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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. [Source: UAE Government]Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Defense Minister and Crown Prince for the emirate of Dubai, allegedly goes bird hunting with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Bin Laden is already widely considered to have approved the bombing of two US embassies in Africa the year before (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 120-121] In early February 1999, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke meets with Al Maktoum in the UAE and gets him to agree to work with the US to get bin Laden. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 486] Al Maktoum is known to love bird hunting, as do many other UAE royals (see 1995-2001). The US calls off an attack on bin Laden in 1999 because he is bird hunting with UAE royals at the time (see February 11, 1999). Al Maktoum hunts in Afghanistan several times in 1998 and 1999, but is only known to hunt with bin Laden once. He is so impressed by the Taliban that in 1999 he suspends all landing fees for Ariana Airlines, the Afghanistan national airline which has been effectively taken over by the Taliban and al-Qaeda by this time (see Mid-1996-October 2001). His father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of the UAE, also hunts in Afghanistan around this time, but there are no reports of him hunting with bin Laden. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 120-121] In 2006, Al Maktoum will become the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, and the ruler of the emirate of Dubai. In 2007, his wealth will be estimated at $16 billion. [Forbes, 8/30/2007] As ruler of Dubai, he and his family have 100% ownership and control of DP World, a UAE company that will be the subject of controversy when it attempts to purchase some US port facilities in 2006. [Newsweek International, 3/16/2006]
The US apparently misses an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. In a 2008 book, Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit until mid-1999, will list a number of missed opportunities to get bin Laden (see May 1998-May 1999). He will briefly mention a “military attack opportunity” at the governor’s residence in the Afghan town of Herat during this month. This is separate from an opportunity to get bin Laden at a bird hunting camp in the same month, which he also lists (see February 11, 1999). But nothing more is known about this opportunity and the 9/11 Commission will not mention it. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 284]
In early February 1999, US intelligence gains good information that Osama bin Laden is bird hunting with members of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal family in an uninhabited region of Afghanistan (see February 11, 1999). A later book by Daniel Benjamin and Stephen Simon, both officials in the Clinton administration, will note, “At the moment the Tomahawks [US missiles] were being readied, the United States was in the final stages of negotiations to sell eighty Block 60 F-16s, America’s most sophisticated export fighter jets,” to the UAE government. “America’s relationship with the [UAE] was the best it had in the [Persian] Gulf, and the [Clinton] administration had devotedly cultivated Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s president and the leader of the country’s royal clans.” [Benjamin and Simon, 2002, pp. 281] The F-16 fighter deal is worth about $8 billion. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is particularly close to the UAE royal family, having negotiated arms deals and US military basing agreements with them for several years. He has a hand in negotiating the F-16 deal in 1998. In fact, just days before the US learned of bin Laden’s presence in the hunting camp, Clarke was in the UAE working on the fighter deal. [Coll, 2004, pp. 486; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 128] Journalist Steve Coll will later say: “If the United States bombed the camp and killed a few princes, it could potentially put [business deals like that] in jeopardy—even if bin Laden were killed at the same time. Hardly anyone in the Persian Gulf saw bin Laden as a threat serious enough to warrant the deaths of their own royalty.” Clarke is one who votes not to strike the camp, and others within the US government will speculate that his UAE ties had a role in his decision. [Coll, 2004, pp. 447-450] Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, will later comment: “Why did President Clinton fail to attack? Because making money was more important than protecting Americans.” [Scheuer, 2008] The missile strike does not take place and the fighter deal is successfully completed. Some US officials, including Scheuer, will be very irate and vocally complain later this month (see Shortly After February 11, 1999).
