995). However, US intelligence should also have been aware that KSM’s nephew Ramzi Yousef attempted to call him in Qatar in February 1995 while Yousef was in US custody (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996). Mahle is assigned to verify KSM’s identity. She claims that at the time the CIA is aware of KSM’s involvement in the Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995) and in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) She is able to match his fingerprints with a set of fingerprints the CIA already has in their files. (Mahle 3/31/2005) By October 1995, the FBI tracks KSM to a certain apartment building in Qatar. Then, using high-technology surveillance, his presence in the building is confirmed. (Miniter 2003, pp. 85-86) Mahle argues that KSM should be rendered out of the country in secret. The US began rendering terrorist suspects in 1993 (see 1993), and a prominent Egyptian extremist is rendered by the CIA in September 1995 (see September 13, 1995). She argues her case to CIA headquarters and to the highest reaches of the NSA, but is overruled. (Mahle 3/31/2005) Instead, the decision is made to wait until KSM can be indicted in a US court and ask Qatar to extradite him to the US. Despite the surveillance on KSM, he apparently is able to leave Qatar and travel to Brazil with bin Laden and then back to Qatar at the end of 1995 (see December 1995). KSM will be indicted in early 1996, but he will escape from Qatar a few months later (see January-May 1996).
A suicide bombing destroys the police station in the town of Rijeka, Croatia, wounding 29 people. The Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya takes credit for the bombing, saying it is revenge for the abduction of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader Talaat Fouad Qassem in Croatia the month before (see September 13, 1995). The Croatians will later determine that the mastermind, Hassan al-Sharif Mahmud Saad, and the suicide bomber were both tied to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. They also were tied to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, which in turn has ties to many militant attacks, some committed Ramzi Yousef (see 1995-1997). CIA soon discovers that the suicide bomber also worked for the Third World Refugee Center charity front (see January 1996). (Kohlmann 2004, pp. 153-155) In 1999, the FBI’s Bojinka investigation will notice that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was believed to be in neighboring Bosnia at the time and that the timing device of the bomb (a modified Casio watch) closely resembled those used by KSM and his nephew Yousef in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Presumably, this would have increased the importance of catching KSM. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 489)
Bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) apparently travel to Brazil together. After KSM will be captured in 2003, documents in his possession will show he had a twenty-day visa to Brazil during December 1995. Brazilian intelligence sources will later claim that bin Laden travels with KSM, and is caught on video at a meeting in a mosque in the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu. This town is in the tri-border area of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, which has the largest Muslim population in South America and has long been known to be a haven for criminal activity. Bin Laden is said to appear in the video with a goatee instead of his usual full beard. (Orrego 5/4/2003) In 1996, US intelligence will learn that KSM and bin Laden traveled together to a foreign country in 1995 (see 1996). It is not known if that is a reference to this trip or if they made other trips together. The Brazilian government will later claim that it told the US about this trip in late 1998. (Reuters 3/18/2003)
Prior to this year, US intelligence has been uncertain whether Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is connected to al-Qaeda. But this changes when a foreign government shares information that bin Laden and KSM had traveled together to a foreign country the previous year. (US Congress 7/24/2003) The country may have been Brazil, since it has been reported that KSM and bin Laden traveled to Brazil together in 1995 (see December 1995).
Bin Laden reportedly visits Qatar at least twice between the years of 1996 and 2000. He visits Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, the country’s religious minister who later becomes the interior minister. (Risen 6/8/2002; Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) In 1999, the New York Times reports that bin Laden visited al-Thani “in Qatar twice in the mid-1990s.” (Risen and Weiser 7/8/1999) Presumably one of these times is in May 1996, when bin Laden stops by Qatar while moving from Sudan to Afghanistan, and is reportedly warmly greeted by officials there (see May 18, 1996). Former CIA officer Robert Baer will later claim that one meeting between bin Laden and al-Thani takes place on August 10, 1996. (Baer 2003, pp. 195) Al-Thani is known to shelter Muslim extremists. For instance, the CIA narrowly missed catching al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef at his farm in May 1996 (see January-May 1996). Al-Thani is a member of Qatar’s royal family, but ABC News will later report, “One former CIA official who preferred to remain anonymous said the connection went beyond al-Thani and there were others in the Qatari royal family who were sympathetic and provided safe havens for al-Qaeda.” (Risen 6/8/2002; Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) Al-Thani will reportedly shelter al-Qaeda leaders like KSM even after 9/11 (see March 28, 2003), but the US has not taken any action against him, such as officially declaring him a terrorism financier.
In early 1996, while US officials are waiting from approval from officials in Qatar so they can arrest Khalid Shaikh Mohammmed (KSM) there, the Qatari government tells the US that it fears KSM is constructing an explosive device. They also say that he possesses more than 20 different passports. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) By this time, the US is aware of KSM’s involvement in the 1995 Bojinka plot involving explosives (see January 6, 1995) and his role in the 1993 WTC bombing (see March 20, 1993).
Since Operation Bojinka was uncovered in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), many of the plot’s major planners, including Ramzi Yousef, are found and arrested. One major exception is 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). He flees to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where he has been living openly using his real name, enjoying the patronage of Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Interior Minister and a member of the royal family (see 1992-1996). (Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) He had accepted al-Thani’s invitation to live on his farm around 1992 (see 1992-1995). The CIA learned KSM was living in Qatar in 1995 after his nephew Ramzi Yousef attempted to call him there while in US custody (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996). The Sudanese government also tipped off the FBI that KSM was traveling to Qatar. Some CIA agents strongly urged action against KSM after his exact location in Qatar was determined, but no action was taken (see October 1995). In January 1996, KSM is indicted in the US for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, and apparently this leads to an effort to apprehend him in Qatar that same month. FBI Director Louis Freeh sends a letter to the Qatari government asking for permission to send a team after him. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) One of Freeh’s diplomatic notes states that KSM was involved in a conspiracy to “bomb US airliners” and is believed to be “in the process of manufacturing an explosive device.” (Hersh 5/27/2002) Qatar confirms that KSM is there and is making explosives, but they delay handing him over. After waiting several months, a high-level meeting takes place in Washington to consider a commando raid to seize him. However, the raid is deemed too risky, and another letter is sent to the Qatari government instead. One person at the meeting later states, “If we had gone in and nabbed this guy, or just cut his head off, the Qatari government would not have complained a bit. Everyone around the table for their own reasons refused to go after someone who fundamentally threatened American interests….” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) Around May 1996, Mohammed’s patron al-Thani makes sure that Mohammed and four others are given blank passports and a chance to escape. A former Qatari police chief later says the other men include Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda’s number two and number three leaders, respectively (see Early 1998). (McDermott 9/1/2002; Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) In 1999, the New York Times will report that “Although American officials said they had no conclusive proof, current and former officials said they believed that the Foreign Minister [Sheik Hamed bin Jasim al-Thani] was involved, directly or indirectly” in tipping off KSM. (Risen and Weiser 7/8/1999) KSM will continue to occasionally use Qatar as a safe haven, even staying there for two weeks after 9/11 (see Late 2001).
In January 1995 the Bojinka plot is foiled in the Philippines and on February 7, 1995, Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), but Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) continues to live in the Philippines much of the time. KSM remains confident that he will not be arrested, and eats at a particular restaurant in Manila at roughly the same time almost every night. In early 1996, the FBI and Philippine authorities attempt to arrest KSM at Bandido’s restaurant. But counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim the “operation failed apparently due to the visibility of the FBI and other agents working on the case.” KSM flees to Qatar, where he was been living off and on since 1992 (see 1992-1996). But Gunaratna claims KSM continues to live part of the time in the Philippines as well until about September 1996. (Gunaratna 2003)
While al-Qaeda operative Jamal al-Fadl gives a treasure trove of useful information on al-Qaeda to US intelligence (see June 1996-April 1997), one person he describes in detail is Wali Khan Amin Shah. Shah was one of the plotters of the Operation Bojinka plot (see February 7, 1995). Al-Fadl reveals that Shah has al-Qaeda ties. Author Peter Lance notes that US intelligence should have concluded that Shah’s fellow Operation Bojinka plotter, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), also has al-Qaeda ties. However, there is no new effort to find KSM, and he later goes on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks. (Lance 2003, pp. 330-31)
After fleeing Qatar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) travels the world and plans many al-Qaeda operations. He previously was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Operation Bojinka plot. (McGirk 1/20/2003) He is apparently involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and other attacks. One US official later says, “There is a clear operational link between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the al-Qaeda plots over the past five years.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) He lives in Prague, Czech Republic, through much of 1997. (McDermott 9/1/2002) By 1999, he is living in Germany and visiting with the hijackers there. (Risen 6/8/2002; Risen 9/22/2002) Using 60 aliases and as many passports, he travels through Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and South America, personally setting up al-Qaeda cells. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; McGirk 1/20/2003)
After a renditions branch is established at the CIA in 1997, responsibility at the agency for dealing with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is transferred there. This is because he is wanted in connection with the Bojinka plot (see January 8, 1998). The 9/11 Commission will say that this both improves the CIA’s coverage of KSM—because it gives them a “man-to-man” focus—and also degrades it—as less analysis is performed related to rendition targets. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 276-7) The CIA’s inspector general will say that at this time the agency’s Counterterrorist Center considers KSM a “high-priority target for apprehension and rendition,” but will fail to recognize the importance of reporting from “credible sources” before 9/11 that shows he is a top al-Qaeda leader and is sending other terrorists to the US to work for Osama bin Laden (see June 12, 2001 and August 28, 2001). The inspector general will recommend that an accountability board review the performance of at least four officers for these failures. (Central Intelligence Agency 6/2005, pp. xii-xiii )
Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995) (see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. (Smith 9/25/2001) Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. (Lyons 9/22/2002) After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. (Glazov 1/27/2005)
The CIA apparently ignores a warning from a recently retired CIA agent that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is heading al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations. Robert Baer left the CIA in late 1997 and began private consulting in the Middle East. Baer soon meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before. Al Thani tells Baer that KSM is now bin Laden’s chief of terrorist operations, and gives Baer other details about KSM, including how some Qatari royals helped KSM escape Qatar the year before after the CIA tracked him there (see January-May 1996 and Early 1998). In early 1998, Baer passes all this information on to a friend still in the CIA, who then passes it on to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But the friend writes back a week later, saying the CIA showed no interest. (Baer 2003, pp. 190-198) The 9/11 Commission, by contrast, will later claim that, in 1997 and 1998, KSM has some links with al-Qaeda, but mostly helps them collect newspaper articles and update computer equipment. Supposedly, not until after the August 1998 embassy bombings does he begin working directly with al-Qaeda on plotting attacks. This account appears entirely based on KSM’s testimony taken while in US custody. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150) It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of KSM’s testimony could be inaccurate, mostly due to the use of torture (see Late August 1998). Further, the CIA gained evidence shortly after the embassy bombings that KSM was one of the masterminds of those bombings, which would strongly support Baer’s information over the 9/11 Commission version (see August 6, 2007).
