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Complete 911 Timeline

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Derek, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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Ali al-Jarrah.Ali al-Jarrah. [Source: Lebanese Military/Public Domain]Starting in 1983, a Lebanese man named Ali al-Jarrah, cousin of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, allegedly works as a spy for the Israeli government. Living in rural Lebanon as a school administrator, it is claimed he also is a valued spy, sending reports and taking clandestine photos of Palestinians and Hezbollah in Syria and south Lebanon, near the Israeli border. He is said to have been paid at least $300,000 over the years by Israel. Ali’s brother Yusuf al-Jarrah is said to have helped him spy, but few details of his case have been reported. Ali and Yusuf will be arrested by Hezbollah in July 2008 and then handed to the Lebanese military for trial by a military court. Ali will allegedly confess, but his wife will claim he has been tortured. He is also suspected of involvement in the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a Hezbollah commander killed in Damascus in February 2008. Cases of such prolonged and involved spying have been very rare in Lebanon, and news of his arrest is said to have shocked the country. Ali and Ziad Jarrah were “20 years apart in age and do not appear to have known each other well.” (Jerusalem Post 11/3/2008; Mahnaimi 11/9/2008; Fisk 11/13/2008; Worth 2/19/2009) Curiously, Ziad Jarrah had another relative who has been accused of spying for three governments since the 1980s (see September 16, 2002).

Radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman obtains his first US visa via the CIA. A State Department official will later discover this was the first of six US visas given to him between 1986 and 1990. All are approved by CIA agents acting as consular officers at US embassies in Sudan and Egypt. “The CIA officers claimed they didn’t know the sheikh was one of the most notorious political figures in the Middle East and a militant on the State Department’s list of undesirables.” But one top New York investigator will later say, “Left with the choice between pleading stupidity or else admitting deceit, the CIA went with stupidity.” (Quinn-Judge and Sennott 2/3/1995; Friedman 3/17/1995) Abdul-Rahman uses the visas to attend conferences of Islamic students in the US. Then he visits Pakistan, where he preaches at Peshawar, visits the Saudi embassy in Islamabad, and is “lionized at receptions heavily attended by Americans.” He plays a prominent role in recruiting mujaheddin fighters to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. (Kepel 2002, pp. 300) In 1989, Abdul-Rahman is arrested in Egypt and held under very closely guarded house arrest, but he manages to escape one year later, possibly by being smuggled out of his house in a washing machine. The CIA gives him another US visa and he moves to the US (see July 1990). (Bernstein 1/8/1995) Journalist Simon Reeve will claim in his 1999 book The New Jackals that, “The CIA, it is now clear, arranged the visa[s] to try and befriend the Sheikh in advance of a possible armed fundamentalist revolution in Egypt.” According to a retired CIA official, the CIA recalled mistakes made with the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and were trying to win Abdul-Rahman’s trust. (Reeve 1999, pp. 60)

Michael Springmann.Michael Springmann. [Source: Michael Springmann]Michael Springmann, head US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later claims that during this period he is “repeatedly ordered… to issue [more than 100] visas to unqualified applicants.” He turns them down, but is repeatedly overruled by superiors. (BBC 11/6/2001; Freedberg 11/25/2001) In one case, two Pakistanis apply for visas to attend a trade show in the US, but they are unable to name the trade show or city in which it will be held. When Springmann denies them a visa, he gets “an almost immediate call from a CIA case officer, hidden in the commercial section [of the consulate], that I should reverse myself and grant these guys a visa.” Springmann refuses, but the decision is reversed by the chief of the consular section. Springmann realizes that even the ambassador, Walter Cutler, is aware of the situation, which becomes “more brazen and blatant” as time goes on. On one occasion Springmann is even told, “If you want a job in the State Department in future, you will change your mind.” (CBC Radio One 7/3/2002; Trento 2005, pp. 344-6) Springmann loudly complains to numerous government offices, but no action is taken. He is fired and his files on these applicants are destroyed. He later learns that recruits from many countries fighting for bin Laden against Russia in Afghanistan were funneled through the Jeddah office to get visas to come to the US, where the recruits would travel to train for the Afghan war. According to Springmann, the Jeddah consulate was run by the CIA and staffed almost entirely by intelligence agents. This visa system may have continued at least through 9/11, and 11 of the 19 9/11 hijackers received their visas through Jeddah (see November 2, 1997-June 20, 2001), possibly as part of this program (see October 9, 2002 and October 21, 2002). (BBC 11/6/2001; Freedberg 11/25/2001; CBC Radio One 7/3/2002; Gedda 7/17/2002 pdf file; Fox News 7/18/2002)

A young Mohamed Atta with his father.A young Mohamed Atta with his father. [Source: Getty images]In 1990, after finishing his studies in architecture in Egypt, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta joins what is called an “engineering syndicate,” a professional or trade group. Like the school that trained many of its engineers, the syndicate serves as an unofficial base for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where the organization recruits new operatives and spreads its ideology. Other members of the 9/11 plot will also have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood at various points in their lives. (Finn 9/22/2001; Hooper 9/23/2001; Newsweek 12/31/2001)

Mohamed Atta’s father, Mohamed el-Amir.Mohamed Atta’s father, Mohamed el-Amir. [Source: History Channel]Most of the future 9/11 hijackers are middle class and have relatively comfortable upbringings, even though, after 9/11, some people in Western countries will say one of the root causes of the attacks was poverty and assume that the hijackers must have been poor. The editor of Al Watan, a Saudi Arabian daily, will call the hijackers “middle class adventurers” rather than Islamist fundamentalist ideologues. (Sennott 3/3/2002)
bullet Mohamed Atta grows up in Cairo, Egypt. His father is an attorney, and both Atta and his two sisters attend university. (McDermott 2005, pp. 10-11)
bullet Marwan Alshehhi is from Ras al-Khaimah Emirate in the United Arab Emirates. His family is not particularly wealthy, but his father is a muezzin and one of his half-brothers a policeman. He attends university in Germany on a UAE army scholarship (see Spring 1996-December 23, 2000). (McDermott 2005, pp. 55)
bullet Ziad Jarrah is from Beirut, Lebanon. His father is a mid-level bureaucrat and his mother, from a well-off family, is a teacher. The family drives a Mercedes and Jarrah attends private Christian schools before going to study in Germany. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002; McDermott 2005, pp. 49-50)
bullet Hani Hanjour is from Taif, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. His family has a car exporting business and a farm, which he manages for five years in the mid-1990s. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001)
bullet Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi are from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Their father owns a shop and the family is wealthy. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Wright 2006, pp. 378)
bullet Abdulaziz Alomari is from southwestern Saudi Arabia. He is a university graduate (see Late 1990s). He apparently marries and has a child, a daughter, before 9/11. (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232)
bullet Mohand Alshehri is from Tanooma in Asir Province, Saudi Arabia. He attends university (see Late 1990s). (Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Hamza Alghamdi is from Baha Province, Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 231) He works as a stockboy in a housewares shop. (Sennott 3/3/2002)
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad is from the United Arab Emirates. He gives his home address as being in Khor Fakkan, a port and enclave of Sharjah Emirate on the country’s east coast. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) The 9/11 Commission will say he works as an immigration officer at one point. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 20 pdf file)
bullet Maqed Mojed is from Annakhil, near Medina in western Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232) He attends university (see Late 1990s).
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi is from Hera, Baha Province. His father is an imam at the local mosque and he is reported to attend university (see Late 1990s).
bullet Ahmed Alnami is from Abha, Asir Province. His family is one of government officials and scientists, and his father works for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. He attends university (see Late 1990s). (Lamb 9/15/2002)
bullet Wail Alshehi and Waleed Alshehri are from Khamis Mushayt in Asir Province, southwestern Saudi Arabia. Their father is a businessman and builds a mosque as a gift to the town. They both go to college (see Late 1990s). The Alshehris are from a military family and have three older brothers who hold high rank at the nearby airbase. Their uncle, Major General Faez Alshehri, is the logistical director of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. (Sennott 3/3/2002) Dr. Ali al-Mosa, a Saudi academic, will later comment: “Most of them were from very rich, top-class Saudi families. The father of the Alshehri boys is one of the richest people in the area and the other families are not far behind him.” (McGeough 10/5/2002)
The social situation of the families of Satam al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Khaled Almihdhar is unknown. However, Almihdhar is from a distinguished family that traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. (Wright 2006, pp. 379)

In July 1990, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, was mysteriously able to enter the US and remain there despite being a well known public figure and being on a watch list for three years (see July 1990).
bullet In late October 1990, he travels to London, so he is out of the US when one of his followers assassinates the Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990 (see November 5, 1990). He returns to the US in mid-November under the name “Omar Ahmed Rahman” and again has no trouble getting back in despite still being on the watch list. (Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet The State Department revokes his US visa on November 17 after the FBI informs it that he is in the US. (McKinley 12/16/1990)
bullet In December 1990, Abdul-Rahman leaves the US again to attend an Islamic conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returns nine days later and again has no trouble reentering, despite not even having a US visa at this point. (Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet On December 16, 1990, the New York Times publishes an article titled, “Islamic Leader on US Terrorist List Is in Brooklyn,” which makes his presence in the US publicly known. The Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) is said to be investigating why he has not been deported already. (McKinley 12/16/1990)
bullet Yet in April 1991, the INS approves his application for permanent residence.
bullet He then leaves the US again in June 1991 to go on the religious hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returns on July 31, 1991. INS officials identify him coming in, but let him in anyway. (Mitchell 4/24/1993; Duke 7/13/1993)
bullet In June 1992, his application for political asylum will be turned down and his permanent residence visa revoked. But INS hearings on his asylum bid are repeatedly delayed and still have not taken place when the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993). (Lance 2003, pp. 105-106)
bullet Abdul-Rahman then goes to Canada around October 1992 and returns to the US yet again. The US and Canada claim to have no documentation on his travel there, but numerous witnesses in Canada see him pray and lecture there. Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) says, “Here they spent all this time trying to get him out. He goes to Canada and gives them the perfect reason to exclude him and they don’t.”
bullet After the WTC bombing, the US could detain him pending his deportation hearing but chooses not to, saying it would be too costly to pay for his medical bills. (Mitchell 4/24/1993)
Abdul-Rahman will be involved in the follow up “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993) before finally being arrested later in 1993. It will later be alleged that he was protected by the CIA. In 1995, the New York Times will comment that the link between Abdul-Rahman and the CIA “is a tie that remains muddy.” (MacFarquhar 10/2/1995)

A young Hani Hanjour.
A young Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour first arrives in the US on October 3, 1991. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520) Some media accounts have him entering the country in 1990. He apparently is the first hijacker to enter the US. (Cloud 9/24/2001; O'Meilia 10/15/2001; Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002) He takes an English course in Tucson, Arizona until early 1992. There are some important al-Qaeda operatives currently living in Tucson. However, it is not known if Hanjour has contact with them at this time, or even when he first develops his radical militant beliefs. According to Hanjour’s eldest brother Abulrahman, Hani stays in Arizona for three months then returns to Saudi Arabia, where he spends the next five years managing his family’s lemon and date farm. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) FBI Director Robert Mueller also reports his stay as lasting three months. (US Congress 9/26/2002) However, the FBI tells one person that Hanjour may have stayed in the US for as long as 15 months. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)

The CIA produces the last edition of its Redbook before 9/11. The Redbook is a manual written by the CIA for immigration officials; it helps the officials identify terrorists using telltale signs in their passports through commonalities among forged passports, travel cachets, and visas used by terrorists. The 1992 edition claims that more than “200 people carrying forged passports provided by terrorist groups have been identified before they could engage in terrorist acts.”
Types of Fraud - It focuses on five types of travel document fraud committed by terrorists: forgeries of some 35 national passports and the travel cachets of at least 45 countries; forged documents terrorists purchase from commercial vendors; stolen blank passports, which terrorists can fill in with biographical data of their choosing; information on genuine altered passports that have been photo-substituted or given an extended validity date; and genuine, unaltered passports, most likely procured with the knowledge of the issuing country or through a corrupt government official.
Reason for Discontinuance - The 9/11 Commission will say that the Redbook stops being published in 1992 due to “a lack of new exemplars,” but then add that there was plenty of “raw data” and a “rich trove of information on the travel tactics of terrorists” after this time. Citing an interview with an unnamed source, the commission will say that the CIA claimed it had no new data to analyze, as the FBI did not share what it gathered from its law enforcement investigations. However, the CIA did certainly obtain some new exemplars between 1992 and 9/11. For instance, it found some visa stamps, blank Egyptian birth certificates, and a forged passport in a June 1998 raid on extremists in Albania.
Significance of Non-Publication - The commission will also note that the information contained in the Redbook is directly relevant to al-Qaeda’s travel tactics before 9/11: “From the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to the disruption of the millennium plot in December 1999, information suggested that al-Qaeda continued to employ all five methods of document fraud first noted in the Redbook years earlier, along with some new methods of their own.” The commission will also highlight how important the failure to take advantage of the information contained in the Redbook will be: “In practical terms, this meant the United States denied itself the ability to disrupt terrorist operations and prevent undetected terrorist entries by disrupting operatives’ ability to travel.” Several of the 9/11 hijackers will have anomalies in their passports (see November 2, 2007). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 45-46, 61, 69, 102 pdf file) Islamist radicals linked to the WTC bombings and fighting in Bosnia will obtain a copy of the Redbook at some point in the next three years (see 1995 or Before).