The failure to strike at bin Laden in February 1999, despite having unusually good intelligence about his location (see February 11, 1999), causes strong resentment in the US intelligence community. It is believed that the US held its fire because of the presence of royalty from the United Arab Emirates(UAE), but some felt those royals were legitimate targets as well since they were associating with bin Laden there. Further, intelligence at the time suggests the planes carrying these royals to Afghanistan were also bringing weapons to the Taliban in defiance of United Nations bans. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit at the time, is particularly upset. He reportedly sends a series of e-mails to others in the CIA that are, in the opinion of one person who read them, “angry, unusual, and widely circulated.” His anger at this decision not to strike at bin Laden will apparently contribute to him losing his position leading the bin Laden unit a few months later (see June 1999). Some resentment is directed at counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who voted against the missile strike. Clarke was known to be close to the UAE’s royal family. He’d negotiated many arms deals and other arrangements with them, including an $8 billion deal in May 1998 to buy F-16 fighters from the US (see Early February 1999). [Coll, 2004, pp. 447-450] In March 1999, Clarke calls Emirati royals and asks them to stop visiting bin Laden. However, he apparently did not have permission from the CIA to make this call. Within one week, the camp where the Emiratis and bin Laden met is abandoned. CIA officers are irate, feeling that this ruined a chance to strike at bin Laden if he made a return visit to the location. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 138]
In his 1999 book The New Jackals, journalist Simon Reeve will write: “According to some intelligence reports, bin Laden and al-Qaeda benefit [from] drug money because bin Laden is understood to have helped the Taliban arrange money-laundering facilities through the Russian and Chechen Mafia. One American intelligence source claims that bin Laden’s involvement in the establishment of new financial networks for drug distribution and sales has been pivotal, and that by the spring of 1999 bin Laden was taking a cut of between 2 and 10 percent from all Afghan drug sales.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 208] Other reports suggest bin Laden is taking a cut of up to 10 percent by this time (see Late 1996).
Witney Schneidman. [Source: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars]In 1999, State Department official Witney Schneidman is collecting information on the many civil wars and conflicts raging in Africa. He notices that the name of Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, keeps popping up in many conflicts. Sometimes Bout is even supplying both sides of a civil war. In early summer 1999, an NSA official gives Schneidman a “drop dead” briefing about Bout, based mostly on communications intercepts the NSA has on him. Photos show dozens of airplanes parked in an airport in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, all of them owned by Bout. Schneidman begins mobilizing other officials. By early 2000, he and National Security Council adviser Lee Wolosky create a team to apprehend Bout. While Bout remains little known to the general public, for many US officials he becomes the most wanted criminal in the world, aside from Osama bin Laden and his top aides. National Security Council official Gayle Smith will later comment, “You want to talk about transnational threats? We had [al-Qaeda’s bombing in] East Africa, global warming, and Victor Bout.” No other arms dealer has an operation anywhere near the size of Bout’s, and his links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda are a special concern (see 1998). But Bout is not doing any business in the US and is breaking no US laws, so the team cannot gather enough evidence to issue an arrest warrant for him. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke considers targeting Bout for rendition, which is a very rare practice before 9/11. But when the Bush administration takes power in early 2001, Bout is deemed a less important priority, and ultimately no effective action is taken against him prior to 9/11 (see Early 2001-September 11, 2001). [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 1-7]
Radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri sends money to bin Laden’s Darunta camp, which is part of al-Qaeda’s network of training camps in Afghanistan. Abu Hamza, who is under investigation by Scotland Yard at this time for his involvement in a kidnapping and murder scheme in Yemen, apparently diverts the money from a fund at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, which he runs. The US will later say it has e-mail traffic that proves the transfer. Abu Hamza trained at the camp in the mid-1990s. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 74-5]
Mullah Mohammed Khaksar. [Source: Amir Shah / Associated Press]High-level Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Khaksar secretly meets with CIA officials to explore cooperating with them, but the CIA is not interested. Khaksar had been the Taliban’s intelligence minister, but he recently switched posts to deputy interior minister. He is friends with top Taliban leader Mullah Omar, has thousands of policemen under his command, and has solid links to intelligence sources within the Taliban. He secretly meets with US diplomats Gregory Marchese and Peter McIllwain in Peshawar, Pakistan. Marchese will later confirm the meeting took place. Khaksar says he fears the Taliban has been hijacked by the Pakistani ISI and al-Qaeda. He believes Mullar Omar has fallen under the influence of bin Laden and wants to oust him. Khaksar later claims he told them that he was worried about al-Qaeda because “one day they would do something in the world, but everything would be on the head of Afghanistan.” The diplomats pass his offer to Washington (though it is unknown if it was relayed to high-level officials or not). Khaksar soon receives a letter back rejecting his offer. The letter is later shown to the Associated Press, and states, in part, “We don’t want to make mistakes like we made in the holy war [in the 1980s]. We gave much help and it later went against us.” [Associated Press, 6/9/2002; Guardian, 6/11/2002] Khaksar later says he did provide the CIA with information on two or three other occasions before 9/11, but it is not known if this takes place before or after this meeting. Starting in 1997, he also keeps a regular secret dialogue with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. The Northern Alliance’s foreign minister will note after 9/11 that Khaksar was in “constant contact” with Massoud until 9/11, giving him a steady stream of valuable information. [Knight Ridder, 11/29/2001; Washington Post, 11/30/2001] After 9/11, the US will show no interest in Khaksar’s intelligence about the Taliban (see Between September 12 and Late November 2001 and February 25, 2002).