In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” (Baer 2002, pp. 270-71; Baer 2/2002; Sale and Iqbal 9/30/2002; Baer 2003, pp. 190-198) Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. (Waterman 4/9/2004) Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. (Risen and Weiser 7/8/1999; BBC 7/25/1999; Gertz 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer 2003, pp. 190-198) Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). (Ross and Scott 2/7/2003) Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.
Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef is sentenced to 240 years for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. At the same time, prosecutors unseal an indictment against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for participating with Yousef in the 1995 Operation Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In unsealing this, US Attorney Mary Jo White calls KSM a “major player” and says he is believed to be a relative of Yousef. (Walsh 1/9/1998) The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 and wanted posters with his picture are distributed. (Risen 6/5/2002) This contradicts the FBI’s claim after 9/11 that they did not realize he was a major terrorist before 9/11. (US Congress 12/11/2002) For instance, a senior FBI official later says, “He was under everybody’s radar. We don’t know how he did it. We wish we knew.… He’s the guy nobody ever heard of.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) However, another official says, “We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren’t is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before September 11.” (Risen 9/22/2002) Yet strangely, despite knowing KSM is a major al-Qaeda operations planner and putting out a large reward for his capture at this time, there is no worldwide public manhunt for him as there successfully was for his nephew Ramzi Yousef. KSM’s name remains obscure and he isn’t even put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list until one month after 9/11. (Lance 2003, pp. 327-30)
In June 2001, a CIA cable describing background information on bin Laden’s associates will mention that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is regularly traveling to the US. The CIA’s Renditions Branch had been looking for KSM since at least 1997. In July 2001, the source of this information will positively identify KSM’s photo from a line up and clarify that the last known time KSM went to the US was in the summer of 1998 (see June 12, 2001). Presumably, KSM may have been more reluctant to travel to the US after the crackdown on al-Qaeda in the wake of the August 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533) In May 1995, the FBI learned that KSM had been in the US, had a current and valid US visa, and was planning to come back to the US, possibly to take flying lessons (see April-May 1995). Additionally, KSM will receive a new US visa on July 23, 2001, though it isn’t known if he ever uses it (see July 23, 2001).
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is almost caught in Brazil. Apparently, the Malaysian government discovers that KSM is in the country using an alias and an Egyptian passport, and that he has obtained a Brazilian visa. So on June 25, 1998, the US asks Brazil to help capture him. A former US official will later say, “We were fairly convinced… that he was there” in the town of Foz de Iguazu, a criminal haven that he had visited at least once before (see December 1995). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; Hall 3/13/2003) However, KSM gets away. Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk will later claim, “They almost nailed him in Brazil. They knew that he’d left from Malaysia to Brazil….” (Block 3/3/2003) “He had supposedly gone there to promote Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company that secretly funded Muslim rebels in Southeast Asia.” (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) Konsonjaya was the front company used for the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994), and it supposedly dealt in Sudanese honey and palm oil. (Fineman and Paddock 2/7/2002; Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) The Telegraph, in an apparent reference to Konsonjaya, will later report that KSM “acted as financier and coordinator, through another [Malaysian company] which traded Sudanese honey. He traveled widely, including at least one trip to Brazil….” (Booth 3/2/2003) The honey distribution business had a base in Karachi, Pakistan, and employed KSM’s nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007, pp. 17 ) It is remarkable that KSM would be connected to this company in 1998, considering that the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters in 1996. (Fineman and Paddock 2/7/2002)
According the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, shortly after the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), a foreign government sends the CIA a list of individuals who flew into Nairobi before the attack. The CIA recognizes that one of the names is an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The report that identified this alias also describes KSM as being close to bin Laden. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Yet the 9/11 Commission will fail to mention KSM’s role in the embassy bombings and instead will suggest that KSM is not yet a member of al-Qaeda at this time and only joined al-Qaeda after being impressed by the results of the embassy bombings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lived in the Philippines for much of 1994 and took part in the failed Bojinka plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II and crash a dozen airplanes (see January 6, 1995). In the years after this, he makes repeated visits to the Philippines, as well as neighboring Malaysia. (McDermott 9/1/2002) KSM returns to the Philippines in September 1998 and stays to organize the assassination of Pope John Paul II, who is due to visit the country in January 1999. KSM is seen at a nightclub in Manila in early 1999. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxv) But the Pope’s visit is canceled; it isn’t known if the cancellation is due to security concerns or not. That same year, the FBI alerts Philippine intelligence that KSM has returned to that country to visit an old girlfriend. However, he disappears before agents arrive to arrest him. Further details on how he was traced there or how he got away have not been made public. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Fielding 11/10/2002) KSM will continue to return to the Philippines occasionally. There are even “credible reports” that he is seen there in the summer of 2002. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002)
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda operatives Said Bahaji and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and others in the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and some of them stay there until February 2001. Investigators will later believe this move marks the formation of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. (McDermott 1/27/2002; Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002) Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including, at times, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. Alshehhi moves out after the first month; it is unclear why. (Erlanger 9/15/2001) During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address.
Surveillance of Bahaji - From the very beginning, the apartment is under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Bahaji. (Eggen 10/23/2001) The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Bahaji is directly monitored for at least part of 1998, but German officials will not disclose when the probe began or ends. This investigation is dropped for lack of evidence (see (Late 1998)). (Associated Press 6/22/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002) Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). (Stark 8/29/2011)
Surveillance of El Motassadeq - German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who will later be convicted for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently it does not find any indication of suspicious activity (see August 29, 1998). (Crewdson and Simpson 9/5/2002)
Surveillance of Zammar - Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, does not live at the apartment, but he is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 259-60; McDermott 9/1/2002; Crewdson and Simpson 9/5/2002) He even lives in the apartment for a time in February 1999 (see February 1999). Zammar is the focus of an investigation that began in 1997 and continues until early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Interest in monitoring him increases in late 1998 (see October 2, 1998).
Surveillance of Atta - The CIA also allegedly starts monitoring Atta in early 2000 while he is living at the apartment, and does not tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). Atta leaves Germany to live in the US in June 2000 (see June 3, 2000).
No Direct German Surveillance of the Apartment? - Yet, even though people like Zammar who frequently phone and visit the apartment are monitored, German officials will later claim that the apartment itself is never bugged. An unnamed senior German security official will later say that some surveillance of associated people gives “the impression that the people living there were fanatical believers. At the BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency], we had to decide whether to ask permission to place a wiretap on the line at 54 Marienstrasse itself. We discussed this every day.” But he will claim that they ultimately decide they will not be able to get legal permission for a wiretap because there is no evidence that the apartment’s occupants are breaking any laws. (Zeman et al. 11/2004) This claim that the apartment was not directly monitored seems contradicted by reports that Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation when he was living in the Marienstrasse apartment in late 1998 (see (Late 1998)).
What Would More Surveillance Have Uncovered? - It will later be clear that investigators could have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, one visitor will recall Atta and others discussing attacking the US. (Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002) 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999 and comes to the apartment. However, although there is a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998, the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him (see 1999). (Hosenball 9/4/2002; Butler 11/4/2002) 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” (Stafford 9/14/2001; Washington Post 9/16/2001) Remarkably, shortly after 9/11, the German government will claim it knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and nothing directed it towards the Marienstrasse apartment. (Helm 11/24/2001)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) “repeatedly” visits 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. (Czuczka 8/24/2002) US and German officials say a number of sources place KSM at Atta’s Hamburg apartment, although when he visits, or who he visits while he is there, is unclear. (Drogin and Meyer 6/6/2002; Butler 11/4/2002) However, it would be logical to conclude that he visits Atta’s housemate Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, since investigators believe he is the “key contact between the pilots” and KSM. (Laabs and McDermott 1/27/2003) KSM is living elsewhere in Germany at the time. (Risen 9/22/2002) German intelligence monitors the apartment in 1999 but apparently does not notice KSM. US investigators have been searching for Mohammed since 1996, but apparently never tell the Germans what they know about him. (Butler 11/4/2002) Even after 9/11, German investigators will complain that US investigators do not tell them what they know about KSM living in Germany until they read it in the newspapers in June 2002. (Erlanger 6/11/2002)
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later claim that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) visits Hamburg at this time and meets with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Together, they make plans to carry out the 9/11 attacks in the US. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxx) Other accounts claim KSM repeatedly visits Hamburg this year but do not definitively state who he meets (see 1999). The 9/11 Commission will later claim that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell including Atta and bin al-Shibh will not be asked to join the 9/11 attacks until late 1999 in Afghanistan (see Between January and October 1999).
The names of four hijackers are later discovered in Philippines immigration records. However, whether these are the hijackers or just other Saudis with the same names has not been confirmed.
Abdulaziz Alomari visits the Philippines once in 2000, then again in February 2001, leaving on February 12. (Gomez 9/19/2001; Lacuarta 9/19/2001; Telegraph 9/20/2001)
Ahmed Alghamdi visits Manila, Philippines, more than 13 times, starting in 1999. He leaves the Philippines the day before the attacks. (Telegraph 9/20/2001; Arizona Daily Star 9/28/2001; Europa 10/11/2001)
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad visits the Philippines on October 17-19, 2000. (Telegraph 9/20/2001; Arizona Daily Star 9/28/2001)
Saeed Alghamdi visits the Philippines on at least 15 occasions in 2001, entering as a tourist. The last visit ends on August 6, 2001. (Telegraph 9/20/2001)
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi were seen Philippines several times, the last time in December 1999 (see December 1999). 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed occasionally stays there as well (see September 1998-January 1999). Nothing more has been heard to confirm or deny the hijackers’ Philippines connections since these reports.