Osama Basnan.Osama Basnan. [Source: Fox News]US authorities discover a connection between Osama Basnan, who is later alleged to associate with 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see April 1998 and December 4, 1999), and Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ). The US will connect EIJ to bin Laden in 1996 and the FBI will become aware that a high-level EIJ member sits on al-Qaeda’s Shura council. The State Department gives the FBI a box of documents recovered from an abandoned car in May 1992. The documents are in Arabic and one of them is a newsletter addressed to EIJ supporters reporting news about the EIJ council. The newsletter is marked “confidential.” In addition, the box contains letters addressed to Basnan discussing plans to import used cars into the US. The FBI opens a counterterrorism investigation on the EIJ, but finds little, closing it in December of the same year. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 176-7 pdf file)

Dittmar Machule, a professor who worked with Mohamed Atta at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg.Dittmar Machule, a professor who worked with Mohamed Atta at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. [Source: Corbis/Antoine Serra]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta enrolls in the planning program of the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, where he studies for a master’s degree. Atta chose Hamburg after meeting two German schoolteachers from there in the fall of 1991. The teachers were in Cairo because they organize student exchanges between Germany and Egypt. After being introduced by mutual friends, they offered Atta a rent-free room in their home, where he stays for about six months, before moving into student housing. (Swanson 3/7/2003) At the university, Atta is lucky that the department’s chairman, Dittmar Machule, is a specialist on the Middle East. Machule feels that Atta shares his passion and says that Atta is “tender, sensitive… he had deep, dark eyes. His eyes would speak. You could see the intelligence, the knowledge, the alertness.” Those who know Atta at the university will say he sits and listens, without making hasty comments, he is careful about what he says, and he is very respectful of well-prepared teachers. Fellow student Martin Ebert will say, “I don’t think it was possible to have a fight with him.” Another fellow student, Harmut Kaiser, will say that it is hard to draw Atta into political discussions in class, even if politics is relevant to the topic under discussion: “He wasn’t a guy who acted like he wanted to change the world—unlike a lot of other students in the group.” (McDermott 2005, pp. 24-25)

Osama Basnan, who will later be accused of assisting two 9/11 hijackers in San Diego (see December 4, 1999), throws a party for the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The party is held at Basnan’s house in Washington, DC. In 1993, the FBI will receive reports about Basnan hosting this party. In 1992, the FBI was told that Basnan had a link to the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, a militant group later linked to al-Qaeda (see May-December 1992). Furthermore, records indicate Basnan entered the US in 1980 on a guest visa and has been in the country illegally ever since. But the FBI fails to investigate Basnan and no effort is made to deport him. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 pdf file; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) A post-9/11 FBI report will indicate that in 1992 Basnan is working for the Saudi government in some capacity, but details of his job will remain classified (see October 3, 2001).

Mohammed Fazazi.Mohammed Fazazi. [Source:]Radical Moroccan imam Mohammed Fazazi gives weekly sermons at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, which is attended by key members of the 9/11 plot, including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see Early 1996 and (April 1, 1999)). The mosque first opens in 1993. Fazazi, who also makes videotapes that are watched by Islamist radicals throughout Europe, strongly believes that democracy and Western values must be rejected by Muslims living in the West, who should respect only their own Koranic laws. He often preaches that European countries are conducting a war against Islam and that “smiting the head of the infidels” is the duty of all Muslims, mandated by God. (Vidino 2006, pp. 225-6) In one videotaped sermon, he says, “The Jews and crusaders must have their throats slit.” (Finn 9/11/2002) In another sermon in early 2001, he will suggest that all non-Muslims in the world should be killed (see Early 2001). In the late 1990s, Fazazi, a Moroccan citizen, also starts preaching at a mosque in Morocco near where his family lives. But he will continue to preach at Al-Quds until late 2001 (see Mid-September-Late 2001). He is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Moroccan violent militant group Salafia Jihadia, and he will later be convicted in Morocco for his part in bombings in Casablanca (see May 16, 2003). (Vidino 2006, pp. 225-6)

Nawaf Alhazmi (left), and Khalid Almihdhar (right).Nawaf Alhazmi (left), and Khalid Almihdhar (right). [Source: FBI]Of all the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar have the longest records of involvement with al-Qaeda. CIA Director Tenet calls them al-Qaeda veterans. According to the CIA, Alhazmi first travels to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager, then fights in Bosnia with Alhazmi (see 1995). Almihdhar makes his first visit to Afghanistan training camps in 1996, and then fights in Chechnya in 1997. Both swear loyalty to bin Laden around 1998. Alhazmi fights in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance with his brother, Salem Alhazmi. He fights in Chechnya, probably in 1998. (Observer 9/23/2001; ABC News 1/9/2002; US Congress 6/18/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file) He then returns to Saudi Arabia in early 1999 where he shares information about the 1998 US embassy bombings. However it is not clear what information he disclosed to whom or where he obtained this information. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file) It is possible that some or all of this information came from the NSA, which is intercepting some of Alhazmi’s phone calls at this time (see Early 1999).

The 9/11 Commission, relying on a CIA report, will later say that three of the men involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing travel on Saudi passports containing an indicator of possible Islamist extremism. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 46-47, 61 pdf file) Author James Bamford will say that it is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) It is unclear what the indicator looks like precisely and who the men are. However, Ahmad Ajaj, an associate of lead bomber Ramzi Yousef, does have a Saudi passport. Some of the 9/11 hijackers will later use Saudi passports with the same indicator (see October 28, 2000, June 1, 2001, and June 13, 2001, and November 2, 2007). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 46-47, 61 pdf file)

Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives financial support from the Carl Duisberg Society, a German foundation that promotes international cultural exchange, primarily between Germany and the US. During this period, Atta receives some support for research and travel. He also tutors students at seminars on North African affairs. (Jansen 10/16/2001; Brook 9/10/2009) The Carl Duisberg Society was founded in 1949 and is named after a German industrialist. It is best known for administering the Congress-Bundestag program, a bi-national, publicly-funded student exchange program between Germany and the US. (CDS International 2009)

Abdussattar Shaikh.Abdussattar Shaikh. [Source: Fox News]Abdussattar Shaikh, a San Diego resident, is recruited by a local FBI special agent as an “asset,” or informant. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 260 pdf file) Shaikh will later offer rooms in his house in Lemon Grove, California, to two of the future 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, but it will be unclear how much information he shares about them with his FBI handler, Steven Butler (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Despite much scrutiny after 9/11, little information will emerge on Shaikh’s background or why he came to the FBI’s notice. Shaikh was born in India and came to the US in 1959. (Sterngold 10/24/2001) He became a US citizen in 1976. (9/11 Commission 4/23/2004) Presumably, he is of interest to the FBI because he is a member of the local Muslim community. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general will say: “The FBI had interviewed the asset in connection with a bombing investigation several years before.… Initially the asset was not paid. In July 2003, the asset was given a $100,000 payment and closed as an asset.” The report will provide little additional information as to Shaikh’s activities on behalf of the FBI. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 260 pdf file) It is also not entirely clear how Shaikh makes a living. Press reports after 9/11, including a report in a local magazine to which he gave a rare interview, will describe him as as retired professor of English at San Diego State University. (Reno 2/2002) Another profile will not identify which institutions he is affiliated with, and describes him as primarily an English as a second language teacher to Saudi military officers and their families. (Sterngold 10/24/2001)

Dallah Avco logo.
Dallah Avco logo. [Source: Dallah Avco]A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission will say that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)
Saudi Government Spy - Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect al-Bayoumi is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. (Thornton 9/14/2002; Isikoff 11/22/2002; Reno 9/2003) Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) Chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and his investigators will, in author Philip Shenon’s words, “find it obvious that the amiable al-Bayoumi was a low-ranking Saudi intelligence agent,” and “someone who had been put on the ground in San Diego by his government to keep an eye on the activities of the relatively large Saudi community in Southern California.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 52)
'Ghost Employee' - Just prior to moving to the US, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job was approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see May 16, 2002). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he is a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things. (Bassey 10/21/2001; Simpson 8/11/2003) In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) From early 1995 until 2002, al-Bayoumi is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report will note that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. (Risen and Johnston 8/2/2003) The FBI investigates possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. (Newsweek 10/29/2001) The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, will deny the accusation. (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)

A suspected terrorism financier enters the US with apparent CIA help. Philippines investigators had begun monitoring and investigating Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, earlier in 1994 (see 1994). (Ressa 2003) According to a 1999 book by Richard Labeviere, near the conclusion of this investigation, the Philippine government expedites an order expelling Khalifa from the country. Khalifa gets a visa to the US through the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with the help of the CIA. The CIA had a history of using that consulate to give US visas to radical Muslim militants dating back to the 1980s (see September 1987-March 1989). (Labeviere 1999, pp. 365; Elegant 10/27/2003) Another account claims his visa “was issued, despite his notoriety, because of a computer error.” When he applied for the visa in August 1994, the address he gave was that of the bin Laden family company. (Lief 5/15/1995) He enters the US on December 1. The report detailing his terrorist connections is released on December 15 (see December 15, 1994). The next day, Khalifa is arrested in the US (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). (Lief 5/15/1995)

Islamist radicals based at the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, obtain the CIA’s Redbook, two Arabic copies of which will be found at the institute in a 1995 raid. Several seals, rubber stamps, blank and counterfeit documents, and other tools used to forge documents are also found in the raid. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 63 pdf file) The Redbook is a manual produced by the CIA for immigration officials; it helps the officials identify terrorists using telltale signs in their passports (see 1992). The institute is a key support center for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and al-Qaeda-linked radicals fighting in Bosnia (see 1993 and After and Late 1993-1994). It is unclear how the Redbook comes to be at the institute.

A young Mohamed Atta.A young Mohamed Atta. [Source: Four Corners]In a three-month trip to his hometown of Cairo, Egypt, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta demonstrates that he is still a member of an engineering syndicate linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (see 1990). He takes the two Germans students he is traveling with, Volker Hauth and Ralph Bodenstein, to the syndicate’s eating club. According to Hauth, Atta does nothing during the trip he knows about that suggests he is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the group’s influence on the club is obvious. (Finn 9/22/2001; Bodenstein 10/15/2001) A former CIA officer who served undercover in Damascus, Syria, will later say, “At every stage in Atta’s journey is the Muslim Brotherhood.” (Hersh 7/18/2003)

9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi fight in the Bosnian civil war against the Serbs. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file) 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 pdf file) Alhazmi and Almihdhar will later go on to fight in Chechnya (see 1993-1999).

According to a book (citing federal law enforcement sources) by Jurgen Roth, described by Newsday as “one of Germany’s top investigative reporters,” in this year the BKA (the German Federal Office for criminal investigations) investigates future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta for petty drug crimes and falsifying phone cards whilst he is a student at the Technical University at Hamburg-Harburg. While he isn’t charged, a record of the investigation will prevent him from getting a security job with Lufthansa Airlines in early 2001 (see February 15, 2001). (Roth 2001, pp. 9f; Moore 1/24/2002)

Abdulaziz Alomari studied in Denver.Abdulaziz Alomari studied in Denver. [Source: BBC]A passport belonging to a man with the same first and last name as one of the 9/11 hijackers, Abdulaziz Alomari, is stolen and this will cause some confusion in the weeks following 9/11. Alomari, who studies at the University of Colorado from 1993 to 2000, informs the police of the theft, which occurs when a thief breaks into his apartment. (Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001; Harrison 9/23/2001) Although the validity of the stolen passport is not specified, a visa application submitted by another of the Saudi hijackers in 1997 will indicate that his passport was good for five lunar years, so the stolen passport may have been valid for the same period. (US Department of State 11/2/1997) When the FBI releases lists of the 9/11 hijackers on September 14 and 27, 2001, it will give two birthdates for the hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/27/2001) One of them, May 28, 1879, will be used by the hijacker, for example on his US visa application. (US Department of State 6/18/2001) The other, December 24, 1972, belongs to the former Denver student, who will be a telecommunications engineer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 9/11 and will comment: “I couldn’t believe it when the FBI put me on their list. They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive. I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing to do with this.” (Harrison 9/23/2001) It will be unclear how and why the birth date of Alomari the telecommunications engineer appears on the list of hijackers. However, after finding Alomari’s name on a passenger manifest, the FBI will check various databases to find more information about him. (US District Court for Portland, Maine 9/12/2001) Alomari the telecommunications engineer is stopped three times by police in Denver for minor offences before 9/11 and gives them the 1972 birth date, so the FBI may obtain it by searching Denver police records. (Hersh 5/27/2002) Radical Sunni Muslims connected to Osama bin Laden had a presence in Denver from the mid-1990s (see 1994 and March 2000).