US intelligence obtains detailed reporting on where bin Laden is located for five consecutive nights. CIA Director Tenet decides against acting three times, because of concerns about collateral damage and worries about the veracity of the single source of information. Frustration mounts. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, writes to a colleague in the field, “having a chance to get [bin Laden] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry…” [Coll, 2004, pp. 450; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 140] An unnamed senior military officer later complains, “This was in our strike zone. It was a fat pitch, a home run.” However, that month, the US mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, due to outdated intelligence. It is speculated Tenet was wary of making another mistake. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004] There is one more opportunity to strike bin Laden in July 1999, but after that there is apparently no intelligence good enough to justify considering a strike. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
The CIA decides to increase its links with Ahmed Shah Massoud, an Afghan commander fighting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan. The decision is pushed through by Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, and Richard Blee, head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. According to author Steve Coll, Black and Blee see Massoud “as his admirers in Europe [do], as an epochal figure, extraordinarily skillful and determined,” and believe that Massoud is the key to capturing bin Laden. However, the CIA’s Near East Division is skeptical of the potential for this liaison, partly because they remember problems they had with Massoud during the Soviet-Afghan War. Near East officers also think Massoud can only be of limited usefulness against bin Laden because of the geographical distance between Massoud’s forces in the north of Afghanistan and bin Laden’s base in the country’s south. [Coll, 2004, pp. 460-1] The CIA will soon send more personnel into Afghanistan to meet Massoud and discuss co-operation (see October 1999). However, a plan to make the increase substantial will be rejected in late 2000 and Massoud will still not be receiving much aid by 9/11 (see December 20, 2000).
[Source: Public domain]The US gains information that former ISI head Hamid Gul contacts Taliban leaders at this time and advises them that the US is not planning to attack Afghanistan to get bin Laden. He assures them that he will provide them three or four hours warning of any future US missile launch, as he did “last time.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later suggests Gul gave al-Qaeda warning about the missile strike in August 1998 (see August 20, 1998). [New Yorker, 7/28/2003]
About a dozen Afghan leaders visit the US. They are militia commanders, mostly Taliban, and some with ties to al-Qaeda. A few are opponents of the Taliban. Their exact names and titles remain classified. For five weeks, they visit numerous locales in the US, including Mt. Rushmore. All their expenses are paid by the US government and the University of Nebraska. Thomas Gouttierre, an academic heading an Afghanistan program at the University of Nebraska, hosts their visit. Gouttierre is working as a consultant to Unocal at the time, and some Taliban visits to the US are paid for by Unocal, such as a visit two years earlier (see December 4, 1997). However, it is unknown if Unocal plays a role in this particular trip. Gouttierre had previously been paid by the CIA to create Afghan textbooks promoting violence and jihad (see 1984-1994). It is unknown if any of these visitors meet with US officials during their trip. [Chicago Tribune, 10/21/2001]
According to a later US State Department report, in October 1999, representatives of the allied Chechen warlords Shamil Basayev and Ibn Khattab travel to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to meet with Osama bin Laden. Both warlords already have some al-Qaeda ties (see February 1995-1996). Full scale war between Chechen and Russian forces has just resumed (see September 29, 1999). Bin Laden agrees to provide substantial military and financial assistance. He makes arrangements to send several hundred fighters to Chechnya to fight against Russian troops there. Later in 1999, bin Laden sends substantial amounts of money to Basayev and Khattab for training, supplies, and salaries. At the same time, some Chechen fighters attend Afghanistan training camps. Some of them stay and join al-Qaeda’s elite 055 Brigade fighting the Northern Alliance. In October 2001, with the US about to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ibn Khattab will send more fighters to Afghanistan. [US Department of State, 2/28/2003]
Ahmed Shah Massoud.
[Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs]Worried about intercepts showing a growing likelihood of al-Qaeda attacks around the millennium, the CIA steps up ties with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. The CIA sends a team of agents, led by bin Laden unit chief Richard Blee, to Massoud’s headquarters in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, seeking his help to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. The CIA team and Massoud meet twice, and Blee tells him, “We have a common enemy.” Massoud complains that the US is too focused on bin Laden, and is not interested in the root problems of Taliban, Saudi, and Pakistani support for terrorism that is propping him up. He agrees to help nonetheless, and the CIA gives him more aid in return. However, the US is officially neutral in the Afghan civil war and the agents are prohibited from giving any aid that would “fundamentally alter the Afghan battlefield.” The CIA team will later be reported to admire Massoud greatly. They see him as “a Che Guevara figure, a great actor on history’s stage,” and “a poet, a military genius, a religious man, and a leader of enormous courage who defied death and accepted its inevitability.” Author Steve Coll will write: “The CIA team had gone into the Panjshir [Valley, where Massoud’s headquarters is located] as unabashed admirers of Massoud. Now their convictions deepened even as they recognized that the agency’s new partnership with the Northern Alliance would be awkward, limited, and perhaps unlikely to succeed.” Perhaps because of this, the team members agree with Massoud’s criticism of US policy and agree to lobby for a policy change in his favor in Washington. [Coll, 2004, pp. 469-472; Washington Post, 2/23/2004] DIA agent Julie Sirrs, newly retired, is at Massoud’s headquarters at the same time as the CIA team (see October 1998). She gathers valuable intelligence from captured al-Qaeda soldiers while the CIA agents stay in their guesthouse. She will publish much of what she learns on this trip and other trips in the summer of 2001. [Washington Post, 2/28/2004]
Yassir al-Sirri speaking to the media in London in 2003. [Source: Hossam el-Hamalawy]The Egyptian government posts a list of its 14 most wanted terrorists; half of them are believed to be living in Britain. The list is published on an Egyptian government website and Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a popular Arabic international newspaper based in London. It includes many members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group that has essentially merged with al-Qaeda by this time. Names on the list include:
Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is the top leader of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s number two leader. He was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt, and the US has a $5 million bounty on him by this time.
Thirwat Salah Shehata. He is another high-ranking Islamic Jihad leader. He was sentenced to death twice in Egypt.
Adel Abdel Bary. He was granted asylum in Britain despite being sentenced to death in Egypt, and ran the Islamic Jihad office in London. But he was arrested there in 1998 and is fighting deportation to the US on charges of involvement in the al-Qaeda African embassy bombings.
Adel Abdel-Quddus, an Islamic Jihad leader. He received a death sentence in connection with an assassination attempt in 1993. He was granted asylum in Austria.
Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali, another Islamic Jihad leader. He was sentenced to death on murder charges in Egypt. He moved to Germany and is granted asylum there in October 1999. 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah will call him twice, once in November 1999 and once in August 2001 (see November 7, 1999 and August 4, 2001).
Ahmed Refai Taha, head of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian militant group formerly led by the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. In September 2000, al-Qaeda will publish a video of Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and Taha threatening revenge if the Blind Sheikh is not released (see September 21, 2000). Taha was sentenced to death in Egypt.
Mustafa Hamza, leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and an al-Qaeda leader as well. He was sentenced to death three times in Egypt. He is believed to have led an assassination attempt of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 (see June 26, 1995).
Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and an Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader. He also was sentenced to death in Egypt, and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan with bin Laden.
Ahmed Hussein Ugayzah, sentenced to life imprisonment in Egypt. He was an aide to al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, but he had a falling out with him and joined the Vanguards of Conquest, an Islamic Jihad splinter group.