In 2008, the website Intelwire.com will obtain a declassified FBI document from this date. The content is heavily redacted, including the title, but the full title appears to be, “Summary of information obtained from the United Arab Emirates with regard to Manila Air fugitive Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.” The document appears to detail a briefing by United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials from the General Department of State Security to FBI officials visiting the UAE. It mentions that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) “who was reported to be in _____ during mid-1998, is still currently living in Sharjah, UAE, with his family.” The report also mentions that “in July 1998, authorities from ______ based on information probably obtained from Qatar, located KSM living and working in ____. After questioning him about his activities with the [Muslim Brotherhood], he was deported to Bahrain.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/8/1999 ) The 9/11 Commission will later mention this document a single time, and reveal that one of the redacted sections discusses KSM’s links to the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 488) Sharjah is a major hub of al-Qaeda activity at this time (see Mid-1996-October 2001), and one of the 9/11 hijackers, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, is from the emirate of Sharjah (see 1980s and 1990s). 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will be based in Sharjah in the months before the 9/11 attacks, and some of the 9/11 hijackers will pass through there and visit him (see Early-Late June, 2001). It is not known what action US intelligence takes in response to this briefing.
A group of al-Qaeda operatives receives advanced training at the Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. The large group includes 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see November/December 1999), al-Qaeda commander Khallad bin Attash, would-be 9/11 hijacker Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said), USS Cole bomber Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras), an operative who leads a series of suicide bombings in Riyadh in 2003, and another who is involved against the 2002 attack against a ship called the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). According to statements by detainees, the course focuses on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters combat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) apparently visit the camp during the course. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 157; Office of the Director of National Intelligence 9/6/2006, pp. 12 ) Candidate hijacker Abderraouf Jdey, a Canadian passport holder, may also be present at this training course. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 527) Also, in early December, KSM gives special hijacking training to Alhazmi, bin Attash, and al-Taizi (see Early December 1999).
9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi are seen again in the Philippines, partying and taking flying lessons. They stay at the Woodland Park Resort Hotel about sixty miles north of Manila, as they did in 1997 and earlier in 1999. Gina Marcelo, a waitress at the hotel, will later recall that Marwan Alshehhi threw a party there. “There were about seven people. They rented the open area by the swimming pool… They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey and mineral water. They barbecued shrimp and onions. They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends.” (Kirk 10/5/2001) 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is also known to be in the Philippines for much of 1999, plotting again to assassinate the Pope (see 1999-September 10, 2001). There are no eyewitness accounts of him being seen with Atta or Alshehhi at this time, but when he lived in the Philippines in 1994 he was known to party and have local girlfriends (see Early 1994-January 1995). Security guard Ferdinand Abad later recalls Mohamed Atta registered under his own name at the hotel this month. Atta went to the nearby Angeles City Flying Club about two of three times a week to train on ultralight aircraft. Abad recalls seeing the flying club van pick up Atta at least five times. Just as when Atta and Alshehhi were at the resort earlier in the year, no one recalls Alshehhi taking flying lessons, only Atta. (Cervantes 10/1/2001; Gulf News 10/2/2001; Kirk 10/5/2001) The Philippine military will later confirm that Atta and Alshehhi were at the hotel after finding a number of employees who claim to have seen them. (Cervantes 10/1/2001; Gulf News 10/2/2001) A leader of a militant group connected to al-Qaeda will later confess to helping 9/11 hijacker pilots while they were in this area (see Shortly After October 5, 2005). The 9/11 Commission will not mention the possibility of Atta and Alshehhi staying in the Philippines. They will note that the two of them left Germany in the last week of November 1999 with the intention of going to Afghanistan, but there is no mention of when they arrived in Afghanistan. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 166-167)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) gives a course lasting one or two weeks for three operatives scheduled to take part in the 9/11 operation. Nawaf Alhazmi, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) learn how to say basic English words and phrases, read plane timetables and phone books, use the Internet, make travel reservations, rent an apartment, and use code words. In addition, they play flight simulator games, watch hijacking-themed films, and investigate visas for Southeast Asian countries. KSM also tells them what to watch for when casing a flight, for example whether flight attendants bring food into the cockpit. Khalid Almihdhar is apparently not present at the training, since he has just returned to Yemen (see November/December 1999). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 157-8, 493)
9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Nawaf Alhazmi meet to discuss the 9/11 operation at a building known as the “House of Alghamdi” in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a statement made by bin al-Shibh in an interview prior to his capture in 2002 (see September 8-11, 2002 and September 11, 2002). Bin al-Shibh will say, “We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta’s right-hand man,” which the Guardian will interpret to mean Alhazmi, and not Hani Hanjour, flew Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon (see (December 2000-January 2001)). (Tremlett 9/9/2002) The 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation, will place Hanjour in Afghanistan in spring 2000, indicating he will arrive some months after this meeting is held, and could not therefore attend it. Please note: information from detainee interrogations is thought to be unreliable due to the methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) In a substitution for testimony introduced as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, KSM will place Hanjour’s arrival at the training camps in Afghanistan in “September or October” of 2000. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006, pp. 23 )
Some attendees of the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), arrive early. Al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had lost a leg while fighting in Afghanistan in 1997. In early December 1999, he was in Afghanistan with Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) and others, attending a hijacking training course (see Late 1999 and Early December 1999). Bin Attash and al-Taizi have been selected by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to be hijackers for a planned Asian portion of the 9/11 plot (which will later be cancelled).
Surgery for Bin Attash's Leg - Bin Attash goes early to an al-Qaeda summit where hijacking plans will be discussed, in order to have prosthetic surgery for his leg. Al-Taizi goes with him. Malaysian security is said to be lax for Islamist militants, and Malaysia does not require a visa for citizens of many Middle Eastern countries. There is a clinic in Kuala Lumpur called Endolite, and other wounded militants have said they successfully concealed the origins of their combat wounds when receiving treatment there. Bin Attash got a prosthetic leg in Malaysia not long after losing his leg in 1997, but he is coming back to get a better one. He apparently gets the money for the prosthesis from his father, Osama bin Laden, and another al-Qaeda figure.
Link with Hambali - When bin Attash and al-Taizi arrive in Kuala Lumpur, they contact Hambali, the top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia. Hambali picks them up at the airport and takes them to his home. Then he takes them to the Endolite clinic. Bin Attash and al-Taizi stay at or near the clinic for about 10 to 14 days. Bin Attash then takes about four flights in Southeast Asia to learn about security for the hijacking plan (see December 31, 1999-January 2, 2000), while al-Taizi apparently stays in Kuala Lumpur. According to Hambali’s later Guantanamo prison file, bin Attash and al-Taizi also investigate the security of US aircraft carriers in the region.
Others Arrive - On January 3, with bin Attash back from his flights, the two of them move to Yazid Sufaat’s condominium where the al-Qaeda summit will be held. Future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi arrives there the next day. 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar arrives the day after that, and other attendees are arriving as well, allowing the summit to begin (see January 5-8, 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 158-159; US Department of Defense 12/6/2006; US Department of Defense 10/25/2008; US Department of Defense 10/30/2008) Note that this information is based on prisoner interrogations, which can be highly unreliable. However, it should be noted that the accounts of bin Attash, Hambali, and al-Taizi appear to largely match.
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spends three weeks in Italy in early 2000. This is according to the BKA (German intelligence). It is unknown what he does there or who he meets. It also will not be made public when the BKA learns this. (McDermott 2005, pp. 209, 299)
Two future 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are given the contact of someone useful in the US, and they may utilize this contact when they move to the US a short time later. Dhiren Barot is a British citizen who was born in India, and by early 2000 he has been involved with Islamist militants for several years. For instance, he fought with militants in Kashmir and was an instructor at an Afghan training camp. According to a footnote in a 9/11 Commission report, Barot is sent to Malaysia with al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash on the orders of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). Bin Attash attends an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur that is also attended by Amihdhar and Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000). Barot apparently does not attend the summit, but shortly afterwards he meets with al-Qaeda leader Hambali, who does attend the summit, and he gives him two addresses. According to the 9/11 Commission, one of the addresses is in the US, “possibly in California,” and the other address is in South Africa. He tells Hambali that he could “contact people in those locations” if he “needed help.” Hambali will later be captured and will deny to interrogators that he ever passed the addresses on to anyone else. But Newsweek will later report, “US officials are dubious about Hambali’s denials and suspect that the unspecified US address in California may well have been passed along to [Almihdhar and Alhazmi].” (Isikoff and Hosenball 8/16/2004) These two hijackers fly to Los Angeles, California, only about a week after the summit, and begin living in San Diego (see January 15, 2000). Presumably, the US address would point to at least one conspirator in the 9/11 plot living in the US, but if the name of this person is known to investigators, it is not made public.
According to the 2008 Guantanamo file of al-Qaeda leader Hambali, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) spends a week with 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in the condominium where the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit is held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). Hambali’s file states that “KU-10024 [KSM’s identification number at Guantanamo] spent a week at an apartment [Hambali] arranged for him the Song Gai Long district of Kuala Lumpur, MY. At this apartment, KU-10024 stayed with 11 September hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdar.” (US Department of Defense 10/30/2008) Hambali’s file does not state when this occurs, but by far the most likely time is during the al-Qaeda summit in January 2000, since this is the only time Alhazmi is known to stay in Malaysia, and the only other times Almihdhar is known to visit Malaysia (see October 2000 and June 2001), Alhazmi is living in the US, since he never leaves the US from when he arrives in mid-January 2000 until 9/11 (see January 15, 2000). Furthermore, the summit meetings are held in Yazid Sufaat’s condominium, which is in a golf course-centered complex on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur called Bandar Sungai Long - Hambali’s mention of “Song Gai Long” is obviously a reference to this. (Flood 9/11/2010) After 9/11, there will be some controversy as to whether KSM attended the Malaysian summit or not (see January 5-8, 2000), but Hambali’s account suggests KSM was staying at the condominium all four days of the summit, and a few more days as well. The 9/11 Commission will not mention KSM staying at Sufaat’s condominium, but they will mention that Alhazmi, Almihdhar, al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash, and al-Qaeda operative Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) stay there during the summit. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 159)
About a dozen of Osama bin Laden’s trusted followers hold a secret, “top-level al-Qaeda summit” in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Ressa 8/30/2002; Eckert 9/27/2002) According to an unnamed senior CIA official, before the summit started, the CIA learned that “11 young guys” were going to attend, and “young guys” is slang for operatives traveling. (Bamford 2008, pp. 18) Plans for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 9/11 attacks are discussed. (Kelley 2/12/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002) At the request of the CIA, the Malaysian Secret Service monitors the summit and then passes the information on to the US (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Attendees of the summit are said to include:
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar - The CIA and FBI will later miss many opportunities to foil the 9/11 plot through Alhazmi and Almihdhar and the knowledge of their presence at this summit. The CIA already knows many details about these two by the time the summit begins (see January 2-4, 2000), and tracked Almihdhar as he traveled to it (see January 2-5, 2000).