Although lead hijacker Mohamed Atta is Egyptian and is known to some German acquaintances as such, he registers as a UAE national in Hamburg. This will be confirmed after 9/11 by Hamburg’s interior minister, Olaf Scholz, who will say that his UAE nationality was recorded in the Ausl√§nderzentralregister, a federal data base with personal data of foreign residents and asylum seekers. (BBC 9/13/2001; Erlanger 9/17/2001; Hamburg Interior Ministry 9/23/2001) Commenting on this after 9/11, the Observer will say, “In many respects, though, he led not one life, but two. He repeatedly switched names, nationalities and personalities. If… in the US, he was Mohamed Atta, then at the Technical University of Harburg, he was Mohamed el-Amir. For the university authorities, he was an Egyptian, yet for his landlord, as for the US authorities, he was from the United Arab Emirates. And while it is not hard to see Atta, whose face gazes out from the passport photograph released by the FBI, as that of the mass murderer of Manhattan, el-Amir was a shy, considerate man who endeared himself to Western acquaintances.” (Hooper 9/23/2001) It is unclear how or why Atta registered as a UAE national. In addition, throughout most of his time in Germany Atta is registered under a name variant, Mohamed el-Amir, and only registers using his full name after obtaining a new passport (see Late 1999), three weeks before leaving Germany for the US (see June 3, 2000). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)

Ziad Jarrah gets down on the dancefloor.Ziad Jarrah gets down on the dancefloor. [Source: Jarrah family]A man named “Ziad Jarrah” rents an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. (Longman 2002, pp. 90) The landlords later identify his photograph as being that of the 9/11 hijacker. A Brooklyn apartment lease bears Ziad Jarrah’s name. (Neuffer 9/25/2001) The Los Angeles Times reports: “Another man named Ihassan Jarrah lived with Ziad, drove a livery cab and paid the 800-dollar monthly rent. The men were quiet, well-mannered, said hello and good-bye. Ziad Jarrah carried a camera and told his landlords that he was a photographer. He would disappear for a few days on occasion, then reappear. Sometimes a woman who appeared to be a prostitute arrived with one of the men. ‘Me and my brother used to crack jokes that they were terrorists,’ said Jason Matos, a construction worker who lived in a basement there, and whose mother owned the house.” However, another Ziad Jarrah is still in his home country of Lebanon at this time. He is studying in a Catholic school in Beirut, and is in frequent contact with the rest of his family. His parents drive him home to be with the family nearly every weekend, and they are in frequent contact by telephone as well. (Williams 10/23/2001) Not until April 1996 does this Ziad Jarrah leave Lebanon for the first time to study in Germany. (Neuffer 9/25/2001) His family later believes that the New York lease proves that there were two “Ziad Jarrahs.” (CNN 9/18/2001) Evidence seems to indicate Jarrah is also in two places at the same time from November 2000 to January 2001 (see Late November 2000-January 30, 2001).

Ramzi bin al-Shibh (front center) at the Al Quds mosque in Hamburg.Ramzi bin al-Shibh (front center) at the Al Quds mosque in Hamburg. [Source: History Channel]A roommate of future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta will later say that he remembers that Atta was already associating with Ramzi bin al-Shibh in 1995 and that he saw bin al-Shibh at Atta’s residence then. At this time Atta is a graduate student at a technical university in Hamburg, whereas bin al-Shibh, who will allegedly play a co-ordinating role in 9/11, arrives in Germany in August 1995 and lives in a refugee camp near Hamburg under a false name. (McDermott and Laabs 9/15/2002; McDermott 2005, pp. 38)

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and some of his associates appear to participate in financial fraud in Germany. The Chicago Tribune in 2004 claims that in 1995 Atta gives a Muslim baker named Muharrem Acar living in Hamburg, Germany, roughly $25,000 to help him open his own bakery. The newspaper calls this “noteworthy act of generosity to someone he barely knew.” However, the Wall Street Journal in 2003 presents a completely different story. Acar was sued and ordered to pay $6,500 in 1996. Atta and Acar worked together to backdate documents and manage a bank account to make it appear that Atta had loaned Acar over $20,000. This allowed Acar to claim he had no money and a large debt to Atta, and thus couldn’t pay the money he owed as part of the lawsuit against him. The Wall Street Journal notes Atta’s behavior conflicts with his media representation as “an ideologically pure Islamic extremist” and concludes, “It is increasingly evident that Mr. Atta and the other young men in Hamburg were typical of Islamist extremists in Europe, engaging in petty crime and fraud to make ends meet…” (Crawford 9/9/2003; Chicago Tribune 9/11/2004)

A young Ahmed Alnami in Saudi Arabia.A young Ahmed Alnami in Saudi Arabia. [Source: Boston Globe]At least 11 of the 9/11 hijackers travel or attempt to travel to Chechnya between 1996 and 2000 (see 1999-2000):
bullet Nawaf Alhazmi fights in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Afghanistan for several years, starting around 1995. (Observer 9/23/2001; ABC News 1/9/2002; US Congress 6/18/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file)
bullet Khalid Almihdhar fights in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Afghanistan for several years, usually with Nawaf Alhazmi. (US Congress 6/18/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file)
bullet Salem Alhazmi spends time in Chechnya with his brother Nawaf Alhazmi. (ABC News 1/9/2002) He also possibly fights with his brother in Afghanistan. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file)
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi leaves for Chechnya in 1999 (ABC News 1/9/2002) , and his family loses contact with him in late 2000. (Khashoggi and Al-Nayyef 9/22/2001)
bullet Hamza Alghamdi leaves for Chechnya in early 2000 (Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001; Fisk 9/27/2001) or sometime around January 2001. He calls home several times until about June 2001, saying he is in Chechnya. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001)
bullet Mohand Alshehri leaves to fight in Chechnya in early 2000. (Khashoggi and Al-Nayyef 9/22/2001)
bullet Ahmed Alnami leaves home in June 2000, and calls home once in June 2001 from an unnamed location. (Ba-Isa 9/19/2001; Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001)
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad leaves home in July 2000 saying he wants to participate in a holy war or do relief work. (Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001; Freedberg 9/27/2001) He calls his parents one time since. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001)
bullet Ahmed Alghamdi leaves his studies to fight in Chechnya in 2000, and is last seen by his family in December 2000. He calls his parents for the last time in July 2001, but does not mention being in the US. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; Khashoggi 9/20/2001)
bullet Waleed M. Alshehri disappears with Wail Alshehri in December 2000, after speaking of fighting in Chechnya. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001)
bullet Wail Alshehri, who had psychological problems, went with his brother to Mecca to seek help. Both disappear, after speaking of fighting in Chechnya. (Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001)
bullet Majed Moqed is last seen by a friend in 2000 in Saudi Arabia, after communicating a “plan to visit the United States to learn English.” (Khashoggi and Al-Nayyef 9/22/2001)
Clearly, there is a pattern: eleven hijackers appear likely to have fought in Chechnya, and two others are known to have gone missing. It is possible that others have similar histories, but this is hard to confirm because “almost nothing [is] known about some.” (MacFarquhar 9/21/2001) Indeed, a colleague later claims that hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh wanted to fight in Chechnya but were told in early 2000 that they were needed elsewhere. (Finn 10/23/2002; Blenkinsop 10/29/2002) Reuters later reports, “Western diplomats play down any Chechen involvement by al-Qaeda.” (Sayenko 10/24/2002)

After 9/11, there will be media accounts suggesting some of the 9/11 hijackers trained at US military bases (see September 15-17, 2001). According to these accounts, four of the hijackers trained at Pensacola Naval Air Station, a base that trains many foreign nationals. One neighbor will claim that Ahmed Alghamdi lived in Pensacola until about August 2000. This neighbor will claim that Alghamdi appeared to be part of a group of Arab men who often gathered at the Fountains apartment complex near the University of West Florida. She will recount, “People would come and knock on the doors. We might see three or four, and they were always men. It was always in the evening. The traffic in and out, although it was sporadic, was constant every evening. They would go and knock, and then it would be a little while and someone would look out the window to see who it was, like they were being very cautious. Not your normal coming to the door and opening it.” (Firestone and Canedy 9/15/2001) It is not known when Alghamdi is first seen in Pensacola. However, he uses the address of a housing facility for foreign military trainees located inside the base on drivers’ licenses issued in 1996 and 1998. Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami also list the same address as Ahmed Alghamdi on their drivers license and car registrations between 1996 and 1998. Other records connect Hamza Alghamdi to that same address. However, the Pensacola News Journal reports that “The news articles caution that there are slight discrepancies between the FBI list of suspected hijackers and the military training records, either in the spellings of their names or in their birth dates. They also raise the possibility that the hijackers stole the identities of military trainees.” (Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Wheeler, Streater, and Graybiel 9/17/2001) It is unclear if these people were the 9/11 hijackers or just others with similar names. The US military has never definitively denied that they were the hijackers, and the media lost interest in the story a couple of weeks after 9/11.

The Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg.The Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. [Source: Knut Muller]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell begin regularly attending the Al-Quds mosque. Atta becomes a well-known figure both there and at other mosques in the city. He grows a beard at this time, which some commentators interpret as a sign of greater religious devotion. The mosque is home to numerous radicals. For example, the imam, Mohammed Fazazi, advocates killing non-believers and encourages his followers to embrace martyrdom (see 1993-Late 2001 and Early 2001).
Atta Teaches Classes at Al-Quds - After a time, Atta begins to teach classes at the mosque. He is stern with his students and criticizes them for wearing their hair in ponytails and gold chains around their necks, as well as for listening to music, which he says is a product of the devil. If a woman shows up, her father is informed she is not welcome. This is one of the reasons that, of the 80 students that start the classes, only a handful are left at the end.
Other Hijackers and Cell Members Attend Al-Quds - One of Atta’s associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, also teaches classes at the mosque. 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah start attending the mosque at different times and possibly first meet Atta there. Other mosque attendees who interact with the future hijackers at the mosque include Said Bahaji, and al-Qaeda operatives Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar.
Is the Mosque Monitored? - According to author Terry McDermott, German investigators notice Bahaji meeting frequently with Darkazanli and Zammar at the mosque, so they presumably have a source inside it. (PBS Frontline 1/2002; Burke 2004, pp. 242; McDermott 2005, pp. 1-5, 34-37, 72) The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will later report that there probably is an informer working for the LfV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, inside the mosque by 1999. Somehow, the LfV is very knowledgeable about Atta and some his associates, and their behavior inside the mosque (see (April 1, 1999)). (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) Radical imam Fazazi will continue to preach at the mosque until late 2001 (see Mid-September-Late 2001).

9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, who returned to his native Saudi Arabia after a previous stay in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992), now arrives in the US for the second time, and will spend much of the next three years in the country. Hanjour first stays in Miramar, Florida with a couple that are longtime friends with Abulrahman Hanjour, his eldest brother: Adnan Khalil, a Saudi professor at a local college, and his wife Susan. Susan Khalil later remembers Hani Hanjour as socially inept, with “really bad hygiene.” She says, “Of all my husband’s colorful friends, he was probably the most nondescript. He would blend into the wall.” The Washington Post later reports: “Hanjour’s meek, introverted manner fits a recurrent pattern in the al-Qaeda network of unsophisticated young men being recruited as helpers in terrorist attacks. FBI agents have told people they have interviewed about Hanjour that he ‘fit the personality to be manipulated and brainwashed.’” Yet, Susan Khalil says, “I didn’t get the feeling that he hated me or hated Americans.” Hanjour, she says, “was very kind and gentle to my son, who was 3 years old.” He prays frequently, at their home and at a nearby mosque. After staying for about a month he leaves the Khalil’s, having been accepted at a flight school in California (see April 30-Early September 1996). (Crary 9/21/2001; Allison 10/2/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) Many of the hijackers will later live in this part of Florida. A nearby mosque is run by radical imam Gulshair Shukrijumah, who possibly associates with Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in 2000 and 2001 (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001). (Canedy and Lichtblau 3/22/2003)

A poor photocopy of Marwan Alshehhi’s United Arab Emirates passport.A poor photocopy of Marwan Alshehhi’s United Arab Emirates passport. [Source: FBI]Marwan Alshehhi, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) national, volunteered for the UAE army shortly after leaving high school (presumably in late 1995, based on his age). After going through basic training, in the spring of 1996 he is granted a college scholarship to Germany, paid for by the UAE army. Alshehhi is to learn German, then study marine engineering. The scholarship is accompanied by a monthly stipend of around $2,200. The UAE army declares him a deserter in April 2000, shortly before he quits school and moves to the US (see April 1, 2000). It is not clear why. Curiously, Alshehhi will continue to receive this stipend despite being a deserter, and even after he drops out of school in Germany and begins attending flight school in the US. The stipend comes to an end in December 2000. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 132 pdf file; McDermott 2005, pp. 53-56, 196)

The al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, where Mohamed Atta made his will.The al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, where Mohamed Atta made his will. [Source: Der Speigel]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta makes his will in Germany. It is not clear that the text of the will is actually written by Atta. For example, author Lawrence Wright will say that Atta merely signs a “standardized will” he gets from the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, and journalists Yosri Fouda and Nick Fielding will say that the will is a “printed-out form devised by the mosque.” Atta apparently makes it as he is angered by new reports of an Israeli operation against Lebanon, which begins on this day. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 81-2; Wright 2006, pp. 307) Although the act of making a will is not that unusual for a 27-year old Muslim, the content of the will is unusual, perhaps reflecting the radical environment of the mosque (see Early 1996). For example, it says: “… [6] I don’t want a pregnant woman or a person who is not clean to come and say good bye to me because I don’t approve it… [9] The person who will wash my body near my genitals must wear gloves on his hands so he won’t touch my genitals… [11] I don’t want any women to go to my grave at all during my funeral or on any occasion thereafter.” The will is witnessed by Abdelghani Mouzdi and Mounir El Motassadeq, who also make wills around the same time. (Atta 4/11/1996; Burke 2004, pp. 242; McDermott 2005, pp. 49, 245-7, 274)