Yazid Sufaat - Sufaat is a Malaysian who owns the condominium where the summit is held. He is also a trained biologist and is said to be a leading figure in al-Qaeda’s attempts to get a biological or chemical weapon. (Shenon and Johnston 1/31/2002; Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) Malaysian officials also recognize Sufaat from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). (Pereira 2/10/2002) A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through Sufaat’s presence at this summit will later be missed in September 2000 (see September-October 2000). Sufaat will travel to Afghanistan in June 2001 and be arrested by Malaysian authorities when he returns to Malaysia in late 2001 (see December 19, 2001). (Abuza 12/24/2002) He will be released in 2008 (see December 4, 2008).
Hambali - An Indonesian militant known as Hambali, or Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin (BBC 8/15/2003) , was heavily involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994). (Ressa 3/14/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002) The FBI was aware of who he was and his connections to the Bojinka plot at least by 1999 and identified a photograph of him by that time (see May 23, 1999). He will be arrested by Thai authorities in August 2003 (see August 12, 2003). (CNN 8/14/2003; CBS News 8/15/2003) Malaysian officials recognize Hambali from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident. But the US does not tell them of his Bojinka connections, so they will not know to arrest him after the summit is over (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). (Pereira 2/10/2002)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - Mohammed is sometimes referred to as “KSM,” an al-Qaeda leader and the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. The US has known KSM is an Islamic militant since the exposure of Operation Bojinka in January 1995 (see January 6, 1995), and knows what he looks like. US officials will state that they only realized the summit was important in 2001, but the presence of KSM should have proved its importance. (Fineman and Drogin 2/2/2002) Although the possible presence of KSM at this summit will be disputed by US officials, one counterterrorism expert will testify before the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he has access to transcripts of KSM’s interrogations since his capture, and that KSM has admitted leading this summit and telling the attendees about a planes-as-weapons plot targeting the US (see July 9, 2003). (Isikoff and Hosenball 7/9/2003; Blomquist 7/10/2003) Many other media reports will identify him as being there. (Gumbel 6/6/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002; Ressa 11/7/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 10/29/2003) For instance, according to Newsweek: “Mohammed’s presence would make the intelligence failure of the CIA even greater. It would mean the agency literally watched as the 9/11 scheme was hatched—and had photographs of the attack’s mastermind… doing the plotting.” (Isikoff and Hosenball 7/9/2003) In Hambali’s 2008 Guantanamo file, it will be mentioned that KSM stays a week at Sufaat’s condominium with Alhazmi and Almihdhar, which would seem to make clear that KSM is there for the entire duration of the summit (see Early January 2000). (US Department of Defense 10/30/2008)
Khallad bin Attash - Khallad bin Attash, a “trusted member of bin Laden’s inner circle,” is in charge of bin Laden’s bodyguards, and serves as bin Laden’s personal intermediary at least for the USS Cole bombing. (Klaidman, Isikoff, and Hosenball 9/20/2001 ) He is also thought to be a “mastermind” of that attack. Attash is reportedly planning to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but will be unable to get a US visa. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) US intelligence had been aware of his identity as early as 1995. (US Congress 9/18/2002) A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin Attash’s presence at this summit will be missed in January 2001 (see January 4, 2001). Bin Attash had been previously arrested in Yemen for suspected terror ties, but was let go (see Summer 1999). (Abuza 12/1/2002) He will be captured in Pakistan by the US in April 2003 (see April 29, 2003). In 2008, Newsweek will report that bin Attash confessed during interrogation that, while staying at Sufaat’s condominium, he and Alhazmi talked “about the possibility of hijacking planes and crashing them or holding passengers as hostages.” (Hosenball 12/16/2008)
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - Al-Nashiri is one of al-Qaeda’s top field commanders and operates out of Malaysia while 9/11 is being prepared. (Los Angeles Times 10/10/2001; Gunaratna 2003, pp. 188; Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 59) He was involved in an arms smuggling plot (see 1997) and the East African embassy bombings (see August 22-25 1998), in which his cousin was martyred (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He also organized the attack against the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000), and will be involved in the attacks against the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). He will be arrested in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002 (see Early October 2002). An al-Qaeda operative identified a photo of al-Nashiri for the FBI in late 1998 (see August 22-25 1998). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3) (Note: in the sources, al-Nashiri is referred to by two of his aliases: Muhammad Omar al-Harazi and Al Safani.) (CNN 12/11/2000; Central Intelligence Agency 9/6/2006)
Ramzi bin al-Shibh - Investigators believe he wants to be the 20th 9/11 hijacker. His presence at the summit may not be realized until after 9/11, despite the fact that US intelligence has a picture of him next to bin Attash, and has video footage of him. (Thomas 11/26/2001; Finn 7/14/2002; Elliott 9/15/2002; Schrom 10/1/2002; Ressa 11/7/2002) German police will have credit card receipts indicating bin al-Shibh is in Malaysia at this time. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Ulrich Kersten, director of Germany’s federal anticrime agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, will later say, “There are indications that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was in Kuala Lumpur for the meeting.” (Frantz and Butler 8/24/2002) Another account noting he was photographed at the summit will further note that he enters and leaves Thailand three times in the first three weeks of January 2000. (Drogin and Meyer 10/17/2001) Anonymous Malaysian officials will later claim he is at the summit, but US officials will deny it. Two local militants who serve as drivers for the attendees will later be arrested in Malaysia. They will be shown photos of the attendees, and confirm that bin al-Shibh was at the summit. (Sullivan 9/20/2002) One account will say he is recognized at the time of the summit, which makes it hard to understand why he is not tracked back to Germany and the Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers. (Gebauer 10/1/2002) Another opportunity to expose the 9/11 plot through bin al-Shibh’s presence at this summit will be missed in June. It appears bin al-Shibh and Almihdhar are directly involved in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 (see October 10-21, 2000). (Whitaker 10/15/2001; Finn 7/14/2002; Hosenball 9/4/2002)
Salem Alhazmi - Alhazmi, a 9/11 hijacker and brother of Nawaf Alhazmi, is possibly at the summit, although very few accounts will mention it. (Abuza 12/24/2002) US intelligence intercepts from before the summit indicate that he at least had plans to attend. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 )
Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) - A Yemeni al-Qaeda operative, al-Taizi is reportedly meant to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but will be unable to enter the US due to greater scrutiny for Yemenis. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) Al-Taizi will be captured in Pakistan in February 2002, and then sent to the US prison in Guantanamo a few months later (see February 7, 2002). According to his 2008 Guantanamo file, he traveled from Afghanistan to Malaysia with bin Attash about two weeks before the summit. Bin Attash was missing a leg, and he had a prosthetic leg fitted and then stayed in the hospital to recover from the surgery. Bin Attash and al-Taizi stay at Sufaat’s house for the duration of the summit. Al-Taizi then flies to Yemen to visit his family there. (US Department of Defense 10/25/2008)
Others - Unnamed members of the Egyptian-based Islamic Jihad are also said to be at the summit. (King and Bhatt 10/21/2001) Islamic Jihad merged with al-Qaeda in February 1998. (James 11/17/2001) However, according to the Wall Street Journal, bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso are suspected of being Islamic Jihad members at one point, so this may just be a reference to them. (Cloud, Wartzman, and Tkacik 10/8/2001) Note that there are a total of 10 names mentioned above, and it will be reported that the CIA learned that 11 operatives were to attend, so either not all of them make it, or some names of attendees will remain unknown.
Summit Associates - The following individuals are probably not at the summit meetings, but are in the region and assisting or linked with the attendees at this time:
Fahad Al-Quso - Al-Quso is a top al-Qaeda operative who is involved in the bombing of the USS Cole. Some sources will indicate al-Quso is present in Malaysia, and a person who looks like him will later be seen in a photograph of the meeting (see June 11, 2001). (Klaidman, Isikoff, and Hosenball 9/20/2001 ) However, other sources will say al-Quso did not reach Kuala Lumpur, but met with bin Attash around this time in Bangkok, Thailand (see January 5-6, 2000 and January 8-15, 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 159; Wright 2006, pp. 330) Although al-Quso apparently is not at the summit, there are a series of phone calls during the time of the summit between his hotel in Bangkok, a phone booth near the condominium where the summit is held, and his family home in Yemen (see (January 5-8, 2000)). Al-Quso will be arrested by Yemeni authorities in the fall of 2000 (see Late October-Late November 2000), but the FBI will not be given a chance to fully interrogate him before 9/11. He will escape from prison in 2003. (CNN 5/15/2003)
Ahmad Sajuli Abdul Rahman - An operative of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate, Sajuli takes the visiting Arabs around Kuala Lumpur, but apparently does not attend the summit meetings. (US Congress 10/17/2002) According to the later Guantanamo file of summit attendee al-Taizi, one of the attendees Sajuli escorts around town is future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. Sajuli also helps arrange al-Taizi’s transportation at the end of the summit. (US Department of Defense 10/25/2008) Sajuli will be arrested in Malaysia in December 2001 (see December 29, 2001).
Ahmad Hikmat Shakir - A suspected al-Qaeda agent of Iraqi nationality, Shakir is a greeter at Kuala Lumpur airport. He meets Almihdhar there and travels with him to the apartment where the summit is held, but he probably does not attend the summit meetings. (Associated Press 10/2/2002; Isikoff and Klaidman 10/7/2002; Abuza 12/24/2002; Landay 6/12/2004) After 9/11, he will be linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Bojinka plot. Jordan will arrest him and let him go after the US says it doesn’t want to take custody of him (see September 17, 2001).
Dhiren Barot - Dhiren Barot (a.k.a. Abu Eissa al-Hindi) is a British citizen of Indian descent. According to a 2006 Observer article, Barot “is not believed to have been present” at the summit meetings. However, he does go to Kuala Lumpur during the time of the summit with summit attendee bin Attash. And shortly after the summit, Barot holds meetings with Hambali. It will later be reported that Barot is sent by KSM to New York City in early 2001 to case potential targets there, although whether this is part of the 9/11 plot or some other plot is unclear (see May 30, 2001). Barot will be arrested in 2004 in Britain for plotting attacks there, and sentenced to 30 years in prison (see August 3, 2004). (Doward 12/12/2006)
Another Unnamed Local Militant - Malaysian officials will say that two local Jemaah Islamiyah act as drivers for the attendees. These drivers apparently have no idea who the attendees are or what they are doing; they are just tasked to drive them around. In a 2002 Associated Press article, officials will not name these drivers, but will say that they are among the dozens of alleged Jemaah Islamiyah militants arrested in December 2001 and January 2002. Since Sajuli mentioned above is arrested at that time, he presumably is one of these drivers. It is not known who the other driver is. (Sufaat will be arrested at that time as well, but the Associated Press article will make clear Sufaat is not one of the drivers.) (Sullivan 9/20/2002)
Probably Not Involved: Mohamed al-Khatani - A Saudi, he allegedly will confess to attending the summit while being held in the US Guantanamo prison (see July 2002). He apparently will unsuccessfully attempt to enter the US in August 2001 to join the 9/11 plot (see August 4, 2001). However, al-Khatani will later recant his testimony and say he lied to avoid torture (see October 26, 2006). Furthermore, his 2008 Guantanamo file, leaked to the public in 2011, contains no hint of him even possibly attending the summit. The contents of the file must be treated with extreme caution, especially since he is repeatedly and brutally tortured (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003 and January 14, 2009). But according to the general narrative of the file, al-Khatani had no involvement with Islamist militancy in early 2000, only starts to get involved with militants in mid-2000, and first attends a militant training camp in Afghanistan in late 2000. (US Department of Defense 10/30/2008)
FBI agent Jack Cloonan, a member of the FBI’s I-49 bin Laden squad, will tell author Peter Lance after 9/11 that another FBI agent belonging to I-49 named Frank Pellegrino saw some of the surveillance photos taken of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia several months earlier (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Cloonan will say, “Pellegrino was in Kuala Lumpur,” the capital of Malaysia. “And the CIA chief of station said, ‘I’m not supposed to show these photographs, but here. Take a look at these photographs. Know any of these guys?’” But Pellegrino does not recognize them, as he is working to catch Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and apparently is not involved in other cases. However, there have been numerous reports that KSM was at the summit (see January 5-8, 2000). Further, Lance will note that if Pellegrino could not identify KSM, he could have recognized Hambali, another attendee of the summit. Pellegrino was in the Philippines in 1995 and worked with local officials there as they interrogated Abdul Hakim Murad, one of the Bojinka bombers (see February-Early May 1995). During this time, Murad’s interrogators learned about Hambali’s involvement in a front company called Konsonjaya and passed the information on to US officials (see Spring 1995). Further, an FBI report from 1999 shows the FBI was aware of Hambali’s ties to Konsonjaya by that time (see May 23, 1999). (Lance 2006, pp. 340-341)
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; Freeman 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. (Elegant 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.
According to the 2008 charge sheet at his military tribunal, 9/11 facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali speaks on the telephone to 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, who is living in San Diego at this time. The call or calls are apparently made at the direction of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and are about a wire transfer from Ali to Alhazmi made in mid-April (see April 16-18, 2000). The source of the claim that the calls are made contained in the charge sheet is not specified, so it is unclear whether it is only based on statements made by detainees under interrogation, which may be unreliable (see June 16, 2004), or whether it is corroborated by other evidence, such as phone company records. (US Department of Defense 2/11/2008 ) At least some calls between Alhazmi and his partner, hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen are being monitored by the NSA at this point (see Spring-Summer 2000). However, it is unclear whether the call or calls to Ali are picked up by the NSA, or a joint CIA-NSA program to support “black ops” in progress at this time (see After July 11, 1997).
TIPOFF is a US no-fly list of individuals who should be detained if they attempt to leave or enter the US. There are about 60,000 names on this list by 9/11 (see December 11, 1999). Apparently there had been no prohibition of travel inside the US, but on this day an FAA security directive puts six names on a newly created domestic no-fly list. All six are said to be associates of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, including his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). On August 28, 2001, six more names will be added to this list. Apparently all 12 names are associated with al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey will later note the discrepancy of the 60,000-name list with the 12-name list and comment, “seems to me, particularly with what was going on at the time, that some effort would have been made to make—to produce a larger list than [only 12 names].” (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) The FAA’s chief of security in 2001, Cathal Flynn, will later say that he was “unaware of the TIPOFF list” until after the September 11 attacks. 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton will say that this admission is “stunning, just unbeleivable,” and an “example of absolute incompetence” at the FAA. Other FAA officials will say they are aware of the larger list, but do not make much use of it. (Shenon 2008, pp. 115) On the day of 9/11, two of the 9/11 hijackers will be on the 60,000-name TIPOFF list but not the 12-name domestic list, so airport security does not know to stop them from boarding the planes they hijack that day (see August 23, 2001).
From June 28 to 30, 2000, there are over a dozen calls from future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s cell phone in New York to the home phone of 9/11 facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi) in the United Arab Emirates. Ali is the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. On June 29, Ali sends $5,000 to 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in the US, and more money from Ali to the hijackers follows over the next few months (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). Ali will later be imprisoned by the US. In a 2007 tribunal hearing, in proclaiming his innocence, he will admit the calls and money transfers took place, but say that he spoke to Alshehhi, and he thought Alshehhi was just a businessman (see March 30, 2007). Atta and Alshsehhi are traveling together at the time. (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 ) It seems probable that US investigators will later learn of these calls because they are one of the rare times Atta’s cell phone is used for overseas calls (instead of using pay phones), and thus they show up on phone records (see June 4, 2000-September 11, 2001).
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) prepares to attack US military personnel in Singapore, but consults al-Qaeda’s top leaders and passes them a casing video before it begins carrying out the plot. The initial plan is to attack a bus that transports US military personnel from a metro station in Singapore and is devised by a JI operative called Faiz abu Baker Bafana. However, when the proposal is shown to JI leader Hambali, Bafana is told that he needs the approval of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for the operation and that he has to travel to Afghanistan to get it. Bafana cannot find KSM, so he talks to Mohammed Atef, who promises to provide funding and suicide bombers, as long as JI contributes explosives and transport. KSM subsequently sends Bafana money for the operation. 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar apparently visits Malaysia twice to move the plot forward (see October 2000 and June 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 3/8/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 3/8/2006) JI sends Atef a casing video, which will be found after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Even though the US sits on the video for a month, Singapore is able to roll the plot up based on information it obtains on its own (see November 15-Late December 2001).
Jack Roche, an Australian Caucasian Muslim, tries to inform on al-Qaeda for Australia or the US, but is ignored. In April, Roche returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Malaysia, where he took an explosives training course and met with bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. In Pakistan, Mohammed discussed attacking US jets in Australia and gave Roche money to start an al-Qaeda cell in Australia. Roche also met Hambali in Malaysia and was given more money there. Early this month, he tries to call the US embassy in Australia, but they ignore him. He then tries to contact The Australian intelligence agency several times, but they too ignore him. In September 2000, his housemate also tries to contact Australian intelligence about what he has learned from Roche but his call is ignored as well. Australian Prime Minister John Howard later acknowledges that authorities made a “very serious mistake” in ignoring Roche, though he also downplays the importance of Roche’s information. Roche is later sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up an Israeli embassy. (McGeown 6/1/2004; Paddock 6/7/2004)
According to a post-9/11 confession obtained from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash persuades hijacker Khalid Almihdhar to return to Afghanistan to meet with KSM. At the meeting, Almihdhar complains about life in the US but says he is confident he will be able to obtain another visa, as he left the US before his first one expired. He also tells Mohammed about the problems he and Nawaf Alhazmi have had enrolling in language schools and says they believe they were monitored when they flew from Bangkok to the US in January 2000 (see January 15, 2000) (it is not clear who may have monitored them). Supposedly, KSM is angry that Almihdhar left the US without permission and wishes to exclude Almihdhar from the mission, but bin Laden himself intervenes and keeps Almihdhar involved. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 237, 269; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006, pp. 20-21 ) Doubts have been raised about the reliability of KSM’s confession, as it was obtained using torture (see June 16, 2004). According to author Ron Suskind, at one point interrogators even threaten to hurt KSM’s children, a seven-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl, unless he provides more information. (Suskind 2006, pp. 230)
Zacarias Moussaoui had been staying in Malaysia so that he could take flight training classes at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca. However, he is unhappy with the quality of training there. He takes the $35,000 given to him by his hosts, Yazid Sufaat and Hambali, and spends it to buy fertilizer to construct bombs. Then he gives up and travels to London in early December (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000), where he meets with Ramzi bin al-Shibh (who stays in London from December 2 to 9). Hambali sends a messenger to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan to complain about Moussaoui’s attitude. On December 9, Moussaoui leaves London. He makes his way to Afghanistan and meets with Mohammed. Mohammed decides to send him to take flight training classes in the US instead. He is given $35,000 in cash to pay for flying lessons by someone in Pakistan. After he enters the US in February, bin al-Shibh wires him another $14,000 from Germany. (Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002; Eggen 3/28/2003; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. (ABC News 10/13/2000; Coll 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 191) The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). (Whitaker 10/14/2000) The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 184) The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” (Whitaker 10/13/2001) The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 190)
The US puts out an international arrest warrant for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The warrant seeks KSM in connection with the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). (Hall 3/13/2003) It is not clear why the US waited so long to issue this warrant, considering that the US connected him to a major terrorist act back in 1993 (see March 20, 1993), learned he was a major figure in the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996), secretly indicted him in January 1996, and placed a $2 million reward on his head in January 1998 (see January 8, 1998).