Hijacker Hani Hanjour moves from Florida to the San Francisco Bay area in California, staying with an unidentified family. He lives with them from late April to early September. For most of this time he takes English lessons in an intensive program requiring 30 hours of class time per week, at the ELS Language Center at Holy Names College in Oakland. He reportedly reaches a level of proficiency sufficient to “survive very well in the English language.” Yet in 2001, managers at an Arizona flight school will report him to the FAA at least five times, partly because they think his level of English is inadequate for him to keep his pilot’s license. Due to his poor English, it will take Hanjour five hours to complete an oral exam meant to last just two hours (see January-February 2001). At the end of this period, Hanjour enrolls on a rigorous one-year flight training program at the renowned Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, in Oakland. However, he only attends the 30-minute orientation class, on September 8, and then never returns. (Hu 10/10/2001; Finz and Taylor 10/10/2001; Associated Press 10/11/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/21/2001; Gordon 12/21/2001; Associated Press 5/10/2002)

A close-up of Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen.A close-up of Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen. [Source: PBS / Nova]Al-Qaeda begins using an important communications hub and operations center in Yemen. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) The hub is set up because al-Qaeda is headquartered in Afghanistan, but requires another location that has access to regular telephone services and major air links. It is located in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, in the neighbourhood of Madbah. Ahmed al-Hada, an associate of Osama bin Laden’s who fought in Afghanistan, runs the hub and lives there with his family. (Bamford 2008, pp. 7-8) Terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna will say that the hub is used as a switchboard to “divert and receive calls and messages from the [Middle East] region and beyond.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) FBI agent Mark Rossini will say, “That house was a focal point for operatives in the field to call in, that number would then contact bin Laden to pass along information and receive instruction back.” (PBS 2/3/2009) Author James Bamford will add: “[T]he house in Yemen became the epicenter of bin Laden’s war against America, a logistics base to coordinate attacks, a switchboard to pass on orders, and a safe house where his field commanders could meet to discuss and carry out operations.” Bin Laden himself places many calls to the house, and it is used to coordinate the attacks on US embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar also lives at the house at some point in the late 1990s with his wife Hoda, al-Hada’s daughter. (Bamford 2008, pp. 8)

In late 1996, hijacker Hani Hanjour attends CRM Airline Training Center in Scottsdale, Arizona for three months. This is normally adequate time to earn a private pilot’s certificate, but Hanjour fails to accomplish this. (Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001) Duncan Hastie, the school’s owner, finds Hanjour a “weak student” who is “wasting our resources.” According to Hastie, “He was not able to fly solo in a small plane, which is equivalent to getting out of a parking space [in a car] and stopping.” Hanjour returns to CRM in December 1997 with two friends: Bandar Al Hazmi, a Saudi like Hanjour, and Rayed Abdullah of Qatar. (There apparently is no family relationship between Bandar Al Hazmi and the two Alhazmi 9/11 hijackers.) Hanjour takes about three lessons, but still fails to complete the coursework necessary for a license to fly a single-engine aircraft. Subsequently, he phones the school about twice per year requesting more lessons, but, according to Hastie, “We didn’t want him back at our school because he was not serious about becoming a good pilot.” The final time Hanjour calls, in 2000, he requests training on a Boeing 757: the kind of plane he is alleged to have flown into the Pentagon on 9/11. (Frank 9/23/2001; Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Haynes 10/2/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/21/2001; Lombardo 11/2001; Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)

Ziad Jarrah on a plane.Ziad Jarrah on a plane. [Source: NDRTV]Within a few months of arriving in Germany, hijacker Ziad Jarrah begins to associate with Abdulrahman al-Makhadi, a local hardline Muslim who raises money for the militant Palestinian group Hamas and is monitored by the German intelligence service BfV. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will say that al-Makhadi, also known as Abu Mohammed, is “known to the [German security service] BfV as a Hamas activist and ‘instigator,’” and that, “It is therefore difficult to imagine that the 26 year old Lebanese [Jarrah] was not also registered by the machinery of the intelligence services.” Jarrah later travels around Germany with al-Makhadi and meets other radicals. Al-Makhadi runs the local mosque and makes money by selling special Arab food he purchases in Hamburg there. (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003; McDermott 2005, pp. 51)

On several occasion between 1996 and 1999, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour attends flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). The 9/11 Commission will later note, “It is clear that when Hanjour lived in Arizona in the 1990s, he associated with several individuals who have been the subject of counterterrorism investigations.” Some of the time, he is accompanied by two friends, Bandar Al Hazmi and Rayed Abdullah. Al Hazmi and Abdullah have been friends with each other in high school in Saudi Arabia, but it is not known if either knew Hanjour before moving to the US. Al Hazmi and Hanjour are roommates for a time. Al Hazmi will finish his training and leave the US for the last time in January 2000 (he apparently will be interviewed overseas in 2004). Abdullah becomes a leader of a Phoenix mosque where he reportedly gives extremist speeches. He will continue to train with Hanjour occasionally through the summer of 2001. The FBI apparently will investigate him in May 2001. He will repeatedly be questioned by authorities after 9/11, then move to Qatar. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will report that the FBI remains suspicious of Al Hazmi and Abdullah, but neither man is charged with any crime. The 9/11 Commission will also imply that another of Hanjour’s Arizona associates is al-Qaeda operative Ghassan al Sharbi. Al Sharbi will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). He apparently is a target of Ken Williams’s “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001). Another associate of Hanjour’s, Hamed al Sulami, is in telephone contact with a radical Saudi imam who is said to be the spiritual advisor to al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. This imam may have a role in recruiting some of the 9/11 hijackers. Abdulaziz Alomari, for instance, was a student of this imam. It seems that al Sulami is also a target of Williams’s memo. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233, 520-521, 529)

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi intelligence minister until shortly before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001), will later claim that al-Qaeda attempts to smuggle weapons into Saudi Arabia to mount attacks on police stations. The plot is uncovered and prevented by Saudi intelligence, and two of the unsuccessful gunrunners, future hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are watchlisted. (Follman 10/18/2003; Wright 2006, pp. 266, 310-311, 448) However, Almihdhar and Alhazmi continue to move in and out of Saudi Arabia unchecked and will obtain US visas there in April 1999 (see 1993-1999 and April 3-7, 1999). The US is supposedly informed of Almihdhar and Alhazmi’s al-Qaeda connection by the end of 1999 (see Late 1999). Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an associate of Almihdhar and Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000), is implicated in a plot to smuggle four Russian antitank missiles into Saudi Arabia around the same time, although it is unclear whether this is the same plot or a different one. The Saudi authorities uncover this plot and the US is apparently informed of the missile seizure in June 1998. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3, 491)

Mohamed Atta, from a January, 1996 Egyptian passport photo.Mohamed Atta, from a January, 1996 Egyptian passport photo. [Source: Getty Images]Spanish newspaper El Mundo later reports, “According to several professors at the Valencia School of Medicine, some of whom are forensic experts, [9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta] was a student there in 1997 or 1998. Although he used another name then, they remember his face among the students that attended anatomy classes.” It is also suggested that “years before, as a student he went to Tarragona. That would explain his last visit to Salou [from July 8-19, 2001], where he could have made contact with dormant cells…”(see July 8-19, 2001) (Olmedo 9/30/2001) If this is true, it would contradict reports concerning Atta’s presence as a student in Hamburg, Germany, during this entire period. There is also a later report that in 1999 Atta will meet an al-Qaeda operative in Alicante, less than 100 miles from Valencia (see 1999).

9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi visits the Philippines several times this year. He stays at the Woodland Park Resort Hotel near Angeles City, about 60 miles north of Manila and near the former US controlled Clark Air Base. Security guard Antonio Sersoza later claims, “I am sure Alshehhi had been a Woodland guest several times in 1997. I remember him well because I flagged his speeding car at least three times at the gate of Woodland.” He adds that Alshehhi used different cars, knew how to speak some Filipino, and stayed at the hotel on several Saturdays. He is not sure if Mohamed Atta was with him. (Cervantes 10/1/2001; Gulf News 10/2/2001; Lerner 10/11/2001) Other eyewitnesses will later recall seeing Alshehhi and Atta at the Woodland hotel in 1999 (see December 1999), and the Philippine military will confirm their presence there. 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).

Al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar is frequently seen with future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta starting this year. According to Time magazine: “Beginning in 1997, neighbors of Atta’s would often see Zammar carrying boxes up to the Egyptian student’s second-story walk-up. US investigators believe he may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda around 1998.” (Frank et al. 7/1/2002) German intelligence begins heavily monitoring Zammar in early 1997 (see March 1997-Early 2000), but it is unclear when it first takes notice of Atta.

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, fellow plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and two of their associates, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mohammed Belfas, find employment at a small Hamburg-area computer company called Hay Computing Service GmbH. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 1/11/2002, pp. 30; Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002) Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi also reportedly works there. (Sullivan 12/30/2001) Atta and Belfas got their jobs through Agus Budiman, an Indonesian associate of theirs, who was already employed at the company. (9/11 Commission 1/28/2004 pdf file) Another unnamed individual, who will be investigated after 9/11, also works there with bin al-Shibh. (9/11 Commission 11/6/2003) The cell members work in the company’s warehouse, packing computers for shipment. (Rhoads and Boudette 10/9/2001; Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 123; Der Spiegel (Hamburg) 9/8/2003)

Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour begins associating with an unnamed individual who is later mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’s famous “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001). Hanjour and this individual train at flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). Several flight instructors will later note that the two were associates and may have carpooled together. They are known to share the same airplane on one occasion in 1999, and are at the school together on other occasions. The unnamed individual leaves the US in April 2000. In May 2001, the FBI attempts to investigate this person, but after finding out that he has left the US, it declines to open a formal investigation. The person’s name is not placed on a watch list, so the FBI is unaware that he returns in June and stays in the US for another month. By this time, he is an experienced flight instructor who is certified to fly Boeing 737s. The FBI speculates he may return to evaluate Hanjour’s flying skills or provide final training before 9/11. There is considerable circumstantial evidence placing this person near Hanjour in July 2001. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) This unnamed individual may be Lofti Raissi, as several details match him perfectly. For instance, Raissi is a flight instructor who left the US in April 2000, is later accused of having shared an airplane with Hanjour in 1999, and is accused of being with Hanjour in July 2001. (Gillan 1/31/2002) In addition, according to FBI investigators, Raissi engages in a number of suspicious activities during this period that will justify scrutiny after 9/11. For example, in June 2000, while training at a British flight school, he reportedly asks, “if a plane flies into a building, whether it is the responsibility of the airline or the pilot,” and warns that “America will get theirs.” (9/11 Commission 1/5/2004) Raissi will be arrested in Britain after 9/11 and accused of training Hanjour and other hijackers how to fly, but the case against him will collapse in April 2002. He will be released, and many of the allegations against him will be withdrawn (see September 21, 2001). No media accounts will report that Raissi was mentioned in the Phoenix memo or wanted for an FBI investigation before 9/11.

Ziad Jarrah.Ziad Jarrah. [Source: Reuters]When traveling with a radical associate known to be monitored by German intelligence, Abdulrahman al-Makhadi (see Late 1996 or After), Ziad Jarrah meets another suspicious Islamic radical. The man, a convert, is known in public accounts only as Marcel K and is the vice president of the Islamic center in North-Rhine Westphalia. In March 2001, the Bundeskriminalamt federal criminal service will begin investigating the center’s president with respect to membership in a terrorist organization. Marcel K is apparently a close confidant of Jarrah, because Jarrah always calls him before taking important decisions, for example when he leaves to train in Afghanistan and when he applies for admission to US flight schools. He will also call Marcel K during his pilot training, for the last time shortly before 9/11. (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) Marcel K will be arrested in a Europe-wide sweep of Islamic militants in February 2003. (Deutsche Welle (Bonn) 2/6/2003; Jansen 2/7/2003; Hoge 2/7/2003) It is not known what happens to him after this.

The 19 hijackers apply and receive a total of 23 visas at five different posts from November 1997 through June 2001. Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, Saudi citizens, apply twice at Jeddah. Only Hanjour applies for a student visa, others for tourist/business visa. (United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 7-45 pdf file)
bullet The fifteen Saudi hijackers apply for their visas in their home country. Four at the embassy in Riyadh: Hamza Alghamdi (10/17/2000), Mohand Alshehri (10/23/2000), Majed Moqed (11/20/2000) and Satam Al Suqami (11/21/2000). Eleven at the US consulate in Jeddah: Hani Hanjour (11/2/1997 and 9/25/2000), Khalid Almihdhar (4/7/1999 and 6/13/2001), Saeed Alghamdi (9/4/2000 and 6/12/2001), and Ahmed Alnami (10/28/2000 and 4/28/2001), Nawaf Alhazmi (4/3/1999), Ahmed Alghamdi (9/3/2000), Wail Alshehri (10/24/2000), Waleed M. Alshehri (10/24/2000), Abdulaziz Alomari (6/18/2001), Salem Alhazmi (6/20/2001), and Ahmed Alhaznawi (11/12/2000).
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad and Marwan Alshehhi apply in their home country, the United Arab Emirates, respectively at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi on 6/18/2001 and at consulate in Dubai on 1/18/2000.
bullet Mohamed Atta (Egyptian) and Ziad Jarrah (Lebanese) apply, as third-country national applicants, at the US embassy in Berlin, respectively, on May 18 and 25, 2000.