A taxi driver from Bavaria, Germany, will tell police after 9/11 that in April 2000 or April 2001 he drives three Afghans from Furth, Germany, to meet future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Hamburg. According to Focus, a German newsweekly, Atta pays the approximately $650 taxi bill. Police will later determine the identities of the suspicious passengers. One of them, aged 44, trained as a pilot in Afghanistan. His 33-year-old brother is another passenger. The brother has military training and has just come back from the US. No details of the third man will be made public. Video tapes, aviation papers, and documents that are confiscated in their house will be investigated after 9/11. (Elflein et al. 9/24/2001) The BBC will also report on this taxi ride two months after Focus does. But in the BBC version, the taxi ride happens in April 2001. The taxi driver, Karl-Heinz Horst, will be interviewed by the BBC. He will say that at one point the taxi goes by a road accident with injured people on the ground, and one of the men in the taxi jokes that he’d seen plenty of dead bodies in Afghanistan when he was a soldier there. Horst will also mention that the man who tells the dead bodies joke jumps out and hugs Atta when they arrive at the Hamburg railway station where Atta is waiting for them. (BBC 12/12/2001) In mid-2002, Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Pakistan (see April, June, or August 2002). He will later claim he asked KSM about this taxi ride. KSM neither confirms nor denies that he was the third man in the taxi. A 2003 book co-written by Fouda will also say the taxi ride takes place in April 2001. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137) It will be claimed that KSM is in Italy for three weeks in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi wires $1,360 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to someone in Johannesburg, South Africa. The name of the person who receives the Western Union wire is Abdullah Abdulrahman Alghamdi, according to an FBI document of 9/11 hijacker activities made after the attacks. (Investigative Services Division, FBI Headquarters 4/19/2002) The name may be an alias for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who uses very similar aliases and travels very widely in the years before 9/11 (see for instance June 1998). For example, around this same time KSM applies for a US visa using a passport with the name Abdulrahman al Ghamdi and a real photo of himself (see July 23, 2001). Also, a 2006 Guantanamo document will give one of his aliases as Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faqasi al-Ghamdi. (US Department of Defense 8/12/2006) A later Justice Department indictment will give one of his aliases as Abdulrahman Abdullah al-Ghamdi. (US District Court Southern District of New York 4/4/2011 ) There is no publicly known al-Qaeda presence in South Africa at this time. However, there is an intriguing mention in another intelligence document that an al-Qaeda operative linked to KSM told another al-Qaeda leader in early 2000 of an address in South Africa where a contact existed who could provide help (see Early January 2000).
The US introduces the “Visa Express” program in Saudi Arabia, which allows any Saudi Arabian to obtain a visa through his or her travel agent instead of appearing at a consulate in person. An official later states, “The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person in the documents and application.” (Pound 12/12/2001; US Congress 9/20/2002) At the time, warnings of an attack against the US led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden are higher than they had ever been before—
“off the charts” as one senator later puts it. (Drogin 5/18/2002; US Congress 9/18/2002) A terrorism conference had recently concluded that Saudi Arabia was one of four top nationalities in al-Qaeda. (Gordon 5/19/2002)
Suspect Travel Agency - Ten Saudi travel agency companies are allowed to issue US visas as part of the program. One company, Fursan Travel and Tourism, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., a multibillion Saudi banking conglomerate. Fursan is also the only one out of the ten deputized to handle the collection and initial processing of US visas. After 9/11, the CIA will suggest taking action against Al Rajhi for its suspected support of Islamist militancy, but the Bush Administration will decide not to do anything (see Mid-2003 and Mid-2003). It is believed that al-Qaeda and other militant groups advised their operatives to use Al Rajhi for their banking needs (see Before September 11, 2001). (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
Used by 9/11 Plotters - Five hijackers—Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad—use Visa Express over the next month to enter the US. (US Congress 9/20/2002) Alomari has a bank account with Al Rajhi, but it is unknown if he or any of the other hijackers use Fursan, the Al Rajhi subsidiary, since the names of travel agencies do not appear on copies of the hijackers’ visa applications that are later made public. (Mowbray 10/13/2003) Even 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will successfully get a US Visa through the “Visa Express” program in July (using a false name but real photograph), despite a posted $2 million reward for his capture. (Miller and Meyer 1/27/2004)
Saudi Visas Almost Never Rejected - Only three percent of Saudi visa applicants are turned down by US consular officers in fiscal 2000 and 2001. In contrast, about 25 percent of US visa seekers worldwide are rejected. Acceptance is even more difficult for applicants from countries alleged to have ties to terrorism such as Iraq or Iran. (Sheridan 10/31/2001) The widely criticized program is finally canceled in July 2002, after a public outcry. (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
In 2001, bin Laden apparently pressures Khalid Shaikh Mohammed for an attack date earlier than 9/11. According to information obtained from the 9/11 Commission (apparently based on a prison interrogation of Mohammed), bin Laden first requests an attack date of May 12, 2001, the seven-month anniversary of the USS Cole bombing. Then, when bin Laden learns from the media that Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be visiting the White House in June or July 2001, he attempts once more to accelerate the operation to coincide with his visit. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) The surge of warnings around this time could be related to these original preparations. By mid-July, US intelligence will learn of this delay (see July 13, 2001).
Around this time, the NSA intercepts telephone conversations between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, but apparently it does not share the information with any other agencies. The FBI has had a $2 million reward for KSM since 1998 (see January 8, 1998), while Atta is in charge of hijacker operations inside the US. (Landay 6/6/2002; Gumbel 6/6/2002) The monitored calls between the two of them continue until September 10, one day before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). The NSA either fails to translate these messages in a timely fashion or fails to understand the significance of what was translated. (Landay 6/6/2002) However, it will later be revealed that an FBI squad built an antenna in the Indian Ocean some time before 9/11 with the specific purpose of listening in on KSM’s phone calls, so they may have learned about these calls to Atta on their own (see Before September 11, 2001).
Word begins to spread within al-Qaeda that an attack against the US is imminent, according to later prison interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Many within al-Qaeda are aware that Mohammed has been preparing operatives to go to the US. Additionally, bin Laden makes several remarks hinting at an upcoming attack, spawning rumors throughout Muslim extremist circles worldwide.
In a recorded speech at the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)
Members of the “Lackawanna Six” see bin Laden give a recorded speech at the Al Farooq camp in which he urges trainees to pray for 40 en route on a very important mission. It is not known if this is the same as the other Al Farooq speech or a separate one (see (June 2001)).
A bin Laden bodyguard later will claim that in May 2001 or earlier in the year he heard bin Laden tell people in Afghanistan that the US would be hit with an attack, and thousands would die (see Early 2001). (Tanner 11/28/2002)
In mid-June 2001, bin Laden tells training camp trainees there will be an attack in the near future. US intelligence soon learns of this (see Mid-June 2001).
In June 2001, the CIA hears that Arabs in Afghanistan are said to be anticipating as many as eight celebrations, and al-Qaeda operatives are being told to await important news within days (see June 2001).
John Walker Lindh learns details of the 9/11 attack despite being a Caucasian and US citizen who only recently converted to Islam (see May-June 2001).
There are other indications that knowledge of the attacks spreads in Afghanistan. The Daily Telegraph later reports that “the idea of an attack on a skyscraper [is] discussed among [bin Laden’s] supporters in Kabul.” At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul sees diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a “nerve center” for al-Qaeda activity. (Philps 11/16/2001) US soldiers will later find forged visas, altered passports, listings of Florida flight schools and registration papers for a flight simulator in al-Qaeda houses in Afghanistan. (Rohde 12/6/2001)
A candidate 9/11 hijacker named Abderraouf Jdey is possibly arrested and then released in the US around this time, although details remain very murky.
CIA Officer's Curious Report - In 2010, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen will write a public report for the Harvard Kennedy School entitled, “Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?” Mowatt-Larssen was a CIA official from 1982 to 2005, and was head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) for a time. Around the time of 9/11, he was the head of the CTC’s weapons of mass destruction branch (see 1982, Early October-December 2001, and November 2005). In a timeline in Mowatt-Larssen’s report, there is this entry for Summer 2001: “Detention of Abderraouf Yousef Jdey, a biology major with possible interest in biological and nuclear weapons, who traveled with Zacharias Moussaoui from Canada into the United States. Moussaoui is detained with crop duster manuals in his possession; Jdey had biology textbooks. Earlier, they attended McMaster University in Canada, along with Adnan Shukrijumah.” This entry is very curious, because although the report is said to be based entirely on publicly sourced material, there has been no public information about Jdey’s arrest or link with Moussaoui, and the footnotes to the entry do not mention these things either. (Mowatt-Larson 1/2010 )
Jdey's 9/11 Connection - In late 1999, Jdey may have attended an advanced training course in Afghanistan also attended by 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see Late 1999). He may also have been instructed by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed at the same time as hijacker Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin-al-Shibh. A letter recovered from a safe house in Afghanistan in late 2001, apparently written by al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel, says that Jdey was originally meant to be one of the 9/11 hijackers. A videotape of Jdey pledging to be a martyr was also discovered in mid-November 2001 in Afghanistan, in the wreckage of al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef’s house (see November 15-Late December 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 527)
Jdey Is Highly Wanted After 9/11 - Jdey was born in Tunisia, but became a Canadian citizen in the mid-1990s. After 9/11, it is known that he leaves Canada in November 2001. In January 2002, the US government will announce they are seeking him. In 2005, the FBI will announce a $5 million reward for him. (Lichtblau 1/26/2002; CBC News 5/27/2004; Rewards for Justice 4/2005)
Mystery Is Unresolved - If Mowatt-Larssen is correct and Jdey was arrested before 9/11, this would have been a vital opportunity to stop the 9/11 plot, and if he was connected with Moussaoui, that would dramatically change the circumstances of Moussaoui’s arrest. It would also mean there would had to have been a cover-up of Jdey’s arrest in the years since 9/11.