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

Sawyer Aviation logo.Sawyer Aviation logo. [Source: Sawyer Aviation]In January 1998, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour and his friend Bandar Al Hazmi, who are now renting an apartment together in Phoenix, Arizona, train together at Arizona Aviation flight school. Hanjour supposedly receives his commercial pilot rating while there. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Later in 1998, Hanjour joins the simulator club at Sawyer School of Aviation in Phoenix. According to the Washington Post, Sawyer is “known locally as a flight school of last resort.” Wes Fults, the manager of the flight simulator, says Hanjour has “only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” After using the simulator four or five times, Hanjour disappears from the school. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001)

According to closed-session testimony by CIA, FBI and NSA heads, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks this year. (Diamond and Kiely 6/18/2002) In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also asserts that planning for the attacks begin at this time. (Shahine 9/8/2002) However, it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including “innumerable takes from all distances and angles” of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001, however, the person who filmed the 1997 video will be acquitted of making it for al-Qaeda in 2005 (see September 26, 2005). (Socolovsky 7/17/2002) Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and obtained his license in 1997 (though it is not certain if this refers to the same person). (Mackay 9/16/2001; Socolovsky 7/17/2002)

Ken Williams.Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]The FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. FBI agent Ken Williams initiates an investigation into the possibility of Islamic militants learning to fly aircraft, but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. Because of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings issued in 1998 and 1999 concerning Islamic militants training at US flight schools (see May 15, 1998; September 1999). Williams will write the “Phoenix memo” in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001). He had been alerted about some suspicious flight school students in 1996, but it is not clear if this person was mentioned in that previous alert or not (see October 1996). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file)

Aukai Collins in Chechnya.
Aukai Collins in Chechnya. [Source: Lyons Press publicity photo]An American Caucasian Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he reports to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year. (Montes 5/24/2002) The FBI later acknowledges they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999. He also was an informant overseas and once had an invitation to meet bin Laden (see Mid-1998). (McWethy 5/23/2002; Montes 5/24/2002) Collins claims that he is a casual acquaintance of Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. (Montes 5/24/2002) Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. (Collins 5/24/2002) He says the FBI “knew everything about the guy,” including his exact address, phone number, and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11. (McWethy 5/23/2002) Collins later calls Hanjour a “hanky panky” hijacker: “He wasn’t even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn’t part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn’t even spell jihad in Arabic.” (Collins 2003, pp. 248) Collins tells the New York Times that he worked with FBI agent Ken Williams, who will write a July 2001 memo expressing concerns about radical militants attending Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001). He says that he quarrels with Williams and quits helping him. It is unknown if Williams ever learns about Hanjour before 9/11. (Thomas 5/24/2002) Collins closely matches the description of the informant who first alerted Williams to Zacaria Soubra, a flight student who will be the main focus of Williams’ memo (see April 2000). If this is so, it bolsters Collins’ claims that he knew Hanjour, because many of Soubra’s friends, including his roommate (and al-Qaeda operative) Ghassan al-Sharbi do know Hanjour (see July 10, 2001). After 9/11, Collins will claim that based on his experience with the FBI and CIA, he is 100 percent sure that some people in those agencies knew about the 9/11 attack in advance and let it happen. “Just think about it—how could a group of people plan such a big operation full of so many logistics and probably countless e-mails, encrypted or not, and phone calls and messengers? And you’re telling me that, through all of that, that the CIA never caught wind of it?” (Lempinen 10/17/2002)

A military report released this year describes the “Joint Vision 2010” program, a series of “analyses, war games, studies, experiments, and exercises” which are “investigating new operational concepts, doctrines, and organizational approaches that will enable US forces to maintain full spectrum dominance of the battlespace well into the 21st century.” “The Air Force has begun a series of war games entitled Global Engagement at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.” The same report mentions that the military is working on a “variety of new imaging and signals intelligence sensors, currently in advanced stages of development, deployed aboard the Global Hawk, DarkStar, and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)…” (US Department of Defense 1998) Global Hawk is a technology that enables pilotless flight and has been functioning since at least early 1997. (US Department of Defense 2/20/1997) While it may be mere coincidence, “Air Force spokesman Colonel Ken McClellan said a man named Mohamed Atta—which the FBI has identified as one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11—had once attended the International Officer’s School at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.” But he adds that “there [was] discrepancies in the biographical data” (mainly the birth date) and that “it may just be a case of mistaken identity” (see also 1996-August 2000 and September 15-17, 2001) (Radelat 9/17/2001; Radelat and Madden 9/20/2001)

Salem Alhazmi.Salem Alhazmi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]According to the 9/11 Commission, two of the alleged Saudi 9/11 hijackers, Satam Al Suqami and Salem Alhazmi, appear “unconcerned with religion and, contrary to Islamic law, [are] known to drink alcohol.” In addition, they both have minor criminal offence records. However, Salem Alhazmi’s father will later remember that Salem “stopped drinking and started attending mosque regularly three months before he disappeared.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232-3, 524)

Wail Alshehri graduated from teacher training college.Wail Alshehri graduated from teacher training college. [Source: FBI]At least ten of the alleged hijackers attend various universities in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Egypt. However, most of them drop out, and apparently only three, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Wail Alshehri, graduate. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “Several of the muscle hijackers seem to have been recruited through contacts at local universities and mosques.”
bullet Wail Alshehri attends a teacher-training college in Abha, Asir Province. He graduates and gets a job as a teacher in his hometown of Khamis Mushayt before joining the plot. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; MSNBC 8/25/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232-3) Some sources will state he teaches physical education. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; MacFarquhar 9/21/2001; Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Sennott 3/3/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 526) Other sources will state he teaches art. (Mushayt 3/15/2002; MSNBC 8/25/2002)
bullet Waleed Alshehri also attends the same college, but does not complete his studies. (Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232)
bullet Abdulaziz Alomari graduates from the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University in Buraidah, Qassim Province. (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; Burke 2004, pp. 247; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232-3)
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi reportedly studies at the Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca for two months before dropping out. (Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Mohand Alshehri attends the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University in Abha for a time before transferring to its main campus in Riyadh. He fails his exams, apparently because he spends too much time in Qassim Province. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233)
bullet According to author Jason Burke, Majed Moqed attends the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University in Buraidah, Qassim Province. (Burke 2004, pp. 247) Alternatively, the Saudi Information Agency and Arab News will say he attended the Administration and Economics faculty at the King Saud University in Riyadh. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002) He drops out before completing his studies. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232)
bullet Saeed Alghamdi transfers to a university in Qassim Province, but soon stops talking to his family and drops out of school without telling them. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233)
bullet According to most sources, Ahmed Alnami attends the King Khaled School of Islamic Law in Abha. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Sennott 3/3/2002; Lamb 9/15/2002; Burke 2004, pp. 247; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232) However, the Saudi Information Agency will say he attended the Imam Mohammed Bin Saud University there. (Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet According to the 9/11 Commission, Satam Al Suqami has little education. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232) However, the Saudi Information Agency will say he attends the King Saud University in Riyadh with Majed Moqed. (Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet One report will also say that Fayez Ahmed Banihammad attends the King Khalid University in Abha, Asir Province (despite being a citizen of the United Arab Emirates). (Lamb 9/15/2002)
Mohamed Atta attends university in Egypt, and he, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah also attend university in Germany (see Spring 1996-December 23, 2000). (McDermott 2005, pp. 49-53)

Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in California, claims to write a letter to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife needs thyroid surgery. The Saudi embassy sends Basnan $15,000 and pays the surgical bill. However, according to University of California at San Diego hospital records, Basnan’s wife, Majeda Dweikat, is not treated until April 2000. (Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) Basnan will later come under investigation for possibly using some of this money to support two of the 9/11 hijackers who arrive in San Diego (see November 22, 2002), although the 9/11 Commission will conclude that evidence does not support these charges. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)

Yemeni security officer Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman travels to Switzerland to purchase passport forgery equipment for Islamist extremists. Abdulsalam is a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO), the Yemeni equivalent of the FBI (see August 12, 2000). Abdulrahman purchases tools to forge Schengen visas, which allow their holder to travel without border controls in some European Union countries. Italian authorities investigating Abdulrahman and his associates will learn this by 2002. They will speculate that Abdulrahman is an expert forger and that he trains a militant named Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000), in forgery. Es Sayed will travel to Italy in 2000 from Yemen, where he will begin forging documents (see Summer 2000). Abdulrahman has close ties to radical organizations and provides false documents and airline tickets to al-Qaeda members to facilitate their travels to Europe. (Vidino 2006, pp. 223-4)

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).

The apartment building in Wilhelmsburg where Atta and his associates live in 1998.The apartment building in Wilhelmsburg where Atta and his associates live in 1998. [Source: Associated Press]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and a group of his radical Islamist friends move into an apartment in Wilhelmsburg, an island on the Elbe River in the middle of Hamburg, Germany. The area is a run-down industrial zone. It is unclear who all the members of the group living in the apartment are, but Marwan Alshehhi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh live there. For the first time, this group becomes very closely tied together. They live an extremely simple life, with nothing but mattresses for furniture and no electrical devices except for lights. Neighbors will later say the men in the apartment talk long into the night nearly every night, with the blinds on the windows permanently closed. The group moves to a nicer apartment on November 1, 1998 (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). (McDermott 2005, pp. 58-60)

Two members of the Hamburg cell comprising some of the lead 9/11 hijackers and their associates are absent from the city for periods. Ramzi bin al-Shibh vanishes from Germany over the summer, it is unclear where he goes. Marwan Alshehhi is unaccounted for over a period of three months. Before disappearing he withdraws over $5,000 from his bank and, while he is gone, his normally active credit card accounts are dormant. He makes no charges on them or withdrawals from ATM machines between September 3 and early December. Bin al-Shibh is again absent in the winter. Mohamed Atta is also absent from Hamburg around the same time (see Late 1997-Early 1998). Commenting on the disappearances, author Terry McDermott will say, “Practically, there is only one place they likely would have gone—Afghanistan.” (McDermott 2005, pp. 57)

An unknown Saudi benefactor pays a Saudi, Saad Al-Habeeb, to buy a building in San Diego, California, for a new Kurdish community mosque, the Kurdish Community Islamic Center. However, the approximately $500,000 will only be given on the condition that Omar al-Bayoumi be installed as the building’s maintenance manager with a private office at the mosque. After taking the job, al-Bayoumi rarely shows up for work. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; Reno 9/2003) This means he has two jobs at once. The people in the mosque eventually begin a move to replace al-Bayoumi, but he moves to Britain in July 2001 before this can happen. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002) An anonymous federal investigator states, “Al-Bayoumi came here, set everything up financially, set up the San Diego [al-Qaeda] cell and set up the mosque.” An international tax attorney notes that anyone handling business for a mosque or a church could set it up as a tax-exempt charitable organization “and it can easily be used for money laundering.” (Gembrowski and Aryan 10/27/2001; Thornton 10/22/2002)

Thieves snatch a passport from a car driven by a US tourist in Barcelona, Spain, which later finds its way into the hands of would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh. Bin al-Shibh allegedly uses the name on the passport in the summer of 2001 as he wires money to pay flight school tuition for Zacarias Moussaoui in Oklahoma (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001). After 9/11, investigators will believe the movement of this passport shows connections between the 9/11 plotters in Germany and a support network in Spain, made up mostly by ethnic Syrians. “Investigators believe that the Syrians served as deep-cover mentors, recruiters, financiers and logistics providers for the hijackers—elite backup for an elite attack team.” (Rotella 1/14/2003) Mohamed Atta travels to Spain twice or three times in 2001 (see January 4-10, 2001, July 8-19, 2001, and September 5, 2001), perhaps to make contact with members of this Spanish support team.

9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar makes a series of calls to an al-Qaeda communications hub run by his father-in-law, Ahmed al-Hada. A Yemeni police official will later tell Agence France-Presse that Almihdhar “made a number of overseas calls to Ahmed al-Hada, who was then in Sana’a, before, during, and after” the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Al-Hada is involved in the embassy bombings and the US intelligence community begins joint surveillance of his phone after the bombings (see Late August 1998), although the NSA may already have been monitoring it (see Before August 7, 1998). The calls made by Almihdhar are from overseas and the FBI learns of this, presumably during the investigation into the embassy bombings (see August 4-25, 1998) (Mounasser 2/15/2002) Around this time Almihdhar is also in contact with al-Hada’s son, Samir, who is his brother-in-law, and the Yemen Times will later report that these contacts are monitored. However, it is not clear whether this is just by local authorities in Yemen, or also by US intelligence. (Yemen Times 2/18/2002) British Prime Minister Tony Blair will later say that one of the 9/11 hijackers, presumably Almihdhar, played a key role in the attacks on the US embassies in East Africa (see October 4, 2001).

Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen.Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen. [Source: PBS NOVA]The investigation of the East Africa embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) led to the discovery of the phone number of an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see August 4-25, 1998). The hub is run by an al-Qaeda veteran named Ahmed al-Hada, who is helped by his son Samir and is related to many other al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and elsewhere. He is also the father in law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, whose wife, Hoda al-Hada, lives at the hub with their children. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002; Schrom 10/1/2002; Myers 7/21/2004; Suskind 2006, pp. 94; Wright 2006, pp. 277, 309, 343, 378) Several of Ahmed al-Hada’s relatives die fighting for al-Qaeda before 9/11, a fact known to US intelligence. (Meyer 12/21/2005; al-Haj 2/15/2006) The NSA may already be aware of the phone number, as they have been intercepting Osama bin Laden’s communications for some time (see November 1996-Late August 1998) and, according to Newsweek, “some” of bin Laden’s 221 calls to Yemen are to this phone number. (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002; O'Connor 9/5/2006) The US intelligence community now begins a joint effort to monitor the number. The NSA and CIA jointly plant bugs inside the house, tap the phones, and monitor visitors with spy satellites. (Wigmore 6/9/2002; Wright 2006, pp. 343; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) US intelligence also learns that the communications hub is an al-Qaeda “logistics center,” used by agents around the world to communicate with each other and plan attacks. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) The joint effort enables the FBI to map al-Qaeda’s global organization (see Late 1998-Early 2002) and at least three of the hijackers use the number, enabling the NSA to intercept their communications and find out about an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia (see December 29, 1999 and January 5-8, 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001). It appears al-Qaeda continues to use this phone line until Samir al-Hada dies resisting arrest in early 2002 (see February 13, 2002).

According to a consular officer later interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, at this time the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, begins interviewing “a majority” of male Saudi US visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 40. The officer will say that this is because the consulate is aware of Osama bin Laden, knows he is dangerous, and is concerned about the possibility that Saudi visa applicants might intend to go to the US to participate in terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda has recently attacked two US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Although some US officials in Saudi Arabia around this time will later say that they were unaware Saudis could be security threats, the official will call this position “absurd” and “patently ridiculous.” The official will also define how they looked for potential extremists: Saudi applicants who had long beards, a short robe, or other indicators of fundamentalism, and fundamentalist Muslim clerics who want a visa to chant the Koran in a US mosque around the time of Ramadan receive greater scrutiny. In addition, even an applicant who does not look like an extremist but is from a location known to have produced extremists, such as Qassim Province, “and he doesn’t have a good explanation, and he wants to go to the US for an extended stay, that person didn’t get a visa.” These applicants are denied visas under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is for use against applicants who are suspected of wanting to immigrate. One of this officer’s colleagues will confirm the interview policy at this time, saying they interview 100 percent of Saudi citizens who are first-time student visa applicants, 80 percent of all students, and five percent of all other Saudi applicants. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 124-125 pdf file) Around fall 2000 this policy of aggressively interviewing Saudi visa applicants will apparently be scaled back (see Early Fall 2000) by Shayna Steinger, a consular officer who will go on to issue 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000).

Omar al-Bayoumi.Omar al-Bayoumi. [Source: Saudi Government via Al Arabiya]The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry on Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man, and possible Saudi agent. The FBI discovers he has been in contact with several people also under investigation. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) The FBI is given a tip that he was sent a suspicious package filled with wire from the Middle East, and that large numbers of Arab men routinely meet in his apartment. His landlord notices that he switches from driving a beat up old car to a new Mercedes. (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003) According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the FBI notes that al-Bayoumi has “access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.” For instance, an FBI source identifies him as a person who has delivered about $500,000 from Saudi Arabia to buy a mosque in June 1998 (see June 1998). However, the FBI closes the inquiry “for reasons that remain unclear .” (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) Also in 1999, al-Bayoumi is working as an employee of the Saudi company Dallah Avco but apparently is doing no work. Someone in the company tries to fire him and sends a note to the Saudi government about this, since the company is so closely tied to the government. However, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi, the Director General of Civil Aviation, replies that it is “extremely urgent” his job is renewed “as quickly as possible,” and so he keeps his job. (Simpson 8/11/2003)

The Marienstrasse building.The Marienstrasse building. [Source: Associated Press]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)

Satam Al Suqami.Satam Al Suqami. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]On August 11, 1998, 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is issued a Saudi Arabian passport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 29 pdf file) This passport will allegedly be discovered in the wreckage of the 9/11 attacks in New York (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), allowing investigators an unusually detailed glimpse into the movements of one of the hijackers. While a majority of the hijackers seem to have traveled little prior to coming to the US, Al Suqami travels widely:
bullet November 5, 1998: He enters and departs Jordan, enters Syria.
bullet November 11, 1998: departs Syria; enters and departs Jordan.
bullet November 12, 1998: enters Saudi Arabia.
bullet February 19, 1999: enters Saudi Arabia.
bullet February 24, 1999: enters and departs Jordan; enters Syria.
bullet February 25, 1999: departs Saudi Arabia.
bullet March 7, 1999: departs Syria.
bullet March 8, 1999: enters Jordan.
bullet May 13, 1999: departs Bahrain.
bullet May 15, 1999: enters Saudi Arabia.
bullet January 18, 2000: enters United Arab Emirates (UAE).
bullet April 4, 2000: enters UAE.
bullet April 6, 2000: departs UAE.
bullet April 7, 2000: enters Egypt.
bullet April 18, 2000: departs Oman, enters UAE.
bullet July 11, 2000: departs Egypt.
bullet July 12, 2000: enters Malaysia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 33, 37-39, 42, 59-62, 75 pdf file)
On September 24, 2000, Al Suqami enters Turkey and stays there for most of the next six months (see September 24, 2000-April 1, 2001). Then he will travel to Malaysia again before finally flying to the US. The above records are obviously incomplete as there are sometimes records of him leaving a country without entering it or vice versa. His travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan are also not mentioned, as there was probably an effort to keep them out of his passport. In 2007, al-Qaeda leader Luai Sakra will claim that Al Suqami was not just another hijacker but led a group of the hijackers. The release of Al Suqami’s passport records in 2008 will help corroborate that claim. (Gourlay and Calvert 11/25/2007)

According to author Terry McDermott, by late 1998, German intelligence knows all the key names of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell led by 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. This is mostly due to the on-going surveillance of Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see March 1997-Early 2000, Late 1998 and December 1999). It is not clear if the group is seen as an al-Qaeda cell, or just a bunch of radical Islamists. One unnamed senior German intelligence official will say in November 2001, “We only knew them as radical Muslims. This is not a crime.” This person will add, “They might have had contact with followers of Osama bin Laden. This also is not a crime.” (McDermott 2005, pp. 73, 279) It is unknown if Germany shares this intelligence with the US.

Dan ColemanDan Coleman [Source: CNN]Beginning in the autumn of 1998, the FBI uses the phone records of an al-Qaeda communications hub run by operative Ahmed al-Hada and his son Samir to build a map of al-Qaeda’s global organization. A map showing all the places in the world that have communicated with the hub is posted on the wall of the interagency counterterrorism I-49 squad in New York. The hub’s telephone number was uncovered during the East African embassy bombings investigation (see August 4-25, 1998 and Late August 1998). (Arrabyee 2/21/2002; Myers 7/21/2004; Wright 2006, pp. 343; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) According to FBI agent and I-49 squad member Dan Coleman, al-Hada is “uncle of half the violent jihadists we knew in the country.” (Suskind 2006, pp. 94) Several of his sons and sons-in-law are al-Qaeda operatives and some die fighting and training with radical Islamists; this is known to US intelligence before 9/11. Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is also a son-in-law of al-Hada. (MSNBC 2/14/2002; Fox News 2/14/2002; Meyer 12/21/2005) The number is monitored by the NSA and over the next three years it mines intelligence that helps authorities foil a series of plots, including planned attacks on the US Embassy in Paris and the US Consulate in Istanbul, along with an attempted airline hijacking in Africa. However, the hub also serves as a planning center for the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which is successful (see October 12, 2000). (Kaplan and Whitelaw 3/15/2004) The CIA, as the primary organization for gathering foreign intelligence, has jurisdiction over conversations on the al-Hada phone. Helped by the NSA, it stakes out the house—tapping the phone, planting bugs, and taking satellite photographs of its visitors. However, the CIA apparently does not provide the FBI with all the relevant information it is obtaining about al-Qaeda’s plans. (Wigmore 6/9/2002; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) For example, the FBI is not informed that hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi make calls to the communications hub from the US between spring 2000 and summer 2001 (see Spring-Summer 2000 and Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001). The FBI also asks the NSA to pass any calls between the communications hub and the US to the FBI, but the NSA does not do this either (see Late 1998). (Suskind 2006, pp. 94)

A view inside Atta’s Marienstrasse flat.A view inside Atta’s Marienstrasse flat. [Source: DPA]Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi moved to Bonn, Germany in 1996, and studied German there. He then lived in Hamburg for several months in 1998, and returned to Bonn after failing a language exam. Just as he leaves town, a Pakistani student named Atif bin Mansour arrives in Hamburg, and begins living and studying together with Mohamed Atta. Early in 1999, Mansour applies with Atta for a room to hold a new Islamic study group. Mansour is a pilot on leave from the Pakistani Air Force. As the Los Angeles Times puts it, “This in itself is intriguing—a Pakistani pilot? Investigators acknowledge they haven’t figured out Mansour’s role in the plot, if any.” On this day, Mansour’s brother, also in the Pakistani armed forces, is killed (along with 15 other officers) when his surveillance plane is shot down by India. Mansour returns home and was detained and stopped from returning to Germany. Soon afterwards, Alshehhi returns to Hamburg. According to Mansoor’s father, “Atif was detained because he had not sought permission from the authorities before returning home to attend his younger brother’s funeral.” Then he is set free with assistance from a relative and works on Pakistani air force base. Contacted on his mobile phone by a reporter, Mansour says, “I won’t be able to speak further on such a sensitive issue.” (Mir 7/17/2002; McDermott 9/1/2002; Finn 9/11/2002) In March 2001, Mohamed Atta applies together with a Pakistani Air Force pilot for a security job with Lufthansa Airlines (see February 15, 2001). This pilot is a member of the same Islamic study group as Mansour, but it’s not clear if this is Mansour and he did come back to or stay in Germany, or if Atta was associating with a second Pakistani Air Force pilot. (Roth 2001, pp. 9f; Moore 1/24/2002) The FBI later notes that Alshehhi arrived “almost as a replacement” for Mansour. After 9/11, the FBI asks Pakistan if the flight lieutenant and squad leader Mansour can be found and questioned about any possible role he may have had in the 9/11 plot, but there’s no indication Pakistan as to whether has ever agreed to this request. (Mir 7/17/2002) In late 2002, the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations will say that Mansour remains “a very interesting figure.” (McDermott 9/1/2002)

After 9/11, the FBI will examine phone records and determine that hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi calls Saudi official Fahad al Thumairy many times between December 1998 and December 2000. Al-Bayoumi calls al Thumairy’s home number at least ten times, and al Thumairy calls al-Bayoumi much more often—at least 11 times in the month of December 2000 alone. At the time, al Thumairy is working at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, and is a well-known Islamic radical. For part of 2000 at least, al-Bayoumi is living at the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego at the same time as hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Al Thumairy will later deny knowing al-Bayoumi, but al-Bayoumi will admit knowing al Thumairy. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 514; Shenon 2008, pp. 310-311)

The Vienna, Virginia, house where Waleed Alshehri and Ahmed Alghamdi lived.The Vienna, Virginia, house where Waleed Alshehri and Ahmed Alghamdi lived. [Source: Paul Sperry]Diane and John Albritton later say they call the CIA and police several times this year to report suspicious activity at a neighbor’s home, but authorities fail to respond. (Sisk and Smith 9/15/2001; Hansen 9/23/2001) A man named Waleed Alshehri, allegedly one of the 9/11 hijackers, is renting the house on Orrin Street in Vienna, Virginia, at the time (three blocks from a CIA facility). (Kelley 9/15/2001) He makes his neighbors nervous. “There were always people coming and going,” said Diane Albritton. “Arabic people. Some of them never uttered a word; I don’t know if they spoke English. But they looked very focused. We thought they might be dealing drugs, or illegal immigrants.” (Firestone and Canedy 9/15/2001) A man named Ahmed Alghamdi, allegedly another one of the hijackers, lived at the same address until July 2000. (Sperry 9/14/2001; Fox News 6/6/2002) Shortly after 9/11, it was reported that Waleed Alshehri lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Albritton says they observed a van parked outside the home at all hours of the day and night. A Middle Eastern man appeared to be monitoring a scanner or radio inside the van. Another neighbor says, “We thought it was a drug house. All the cars parked on the street were new BMWs, new Mercedes. People were always walking around out front with cell phones.” There were frequent wild parties, numerous complaints to authorities, and even a police report about a woman shooting a gun into the air during a party. (Sperry 9/14/2001) Other neighbors also called the police about the house. (Barakat 9/14/2001) “Critics say [the case] could have made a difference [in stopping 9/11] had it been handled differently.” Standard procedures require the CIA to notify the FBI of such domestic information. However, FBI officials have not been able to find any record that the CIA shared the information. (Fox News 6/6/2002) FBI Director Mueller has said “the hijackers did all they could to stay below our radar.” (US Congress 5/8/2002) Although Fox News, based on information from the CIA and FBI, will still be reporting that these two men are the hijackers of the same name in the summer of 2002, the 9/11 Commission will say that these two hijackers first entered the US in the spring of 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). (Fox News 6/6/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 527-8)