A CIA report says that a man named “Khaled” is actively recruiting people to travel to various countries, including the US, to stage attacks. CIA headquarters presume from the details of this report that Khaled is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). On July 11, the individual source for this report is shown a series of photographs and identifies KSM as the person he called “Khaled.” (Diamond 12/12/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533) This report also reveals that:
Al-Qaeda operatives heading to the US would be “expected to establish contact with colleagues already living there.”
KSM himself had traveled to the US frequently, and as recently as May 2001.
KSM is a relative of bomber Ramzi Yousef.
He appears to be one of bin Laden’s most trusted leaders.
He routinely tells others that he can arrange their entry into the US as well. However, the CIA doesn’t find this report credible because they think it is unlikely that he would come to the US (in fact, it appears he had (see Summer 1998)). Nevertheless, they consider it worth pursuing. One agent replies, “If it is KSM, we have both a significant threat and an opportunity to pick him up.” In July, the source clarifies that the last time he can definitely place KSM in the US was in the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998). The CIA disseminates the report to all other US intelligence agencies, military commanders, and parts of the Treasury and Justice Departments. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later request that the CIA inform them how CIA agents and other agencies reacted to this information, but the CIA does not respond to this. (US Congress 7/24/2003) It appears that KSM will send at least one and probably two operatives to the US after this time and before 9/11 (see August 4, 2001 and September 10, 2001). On July 23, 2001, the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will give KSM a US visa (he uses an alias but his actual photo appears on his application) (see July 23, 2001). Also, during this summer and as late as September 10, 2001, the NSA will intercept phone calls between KSM and Mohamed Atta, but the NSA will not share this information with any other agencies (see Summer 2001).
Some al-Qaeda operatives hold a meeting in northern Spain to finalize plans for the 9/11 attacks. Those allegedly present are listed below. The first two operatives listed are definitely present; it is less certain that the others are there:
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Olmedo 9/30/2001)
Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an associate of Atta from Hamburg, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. Spanish authorities are notified of his arrival in the country by German intelligence (see (Around July 9, 2001)). (Frantz 5/1/2002)
Some reports say that 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi attends, although if he does, he may use a false identity, as US immigration has no records of his departure or return. (Olmedo 9/30/2001; US Department of Justice 5/20/2002)
The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia will later report that 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri meet Atta on July 16. (Associated Press 9/27/2001) However, there will be no mention of them attending the meeting in some other accounts. For example, their attendance will not be mentioned in the relevant section of the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5)
Amer el-Azizi. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Shrader 1/23/2005) El-Azizi, who seems to have made preparations for the meeting, is under surveillance at this time, as Spanish authorities are listening in on his phone calls. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004) Calls possibly related to the meeting’s organization were overheard (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 4/14/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon will later indict el-Azizi for helping plan 9/11 and say that he assisted the plotters by arranging accommodation for them and acting as a courier. However, US officials will be less certain of his involvement. (Shrader 1/23/2005) His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).
Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in Spain. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003)
Mohammed Belfatmi. Belfatmi is an associate of Yarkas, and lives near the hotels where Atta and bin al-Shibh stay. He will flee Europe just before 9/11 with Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see September 3-5, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)
Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, associates of Atta’s from Germany.
Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni.
Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg. According to Spanish investigators, Bahaji is with Atta the entire time, and they both stay at the Monica Hotel. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). In 2002, Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and KSM together before either of them are arrested (see April, June, or August 2002). Neither bin al-Shibh nor KSM will discuss any details of the meeting with Fouda, including who attended. KSM will neither confirm nor deny he was there. However, in a 2003 book, Fouda will claim that, according to Spanish investigators, the initial attendees are Atta, bin al-Shibh, Bahaji, and a fourth man who might be KSM. They are later joined by Alshehhi and two unnamed others. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
However, there is a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of Spain, at this time, and Yarkas, Darkazanli, Zammar, and Allouni may only be at that meeting, and may not meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in person (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003) After being captured, bin al-Shibh will deny meeting anyone other than Atta while in Spain. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5) However, questions will be raised about the quality of information obtained from detainees due to the methods—including torture—used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). The movements of Atta and his associates in Spain are apparently mirrored by those of FBI agents John O’Neill and Mark Rossini (see July 5-16, 2001).
According to the 9/11 Commission, during their meeting in Spain where they discuss the looming attacks (see July 8-19, 2001), 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta tells would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh he has considered targeting a nuclear facility he saw during familiarization flights near New York. This is presumably Indian Point, which is about 30 miles north of NYC. (Herbert 4/4/2002) Flight 11, which Atta pilots on 9/11, passes directly over Indian Point minutes before hitting the WTC (see 8:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, “the other pilots did not like the idea. They thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact.… Nor would a nuclear facility have particular symbolic value.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 245) Also, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 “mastermind,” supposedly later tells his US interrogators he originally planned ten hijackings, with the additional targets including nuclear power plants. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 154) In 2002, Mohammed will reportedly tell an Al Jazeera reporter he’d thought of hitting a couple of nuclear facilities on 9/11, but decided not to, “for fear it would go out of control.”(see April, June, or August 2002) Although the 9/11 hijackers had dismissed the idea, in January 2002 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will send a memo to power plants around the US, based upon information from the FBI, warning that al-Qaeda has planned a second airline attack, which would involve flying a commercial aircraft into a nuclear plant. (CNN 1/31/2002) Also that month, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush will say US soldiers in Afghanistan have discovered diagrams of American nuclear power plants there. (US President 2/4/2002)
An unknown intelligence agency intercepts a telephone call between alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 3/18/2004) In the call, KSM and bin al-Shibh discuss the state of the 9/11 plot, in particular the fact that Ziad Jarrah, one of the proposed pilots, may drop out. They speak in a code, substituting unexceptional words for what they really mean. (9/11 Commission 3/18/2004) KSM instructs bin al-Shibh to send the “skirts,” meaning money forwarded to bin al-Shibh by an associate of KSM, to “Sally,” meaning Moussaoui. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 246) The reason for this is that “Teresa,” meaning Jarrah, is “late,” i.e. he is wavering and may drop out of the plot, due to possible conflicts with lead hijacker Mohamed Atta about Jarrah’s isolation from the conspiracy. It therefore appears that KSM is thinking of Moussaoui as a replacement for Jarrah. According to a 9/11 Commission memo, KSM says something like, “if there is a divorce, it will cost a lot of money.” Bin al-Shibh then tries to reassure him, saying it will be okay. The conversation also mentions “Danish leather,” an apparent reference to failed “20th hijacker” Mohamed al-Khatani (see August 4, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/18/2004) The agency which intercepts this call is never identified to the public, although the NSA is reportedly intercepting such calls to and from KSM at this time (see Summer 2001). The 9/11 Commission will mention the call in a staff statement and its final report, but will not mention that it was intercepted, merely citing detainee interrogations as the source of information about it. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 16-17; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 246, 530)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is granted a visa to enter the US, despite being under a federal terrorism indictment, having a $2 million reward on his head, and being one of only a dozen people in the world on a US domestic no-fly list (see April 24, 2000). There is no evidence that he actually uses his visa to travel to the US. Investigators speculate that he may have considered a trip to shepherd some aspect of the 9/11 plot. He applied for the visa using a Saudi passport and an alias (Abdulrahman al Ghamdi), but the photo he submitted is really of him. He uses the new, controversial Visa Express program that allows Saudis to apply for US visas without having to appear in person at any point during the application process (see May 2001). (Miller and Meyer 1/27/2004) Just a month earlier, the CIA passed a warning to all US intelligence agencies, certain military commanders, and parts of the Justice and Treasury Departments saying that Mohammed may be attempting to enter the US (see June 12, 2001). However, either this warning isn’t given to immigration officials or else they fail to notice his application. (Miller and Meyer 1/27/2004)
An unnamed Sudanese national living in Saudi Arabia makes two wire transfers totaling about $6,500 from the National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia to 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi’s Standard Chartered Bank account in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The 9/11 Commission will later report that a “foreign security agency” learned from the sender that he had been asked to wire the funds by Uthman Alshehri, a brother of hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri. According to the commission, $4,900 of this is deposited in a UAE account of hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad. What happens to the other $1,600 is unclear. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138, 143 ) After the money is deposited in his UAE account, Banihammad receives a call from an associate in Germany on August 18 and withdraws $3,000 on August 20 and $4,800 on August 22 from the account. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 6/2002 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) Court documents suggest that more money was sent to the hijackers by al-Hawsawi. “[Khalid] Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) explained that Alshehhi was sent $81,000 (US) via al-Baluchi for Alshehhi’s, Atta’s, and Jarrah’s flight training… Most of these types of transfers were made by al-Hawsawi who was located in the UAE.” However, doubts have been expressed about the reliability of this document, which was based on KSM’s testimony, obtained through the use of torture (see June 16, 2004). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006 ) For some time after 9/11, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi is described in the media as the hijackers’ paymaster, even though this is the only confirmed transfer associated with him. Moreover, there are questions about his identity and whether or not “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi” is his real name. (CNN 3/4/2003)
A Saudi named Mohamed al-Khatani is stopped at the Orlando, Florida, airport and denied entry to the US. Jose Melendez-Perez, the customs official who stops him, later says he was suspicious of al-Khatani because he had arrived with no return ticket, no hotel reservations, spoke little English, behaved menacingly, and offered conflicting information on the purpose of his travel. At one point, al-Khatani said that someone was waiting for him elsewhere at the airport. After 9/11, surveillance cameras show that Mohamed Atta was at the Orlando airport that day. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste says: “It is extremely possible and perhaps probable that [al-Khatani] was to be the 20th hijacker.” Al-Khatani boards a return flight to Saudi Arabia. He is later captured in Afghanistan and sent to a US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (see December 2001). Melendez-Perez says that before 9/11, customs officials were discouraged by their superiors from hassling Saudi travelers, who were seen as big spenders. (Miller and Meyer 1/27/2004; Zagorin and Duffy 6/12/2005) Al-Khatani will later confess to being sent to the US by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see July 2002), and in June 2001 US intelligence was warned that KSM was sending operatives to the US to meet up with those already there (see June 12, 2001).
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour goes to the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, about 20 miles west of Washington. He wants to rent a single engine Cessna airplane. However, when two instructors take him on three test runs, they find he has trouble controlling and landing the plane. One instructor has to help him land. Due to his poor skills, therefore, he is not allowed to rent one of their planes without more lessons. Further, while Hanjour appears to have logged over 600 hours of flying experience and possesses a valid pilot’s license (though it has in fact expired), he refuses to provide contact information: He gives no phone number and only gives his address as being a hotel in Laurel. In spite of Hanjour’s lack of flying skills, chief instructor Marcel Bernard later claims, “There’s no doubt in my mind that once [Flight 77] got going, he could have pointed that plane at a building and hit it.” (Paprocki 9/19/2001; Furfari 9/21/2001; Frank 9/23/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) However, on 9/11, in piloting Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hanjour would have needed to do much more than simply point the plane at a target. Because Flight 77 at first seemed to overshoot its target, the Washington Post will note that “the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver. The plane circled 270 degrees to the right to approach the Pentagon from the west, whereupon Flight 77 fell below radar level.… Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm.” (Fisher and Phillips 9/12/2001) One Washington air traffic controller will later comment, “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.” (News 10/24/2001) One law enforcement official who will study Flight 77’s descent after 9/11 will call it the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002) Remarkably, the 9/11 Commission will overlook the numerous accounts of Hanjour’s terrible piloting skills (see April 15, 1999 and January-February 2001) and state that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed assigned the Pentagon target specifically to Hanjour because he was “the operation’s most experienced pilot.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 530)
Thanks to the request of Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst assigned to the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, and Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf (an alias for Khallad bin Attash) be put on the terrorism watch list. All four individuals had attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). The cable mostly focuses on Almihdhar, briefly outlining his attendance at the Malaysia summit and his subsequent travel to the US in January 2000 and July 2001. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA has had good reason to believe Alhazmi and Almihdhar were al-Qaeda operatives living in the US, but apparently did nothing and told no other agency about it until now. The hijackers are not located in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Alhazmi and Almihdhar sooner, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 538; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 32-36, 302) However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI’s Financial Review Group are not notified. The two latter organizations have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar, given the frequency the two used credit cards. (Smith 7/25/2003) Furthermore, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism Security Group are not told about these two operatives before 9/11 either. (Isikoff and Hosenball 3/24/2004) The CIA later claims the request was labeled “immediate,” the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). (Drogin, Lichtblua, and Krikorian 10/28/2001) The FBI denies that it was marked “immediate” and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. (Drogin, Lichtblau, and Krikorian 10/18/2001; US Congress 9/20/2002) The State Department places all four men on the watch list the next day. (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) However, this watch list, named TIPOFF, checks their names only if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11, it contains only 12 names, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures, and some names are added as late as August 28, 2001. But none of these four men are added to this domestic list before 9/11.(see April 24, 2000). (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004)
A supplemental Visa credit card on a “Mustafa al-Hawsawi” bank account is issued in the name of Abdulrahman A. A. al-Ghamdi, which the FBI says is an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The FBI believes this helps prove KSM is a superior to 9/11 facilitator al-Hawsawi (see July 23, 2001). (Hedges 6/5/2002; US Congress 9/26/2002)
In April 2001, the CIA analyzed some “intriguing information associated with a person known as ‘Mukhtar.’” The CIA didn’t know who this was at the time, only that he was associated with top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida and that he seemed to be involved in planning al-Qaeda activities. On August 28, 2001, the CIA receives a cable reporting that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has the nickname of Mukhtar (which means “brain” in Arabic). However, apparently no one at the CIA’s bin Laden unit makes the connection between this new information and the April 2001 information. The 9/11 Commission writes, “Only after 9/11 would it be discovered that Muhktar/KSM had communicated with a phone that was used by [Ramzi] bin al-Shibh, and that bin al-Shibh had used the same phone to communicate with [Zacarias] Moussaoui [who is in US custody by this time.]” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 322; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 277)
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar allegedly travels to Pakistan and delivers a message to al-Qaeda leaders about the timing of the 9/11 attacks. Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh will later be arrested and interrogated, and according to a 2005 report about his interrogations, Essabar delivers the simple message “eleven nine.” Most countries around the world, including Muslim countries, put the day before the month, so this is a reference to September 11, the date of the upcoming 9/11 attacks. This message is supposed to be sent to someone with the name Mukhtar in Pakistan. Mukhtar is a commonly used alias of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see August 28, 2001), and he is in Karachi, Pakistan, at the time (see Early September 2001), so this is likely a reference to him. But Essabar apparently is unable to quickly find KSM, and he calls bin al-Shibh in Germany to say he is having trouble finding him. Presumably, bin al-Shibh loses contact with Essabar after this, so it is unclear what happens to the message. (Whitlock 5/24/2005) However, it is unclear how reliable bin al-Shibh’s claims may be, especially since he may be tortured later. Bin al-Shibh will give conflicting information about Essabar. At one point, he claims he knows nothing about Essabar at all. At another point, he claims that al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef told Essabar to try to acquire a US visa, but did not explain why, and Essabar had no foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. But at another point, he claims that Essabar was told the get the US visa so he “could travel to the United States to take part in the planned attacks.” (Reuters 5/21/2005; Whitlock 5/24/2005) While it may be uncertain if Essabar delivers a message on the timing of the 9/11 attacks, it is highly likely that he does flee to Afghanistan at this time. Others will later say they see him at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in late September 2001 (see September 10, 2001). His whereabouts after then will be unknown.
I-49, a squad of FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors that began focusing on bin Laden in 1996 (see January 1996), is upset that the NSA is not sharing its monitoring of the phone calls of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The squad builds their own antenna in Madagascar specifically to intercept KSM’s calls. (Wright 2006, pp. 344) It has not been revealed when this antenna was built or what was learned from this surveillance. However, there have been media reports that the NSA monitored some phone calls between KSM and Mohamed Atta in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001). Further, US intelligence monitored a call between KSM and Atta a day before 9/11 that was the final go-ahead for the attacks (see September 10, 2001). So presumably the I-49 squad should have known about these calls as well if this antenna did what it was designed to do.
Hambali, a top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia, appears aware of the date of the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a young Canadian citizen who recently joined al-Qaeda, meets Hambali in Karachi, Pakistan, to get instructions in carrying out an attack in Southeast Asia. Hambali tells him, “Make sure you leave before Tuesday” - September 11. Jabarah does heed the warning and flies to Southeast Asian on September 10. He will be arrested in 2002 and deported to Canada, where he will make a full confession about his al-Qaeda contacts (including an unheeded warning about the October 2002 Bali bombings (see August 21, 2002). (Bell 1/18/2003) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is also in Karachi and working with Jabarah and Hambali on future Southeast Asian plots, and KSM also warns Jabarah to travel before September 11. (McKenna 10/2004)
Several al-Qaeda operatives connected to the 9/11 plot appear to have a meeting in Karachi, possibly to finalize details related to the plot. Some of the operatives arrive from Germany, via Istanbul, by plane (see September 3-5, 2001). They include Said Bahaji, an associate of the hijackers, Afghan brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joya and Patrick Joya, an Algerian named Mohammed Belfatmi who also just arrived on the same Istanbul to Karachi leg of the flight as the others. Belfatmi is said to have had a role in arranging a meeting in Spain between 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). Men known as Abdellah Hosayni and Ammar Moul are also on the flight from Germany. However, these last two apparently are traveling under false identities, and it will later be reported that they are really Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb). An informer later says both Murabit and Ahmed attended the same al-Qaeda training camp as Bahaji. All five of these men - Bahaji, Murabit, Ahmed, the Joya brothers, and Belfatmi - stay in the same hotel once they arrive in Karachi. (Behar 10/30/2001; MacVicar 10/31/2001; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) Ahmed is suspected by German investigators of having a “major role” in preparations for 9/11. (MacVicar 10/31/2001) A Pakistani newspaper will say that, “It was, in all probability, a meeting to tie up loose ends before the countdown to the attack.” (John 8/7/2003) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Hambali are in Karachi at this time, although it is unclear whether they meet with Bahaji and the others (see Early September 2001). The Joya brothers, who are apparently under surveillance by German police around this time, return to Istanbul on October 5 and 16. In Germany in late October, Patrick Joya will even talk to a reporter and admit recently traveling to Pakistan. (Behar 10/30/2001; MacVicar 10/31/2001; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) What happens to the Joya brothers after this time is unclear. Ahmed will later be arrested in the same raid that nabs al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and he will be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison (see March 28, 2002).
Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh makes three phone calls on this day, and one is to 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi in the US. Bin al-Shibh makes the three calls from the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, as he is about to take a flight to Spain on his way to Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). Nothing more is known about the call to Alghamdi. However, the call may be an opportunity to discover the 9/11 plot, because at least some of bin al-Shibh’s phone calls are monitored around this time. Details are murky, but a call between bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is monitored in late July 2001, although it is not clear if it is monitored by US or German intelligence, or both (see July 20, 2001).
Second Call to Jordanian - At the airport, bin al-Shibh also calls an unnamed Jordanian who is said to be a close friend of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah from a time both of them were studying in Griefswald, Germany, in the mid-1990s. This person lived in the same Hamburg apartment as hijacker Mohamed Atta, was said to have become an Islamist radical, and shared bank accounts and cell phone numbers with some of the hijackers living in Hamburg. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) This almost certainly is Bashir Musleh, because Musleh is a Jordanian who is a close friend of Jarrah’s from when they both studied in Griefswald. Author Terry McDermott identifies him as one of the Hamburg group. (McDermott 2005, pp. xi, 53)
Third Call to Cell Member Meziche - The third and final call is to Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. The call to Meziche’s house lasts 34 seconds. Meziche appears to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, but German investigators will never be able to develop enough evidence to charge him with a crime. He will be killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). (Crawford 10/16/2010)
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