Mohamedou Ould Slahi.Mohamedou Ould Slahi. [Source:]The 9/11 Commission will later call Mohamedou Ould Slahi “a significant al-Qaeda operative who, even [in late 1999], was well known to US and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 165)
Thinks He Was Monitored - However, while in US custody after 9/11, Slahi will allege that a phone call he received in January 1999 from his cousin Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, a top al-Qaeda leader living in Afghanistan, was monitored. Slahi will say, “I later learned that my cousin was using Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone that was intercepted.” Another mutual cousin was arrested that month and Slahi says, “I wasn’t captured, but I am sure I was followed by the German police [and/or] German intelligence.” He claims the imam at his mosque told him that German officials had come to ask questions about him and was told Slahi had ties with terrorists. (US Department of Defense 4/20/2006, pp. 184-216) In 2000, the New York Times will report that German authorities became interested in Slahi “shortly after the bombings of American Embassies in East Africa in 1998. The German authorities learned that [he] might have ties to Islamic extremists in Europe.” (Johnston 1/29/2000)
Links to 9/11 Hijackers - After Hamburg al-Qaeda cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh is captured in 2002, he will allegedly claim that Slahi was the one who originally recruited 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah. (Agence France-Presse 10/26/2002) After 9/11, another prisoner in US custody will say that Slahi and bin al-Shibh met in Frankfurt in 1999 through an acquaintance. This acquaintance will go further and will claim Slahi knew bin al-Shibh and Jarrah since at least 1998 and that Slahi later lived with them in Hamburg. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 496) In October 1999, bin al-Shibh and Alshehhi call Slahi, and he invites them to come to where he lives in Duisburg, Germany. Bin al-Shibh, Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah soon go visit him there. Karim Mehdi, an apparent leader of the al-Qaeda Ruhr Valley cell who will later be sentenced to nine years in prison for a post-9/11 plot, is also at this meeting. Bin al-Shibh, Alsehhi, and Jarrah follow Slahi’s advice to go to Afghanistan instead of Chechnya, and he gives them instructions on how to meet up with al-Qaeda operatives there. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 165; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 8/3/2005; Souchard 10/26/2006) US investigators later believe Slahi worked closely on al-Qaeda matters with bin al-Shibh and instructed another militant to go to the US and to take part in the 9/11 plot. Additionally, he is believed to have a key role in Ahmed Ressam’s millennium plot (see December 15-31, 1999). (Meyer 4/24/2006)
No Action - German authorities are monitoring and wiretapping the phones at bin al-Shibh’s apartment throughout 1999 (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and 2000), but they apparently do not connect Slahi to the Hamburg militants or do not act on that connection. The Germans will apparently miss another chance to learn of his ties to the Hamburg cell in April 2000, when Slahi is arrested for three weeks in Germany and then let go (see January-April 2000). (US Department of Defense 4/20/2006, pp. 184-216) Note that the testimonies of detainees such as Slahi and bin al-Shibh are suspect due to widespread allegations that they were tortured into confessions (for instance, see September 27, 2001).

A Spanish newspaper later will claim that Ahmed Ressam, the al-Qaeda operative who attempted to bomb the Los Angeles airport at the turn of the millennium (see December 14, 1999), meets Mohamed Atta in the Alicante region of Spain in this year. It is unclear whether the men trained at the same camp while they were in Afghanistan. (Reuters 11/26/2001; Passchier 9/14/2002) According to other Spanish reports, in 1997 or 1998 Atta was a student in Valencia under an assumed name (see 1997 or 1998). Valenica is less than 100 miles from Alicante. After his arrest, Ressam began cooperating with US investigators in the summer of 2001 (see May 30, 2001), leading to the possibility that he could have confirmed Atta’s identity as an al-Qaeda operative before 9/11, if he had been asked.

Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta tries, unsuccessfully, to sell artifacts from Afghanistan. At some time this year, Atta contacts an unidentified archaeologist at the University of Göttingen in Germany and offers to sell him Afghan artifacts. He says he needs to sell them to raise money for flying lessons in the United States. But the archaeologist declines his offer. The archeologist will later tell the German secret service about the incident. (Blouin Artinfo 1/28/2010; Ruiz 2/2010; Pringle 6/13/2014) Atta will spend time in Afghanistan in late 1999 and early 2000 (see Late November-Early December 1999 and January 18, 2000). (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 166-167) He will begin taking flying lessons in Florida in July 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000). (US Congress 3/19/2002; Martin 7/25/2004)

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)

The CIA begins an operation to track or question suspected al-Qaeda operatives as they transit the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). When it is revealed in 2002 that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was questioned in January 2000 as a part of this operation (see January 30-31, 2000), sources from the UAE and Europe describe the operation to CNN, and one of them draws a map of the airport, showing how the operation usually worked and how the people wanted for questioning were intercepted. UAE officials are often told in advance of who is coming in and who should be questioned. Jarrah may be stopped because he is on a US watch list (see January 30, 2000). (MacVicar and Faraj 8/1/2002) In 2011, Dubai airport will be considered one of the top five busiest in the world in terms of international passengers. (Airports Council International 4/30/2011) In the summer of 1999, the CIA also asks immigration officials throughout the Middle East to stop and question anyone who may be returning from militant training camps in Afghanistan (see Summer 1999).
9/11 Hijackers Pass through the Airport - Almost all the 9/11 hijackers pass through Dubai at some point in the months before 9/11, some repeatedly (see December 8, 2000, April 11-June 28, 2001, and June 2001). One of them, Khalid Almihdhar, has his passport photocopied in Dubai by local authorities and the CIA (see January 2-5, 2000). Also, three of the hijackers, Satam al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Hamza Alghamdi, are the subject a US customs investigation at the time they pass through Dubai (see September 2000 and Spring 2001), but it is unknown if there is any attempt to track them through Dubai.

Mohamed Atta with a beard.Mohamed Atta with a beard. [Source: FBI]This year, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is regularly attending Islamic study group meetings led by a fellow Hamburg student named Mohammed bin Nasser Belfas. By this time, Atta and most of the rest of the group have replaced their Western jeans and clean-shaven faces with long beards and tunics. After one of these meetings, Atta asks to privately see Volker Harum Bruhn, an ethnic German who is also a member of the group. Bruhn says that Atta strongly warns him to stay away from Islamic extremists, to follow the Koran strictly, and live a careful life. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002)

Ahmed Alghamdi.Ahmed Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Under interrogation after 9/11, al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash will indicate that some of the 9/11 hijackers try to get to the conflict in Chechnya from Turkey, but are not able to do so because the Turkey-Georgia border is closed. In Turkey, they stay in guesthouses in places such as Istanbul and Ankara. Turkish intelligence has been aware that militants often transit Turkey for some time, but there are no reports saying that the hijackers are monitored at this time (see 1996). The militants then decide to travel to Afghanistan and perhaps try to enter Chechnya again later. In this context bin Attash mentions the names of Saeed Alghamdi, Satam al Suqami, Waleed and Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed. Ahmed Alghamdi and Saeed Alghamdi also have documentation suggesting travel to a Russian republic. However, the reliability of evidence obtained during the interrogations of figures like bin Attash is questionable due to the unreliable methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233) Some of the lead hijackers transit Turkey (see Late November-Early December 1999). There are also reports that some of the hijackers tell family and friends in Saudi Arabia that they intend to fight in Chechnya, and it appears that some, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, may actually see combat there (see 1996-December 2000).

Abdulaziz Alomari, from a video apparently made in spring 2001.Abdulaziz Alomari, from a video apparently made in spring 2001. [Source: As Sahab]Two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, Abdulaziz Alomari and Ahmed Alnami, are apparently radicalized by the education system in Saudi Arabia. Abdulaziz Alomari is an Islamic law graduate (see Late 1990s) and serves as a prayer leader at his mosque. At university in Qassim Province, he studies under radical cleric Sulayman al-Alwan. The 9/11 Commission will say that al-Alwan’s mosque is “known among moderate clerics as a ‘terrorist factory.’ The Province is at the very heart of the strict Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia.” Al-Alwan is reportedly spiritual advisor to al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida and is in telephone contact with Hamed al-Sulami, an associate of Hani Hanjour (see July 10, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232-3, 521) Ahmed Alnami leads a carefree life until 1999, but then becomes more pious after returning from a Saudi-government sponsored training camp, growing a beard and shunning his old friends. He reportedly sings the call to prayer at the al-Basra mosque in the city of Abha and, occasionally, another mosque in Khamis Mushayt, a nearby town where some of the other hijackers live. (Ba-Isa 9/19/2001; Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Sennott 3/3/2002) He is also reported to be a prayer leader in Abha. (Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001; Fisk 9/27/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002) However, after 9/11 his father will say that he “practiced religion like most of us do.” (Mushayt 3/15/2002)

Salem Alhazmi.Salem Alhazmi. [Source: FBI]As the NSA continues to monitor an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen run by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father-in-law (see Late August 1998), they find references to Almihdhar and the hijacker brothers, Salem and Nawaf Alhazmi. They also learn that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are long time friends. (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004, pp. 6 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/26/2004) In early 1999, the NSA intercepts communications mentioning the full name “Nawaf Alhazmi.” However, this information is not disseminated to the intelligence community, as it apparently does not meet NSA reporting thresholds. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will say, “Those thresholds vary, depending on the judgement of the NSA analyst who is reviewing the intercept and the subject, location, and content of the intercept.” Another intelligence organisation intercepts the same or similar calls and reports this to the NSA. The Inquiry comments: “NSA’s practice was to review such reports and disseminate those responsive to US intelligence requirements. For an undetermined reason, NSA did not disseminate the […] report.” (Lumpkin 9/25/2002; US Congress 10/17/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) The NSA continues to intercept such calls and finds more information a few months later (see Summer 1999 and Late Summer 1999). Near the end of 1999, there will be additional intercepts that give Khalid Almihdhar’s full name and the first names of the other two (see Shortly Before December 29, 1999). But while the NSA will provide some information about these new intercepts to the CIA and other agencies, they will not go back to the earlier intercepts to figure out Nawaf’s full name and close connection to Almihdhar (see December 29, 1999).

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).

According to German investigations, by at least this time, the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh has come up with the idea of attacking the US using airplanes. This theory is based on witness statements and the discovery by the German police of a flight simulator file on a computer used by the Hamburg cell that was downloaded between January and October 1999. (Finn 9/11/2002; Burke 2004, pp. 244) Both Atta and Alshehhi start taking lessons on ultralight aircraft this year (see April 1999, October 1999, and December 1999). Some suggest they first joined the 9/11 plot in early 1999 (see Early 1999). However, the 9/11 Commission claims that the 9/11 plot was hatched by al-Qaeda’s leadership and was communicated to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell in Afghanistan in December 1999. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 165-169)

Saeed Alghamdi.Saeed Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]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.
bullet 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)
bullet 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)
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad visits the Philippines on October 17-19, 2000. (Telegraph 9/20/2001; Arizona Daily Star 9/28/2001)
bullet 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.

Marwan Alshehhi. This picture is taken from his US visa.Marwan Alshehhi. This picture is taken from his US visa. [Source: FBI]German intelligence is tapping the telephone of al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and on this date, Zammar gets a call from a “Marwan.” This is later found to be future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Marwan talks about mundane things, like his studies in Bonn, Germany, and promises to come to Hamburg in a few months. German investigators trace the telephone number and determine the call came from a mobile phone registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 8/13/2003; Risen and Lichtblau 2/24/2004) Although the call is short and seemingly innocuous, according to Vanity Fair, some “parts of the conversation seemed redolent of some kind of conspiratorial code.” For instance, at one point, Alshehhi says, “I’ve heard your mother died.” Zammar replies: “Yes, she passed on. She left me alone.” Alshehhi then asks: “But your father didn’t travel with you? I’ve seen him here.” Zammar answers, “No, my father is here.” Regarding whether or not it actually is code, a senior German official will later say: “Our desk officer had a certain feeling about that call.… You can say it was his nose—not that there was any single statement, but he had a feeling that there could be more behind it.” The desk officer writes a report about the call. Then, about a month later, the BfV (German domestic intelligence) will contact the CIA and ask for more information about men from the UAE named Marwan, and for help in tracing the phone number (see March 1999). (Zeman et al. 11/2004)

Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell.Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell. [Source: German Bavarian Police]German intelligence monitors a phone call in which the names of key members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell are mentioned. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s full name and telephone number are even mentioned. German domestic intelligence (BfV) has been monitoring al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s telephone (see March 1997-Early 2000). On this day, Zammar is not home, but his parents speak to each other on the phone and are trying to figure out where he is. One of them suggests that Zammar is at a meeting with “Mohamed, Ramzi, and Said,” and can be reached at the phone number of the Marienstrasse apartment where all three of them live. This refers to cell members Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Said Bahaji. “Mounir”—cell member Mounir El Motassadeq—is mentioned as well. However, apparently German intelligence fails to grasp the importance of these names, even though Bahaji and El Motassadeq are also under investigation at this time (see August 29, 1998). The Marienstrasse apartment is the center of the cell’s activity (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). (Associated Press 6/22/2002; New York Times 1/18/2003; Cziesche, Mascolo, and Stark 2/3/2003) Atta’s first and last name are mentioned in the phone call between Zammar’s parents. Agents check the Marienstrasse phone number, which they find is registered to Bahaji. They also confirm the street address, but it is not known what they make of the information. (Cziesche, Mascolo, and Stark 2/3/2003)

German intelligence gives the CIA the first name of 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and his telephone number of a phone registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Germans learned the information from the surveillance of al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). They tell the CIA that Alshehhi, who is living in Bonn, Germany, at the time, may be connected to al-Qaeda. He is described as a UAE student who has spent some time studying in Germany. The conversation is short, but a known alias of Mamoun Darkazanli is mentioned. The CIA is very interested in Darkazanli and will try to recruit him as an informant later in the year (see Late 1998 and December 1999). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file; Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 8/13/2003; Risen and Lichtblau 2/24/2004; McDermott 2005, pp. 73, 278-279)
No Response from CIA - The Germans consider this information “particularly valuable” and ask the CIA to track Alshehhi, but the CIA never responds until after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA decides at the time that this “Marwan” is probably an associate of bin Laden but never track him down. It is not clear why the CIA fails to act, or if they learn his last name before 9/11. (Risen and Lichtblau 2/24/2004) The Germans monitor other calls between Alshehhi and Zammar, but it isn’t clear if the CIA is also told of these or not (see September 21, 1999).
Could the Number Be Traced? - CIA Director George Tenet will later dismiss the importance of this information in a statement to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. He will say that all the CIA had to go on was a first name and an impossible to trace unlisted number. But author Terry McDermott will later comment, “At least a portion of that statement is preposterous. The UAE mobile telephone business was, until 2004, a state monopoly. The UAE number could have been traced in five minutes, according to senior security officials there. The United States never asked.” McDermott will add, “Further, the CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated these recordings. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” (McDermott 2005, pp. 73, 278-279)

9/11 Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi receives a new passport in Saudi Arabia. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008) Presumably, this indicator is placed there because Alhazmi is on the Saudi government watch list at this point due to his radical ties (see Late 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Alhazmi and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

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

Friends of Ziad Jarrah taken on April 1, 1999. Third from left in back row is Abdelghani Mzoudi; fifth is Mounir El Motassadeq; seventh is Ramzi bin al-Shibh; Mohamed Atta is on middle row far right; Atta rests his hands on Mohamed Rajih.Friends of Ziad Jarrah taken on April 1, 1999. Third from left in back row is Abdelghani Mzoudi; fifth is Mounir El Motassadeq; seventh is Ramzi bin al-Shibh; Mohamed Atta is on middle row far right; Atta rests his hands on Mohamed Rajih. [Source: DDP / AFP]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah has an unofficial wedding with his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen, on or shortly before April 1, 1999. They have a wedding ceremony at the radical Al-Quds mosque, but they do not register the wedding with the German government, so it is not legally binding. (McDermott 2005, pp. 78) A photo apparently taken by Jarrah at the wedding will be found by German intelligence in Senguen’s home several days after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). The photo will be studied to determine who was a member of or close to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell in early 1999. German investigators are able to identify 18 out of 22 men in the photo. Those in the photo include 9/11 hijacker Atta, Abdelghani Mzoudi, Mounir El Motassadeq, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abderrasak Labied, and Mohammed Rajih. The LfV, the security service for the Hamburg region, will show such a surprising amount of knowledge of the people in the photo just days after 9/11 that it will later be suggested the LfV must have had an informant close to the Hamburg cell (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003)

Sarbarz Mohammed / Sam Malkandi.Sarbarz Mohammed / Sam Malkandi. [Source: Public domain via Seattle Post-Intelligencer]Al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash unsuccessfully applies for a US visa in Sana’a, Yemen. His application, which is made under the alias Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf, is denied because he fails to submit sufficient documentation in support of it. Three actual hijackers obtain US visas in Saudi Arabia on the same day and shortly after (see April 3-7, 1999). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 492)
Already Known to US Intelligence - Bin Attash is already known to the US intelligence community at this point (see Summer 1999), at least partly because he briefed Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the 1998 African embassy bombers who was captured after the attack, and helped him make a martyrdom video in Pakistan. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/9/1998 pdf file) The US will begin to associate this alias with terrorist activity no later than early 2000, when bin Attash uses it to take a flight with Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who are under US and allied surveillance at that point (see January 8, 2000). However, the alias will not be watchlisted by the US until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001). Apparently, when the US learns the alias is associated with terrorism there is no check of visa application records, and this application and the fact it was made by an al-Qaeda leader will not be discovered until after 9/11 (see After January 8, 2000, After December 16, 2000, and After August 23, 2001).
US Contact - On the application, bin Attash gives his reason for going to the US as getting a new prosthesis for his missing leg, and he says Bothell, Washington State, is his final destination. Bin Attash’s contact in Bothell is a man named Sarbarz Mohammed. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 155-6, 492) Mohammed contacts a clinic in the area and speaks to bin Attash once on the phone, but bin Attash says the new leg would cost too much and hangs up. Mohammed, who will later change his name to Sam Malkandi, will deny knowing bin Attash was a terrorist and say that he thought he was just helping a friend of a friend. However, he will later admit lying on his green card application and be arrested in 2005. (Skolnik 10/17/2005)

Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar’s US visas.Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar’s US visas. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar obtain US visas through the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are already “al-Qaeda veterans” and battle-hardened killers. Almihdhar’s visa is issued on April 7, and he can thereafter leave and return to the US multiple times until April 6, 2000. (Laabs 8/13/2003) Nawaf Alhazmi gets the same kind of visa; details about Salem are unknown. All three men have indicators in their passports marking them as Islamist radicals (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, and April 6, 1999). These indicators are used to track them by the Saudi authorities, but are apparently not noticed by US officials. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) The CIA claims the hijackers then travel to Afghanistan to participate in “special training” with at least one other suicide bomber on a different mission. The training is led by Khallad bin Attash, who applies for a US visa on April 3 from Yemen, but fails to get one (see April 3, 1999). The CIA will learn about Almihdhar’s visa in January 2000 (see January 2-5, 2000). The Jeddah Consulate records the fact that Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi obtain US visas a couple of days before Almihdhar, but apparently these records are never searched before 9/11. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)

9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi receives a new passport from Saudi Arabia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 40 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) Alhazmi will use the passport to obtain a US visa the same day (see April 3-7, 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Alhazmi and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi leave Saudi Arabia after obtaining new passports and US visas there (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, April 6, 1999, and April 3-7, 1999). According to the 9/11 Commission, their passports contain an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, the indicator is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) The Saudi government reportedly uses this indicator to track some of the Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007). Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi apparently return to Afghanistan to discuss an attack on the US. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 155) Salem Alhazmi’s destination is unknown. He will be reported to be in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and Afghanistan (see Summer 2000) the next year. Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are placed on the Saudi terrorist watch list later this year (see Late 1999).

9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar receives a new passport from Saudi Arabia. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) Presumably, this indicator is placed there because Almihdhar is on the Saudi government watch list at this point due to his radical ties (see Late 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Almihdhar and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license.A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)When Hani Hanjour attended flight schools between 1996 and 1998 he was found to be a “weak student” who “was wasting our resources” (see October 1996-December 1997), and when he tried using a flight simulator, “He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” (see 1998) Yet, on this day, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA’s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/25/2002; Lunney 6/13/2002; Associated Press 6/13/2002) At the next flight school Hanjour will attend in early 2001, the staff will be so appalled at his lack of skills that they will repeatedly contact the FAA and ask them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license (see January-February 2001). After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and question and polygraph the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that, since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, the issue of how he was able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; CBS News 5/10/2002) After gaining the license, Hanjour apparently returns to the Middle East. He will arrive back in the US in December 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000) and December 8, 2000).

Huffman Aviation.Huffman Aviation. [Source: FBI]Huffman Aviation, the Venice, Florida flight school later attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1-3, 2000) is sold to Naples-based flight school Ambassador Airways, which is owned by Wally Hilliard and Rudi Dekkers. Although Hilliard finances the purchase, Dekkers becomes the sole stockholder. Dekkers is a Dutch national with a highly questionable past. The St. Petersburg Times will later comment, he “seems to have benefited from the same type of casual scrutiny of visa applicants that let the 9/11 hijackers live and train here [in the US].” Even before 9/11, he has “a long history of troubled businesses, run-ins with the Federal Aviation Administration and numerous lawsuits… It is the kind of checkered history, experts say, that should have raised questions both before and after the 9/11 attacks about Dekkers’ fitness to run a school that trained pilots.” Having previously run a computer company in the Netherlands that went bankrupt, he’d moved to Naples, Florida in 1992. After running a computer chip exporting company, he’d started Ambassador Airways. Yet he’d been so late on some of his bills there that at one point the Naples airport refused to sell him aviation fuel, even if he paid cash. At some point in 1999 the FAA revoked his pilot’s license for 45 days—a severe penalty—for several violations, including “operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner.” In spite of Dekkers’ dubious history and the fact that his Ambassador Airways is struggling, Wally Hilliard, a prominent retired businessman, loans him $1.7 million to buy Huffman Aviation. Dekkers says he plans spending $60,000 per year promoting the school, advertising extensively in Germany and other European countries. (McIntyre 5/29/1999; Mudge 1/25/2003; Martin 7/25/2004) Huffman Aviation is just up the road from Florida Flight Training Center, where Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, will begin flying lessons in summer 2000 (see (June 28-December 2000)). (Corte 9/9/2002) Dekkers will close Ambassador Airways in December 2001, due to financial difficulties, and sell Huffman Aviation in January 2003. (Zoldan 1/25/2003; Kimel 1/28/2003)

In the summer of 1999, the CIA asks border-control agencies in the Middle East to question anyone who may be returning from a training camp in Afghanistan, according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article. This is said to occur about six months before future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped and questioned at the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, either because he is on a US watch list or because he shows signs of having come from Afghanistan, or both (see January 30, 2000 and December 14, 2001-September 28, 2005). (Zeman et al. 11/2004) Also in 1999, the CIA specifically works out an arrangement with immigration officials at the Dubai airport to monitor or question suspected militants passing through (see 1999).

Anwar al-Awlaki.Anwar al-Awlaki. [Source: Public domain]The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry into Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam who will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He serves as the “spiritual leader” to several of the hijackers (see March 2001 and After), and by 2008 US intelligence will determine he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
bullet The investigation is opened when it is learned he had probably been visited by a “procurement agent” for bin Laden, Ziyad Khaleel. Khaleel had helped buy a satellite phone for bin Laden; when he is arrested in December 1999 he reportedly tells the FBI crucial details about al-Qaeda operations in the US (see December 29, 1999).
bullet In early 2000 the FBI is aware when al-Awlaki is visited by an unnamed close associate of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file; Schmidt 2/27/2008)
bullet He also serves as vice president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), the US branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a Yemeni imam who the US will officially designate a terrorist in 2004. CSSW also has ties to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, considered one of the centers of al-Qaeda activity in Europe. The FBI begins investigating CSSW in 1999 after a Yemeni politician visits the US to solicit donations for the charity, and then visits Mahmoud Es Sayed, a known al-Qaeda figure at the Islamic Cultural Institute, on the same trip. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 243; Schmidt 2/27/2008)
bullet The FBI learns that al-Awlaki knows individuals from the suspect Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for Hamas. Sources allege that al-Awlaki has even more extremist connections.
But none of these links are considered strong enough for criminal charges, and the investigation is closed. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 517) Al-Awlaki is beginning to associate with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar shortly before the investigation ends. For instance, on February 4, one month before the FBI investigation is closed, al-Awlaki talks on the telephone four times with hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi. The 9/11 Commission will later speculate that these calls are related to Alhazmi and Almihdhar, since al-Bayoumi is helping them that day, and that Alhazmi or Almihdhar may even have been using al-Bayoumi’s phone at the time (see February 4, 2000). Al-Bayoumi had also been the subject of an FBI counterterrorism investigation in 1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).

The NSA intercepts more calls (see Early 1999) involving Khalid Almihdhar, who is at an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, with his family (see Late August 1998). The identity of the person he is talking to and the content of the intercepts is so sensitive that the whole passage regarding these communications is redacted in the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s report. After the redacted passage, the Inquiry comments, “At about the same time, the name [of al-Qaeda leader] Khallad [bin Attash] came to the attention of the NSA for the first time,” so the calls may involve bin Attash in some way. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 155-6 pdf file) Almihdhar is staying at the communications hub at this time and will stay there later as well (see (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000) and Late October 2000-July 4, 2001).

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