Yassir al-Sirri. He was sentenced to death in Egypt in 1994 for a role in an attempted assassination attempt in 1993. But he moved to Britain and was granted asylum. [Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 10/2/1999; Al-Ahram Weekly, 10/18/2001] Shortly after 9/11, the Guardian will report that seven of the men on the list live in London, but it is not mentioned which of the seven live there. [Guardian, 9/28/2001] There appear to have been no arrests of any of the above figures in Britain after the publication of the list.
Entity Tags: Ahmed Hussein Ugayzah, Ahmed Refai Taha, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Al-Qaeda, Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Egypt, Adel Abdel-Quddus, Yassir al-Sirri, Islamic Jihad, Mustafa Hamza, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Vanguards of Conquest, Thirwat Salah Shehata
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Majed Moqed. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]In 2007, the London Times will report that imprisoned al-Qaeda leader Luai Sakra claims that he trained six of the 9/11 hijackers in Turkey. Sakra allegedly had links to the CIA and Syrian intelligence before 9/11 (see 2000 and September 10, 2001) and also allegedly was in contact with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta before 9/11 (see September 2000-July 24, 2001). According to Sakra’s account, Sakra established a training and support network for radical militants in Turkey in the mid-1990s. In the Yalova mountain resort area between the cities of Bursa and Istanbul, he trained many militants heading to fight in Chechnya and elsewhere. Sakra worked with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida to provide forged documents enabling trainees to travel to Afghanistan and elsewhere after their training was over. According to Sakra’s lawyer, in late 1999, 9/11 hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Nawaf Alhazmi undertook Sakra’s training program. They had been planning to go to fight in Chechnya, but Sakra recommended them to Zubaida and they went to Zubaida’s training camp in Afghanistan instead. Hijackers Majed Moqed and Satam Al Suqami also later trained with Sakra in Turkey. Sakra alleges Moqed and Al Suqami were hand-picked by al-Qaeda leaders for the 9/11 plot. Sakra claims that at one point the entire group were arrested by police in Yalova, Turkey, after their presence raised suspicions. They were interrogated for a day but released because no evidence of wrongdoing could be shown. [London Times, 11/25/2007] In early 2006, Sakra made the claim that he had helped some of the 9/11 hijackers near Bursa, but he did not give specifics. [Washington Post, 2/20/2006] While Sakra’s account cannot be corroborated, it does fit with details given in the 9/11 Commission’s final report. According to that report, after 9/11, captured al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash claimed that a number of militants trying to go to Chechnya in 1999 were unable to get there and stayed at al-Qaeda guesthouses in Turkey instead, where they were to wait to make another attempt to enter Chechnya in the summer of 2000, but they ended up going to Afghanistan instead. Bin Attash mentions nine hijackers who may have been trying to get to Chechnya in this fashion, including all the ones mentioned by Sakra. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 233] The 9/11 Commission report also mentions that most of the “muscle” hijackers trained at the Al Farooq camp, except for Al Suqami and Moqed, who trained at the Khaldan camp. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 234] Also, in early 2008, an FBI document will be released that shows Al Suqami spent almost six months in Turkey, helping to corroborate Sakra’s claims (see Late 1999-2000).
Abu Bara al-Taizi. [Source: Defense Department]A group of al-Qaeda operatives receives advanced training at the Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. The large group includes 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see November/December 1999), al-Qaeda commander Khallad bin Attash, would-be 9/11 hijacker Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said), USS Cole bomber Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras), an operative who leads a series of suicide bombings in Riyadh in 2003, and another who is involved against the 2002 attack against a ship called the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). According to statements by detainees, the course focuses on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters combat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) apparently visit the camp during the course. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 157; Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 9/6/2006, pp. 12 ] Candidate hijacker Abderraouf Jdey, a Canadian passport holder, may also be present at this training course. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 527] Also, in early December, KSM gives special hijacking training to Alhazmi, bin Attash, and al-Taizi (see Early December 1999).
Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000. [Source: London Times]Hamburg cell members Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and possibly Said Bahaji travel to Afghanistan via Turkey and Karachi, Pakistan. They travel along a route often used by one of their associates, al-Qaeda recruiter Mohammed Haydar Zammar, to send potential operatives to Afghanistan for training. Turkish intelligence is aware of the route and informed German intelligence of it in 1996, leading to an investigation of Zammar (see 1996). However, it is unclear whether German or Turkish intelligence register the Hamburg cell members’ travel and how and whether they disseminate and act on this information. Jarrah is reportedly noticed by an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates on his return journey from Afghanistan (see January 30, 2000). [New York Times, 9/10/2002; CBS News, 10/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 167; McDermott, 2005, pp. 89]
In the winter of 1999, a covert four-man CIA and NSA team arrives in the part of Afghanistan controlled by the Northern Alliance. They set up a listening post within range of al-Qaeda’s tactical radios. The Northern Alliance is shown how to run it, and then the team leaves. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Miniter, 2003, pp. 197-198] In March 2000, CIA agent Gary Berntsen leads a small CIA team into Northern Alliance territory (see March 2000). While there, they improve the existing listening post and set up a new one closer to Taliban-controlled territory. [Berntsen and Pezzullo, 2005, pp. 57-61] The US makes little use of the intelligence gained from these intercepts, leading Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud to conclude that the US is “not serious” about getting bin Laden. [Miniter, 2003, pp. 197-198]
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) gives a course lasting one or two weeks for three operatives scheduled to take part in the 9/11 operation. Nawaf Alhazmi, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) learn how to say basic English words and phrases, read plane timetables and phone books, use the Internet, make travel reservations, rent an apartment, and use code words. In addition, they play flight simulator games, watch hijacking-themed films, and investigate visas for Southeast Asian countries. KSM also tells them what to watch for when casing a flight, for example whether flight attendants bring food into the cockpit. Khalid Almihdhar is apparently not present at the training, since he has just returned to Yemen (see November/December 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 157-8, 493]
9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar tells another operative that al-Qaeda is planning a ship-bombing attack. The US will learn this from a detainee interviewed in December 2001. The detainee will say that Almihdhar informed him that al-Qaeda operative Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was the plot’s originator. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 491] Al-Nashiri discussed the ship bombing attack in a telephone call made in late 1998. The call may have been to the al-Qaeda communications hub at which Almihdhar lived and may also have been picked up by the US (see (Mid-August 1998)). Al-Qaeda soon attempts to attack the USS The Sullivans in Aden, Yemen, but the plan fails (see January 3, 2000). Almihdhar, who will be accused of participating in the plot to bomb the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000, Early October 2001 and October 4, 2001), travels to Yemen shortly before the attack on the Sullivans (see November/December 1999) and apparently leaves one day after it (see January 2-5, 2000).
9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar returns from Afghanistan to Yemen, where he and his family live at an al-Qaeda communications hub that is being monitored by the US (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The NSA listens in on calls to his number and finds that he and several al-Qaeda leaders are to meet in Malaysia for a terrorism summit (see December 29, 1999). The reason for his departure to Yemen is unclear, as he has already been selected for the 9/11 operation and his fellow operatives are undergoing training in Afghanistan at this point (see Late 1999 and Early December 1999). Detainees give varying accounts of the reasons for his departure, as well as the exact timing. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 157, 493] According to author James Bamford, Almihdhar returns to Yemen to be with his wife when he learns she is pregnant with their first child. [Bamford, 2008, pp. 11] Whatever the reason for Almihdhar’s travel to Yemen, while he is there al-Qaeda mounts an abortive attack against the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000).
The US warns the Taliban that the US will punish them for any attacks ordered by bin Laden, who is living in Afghanistan under Taliban protection. On this day, Ahmed Ressam is arrested trying to enter the US to conduct a bombing there (see December 14, 1999). In response, that evening, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief Michael Sheehan calls Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. Sheehan later recalls saying bin Laden “is like a criminal who lives in your basement. It is no longer possible for you to act as if he’s not your responsibility. He is your responsibility.” The implied threat is that the US will punish the Taliban, possibly with military force, in response to further bin Laden attack. Muttawakil says he understands and urges the US to use restraint. [Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2000]
Ziad Jarrah in Afghanistan. [Source: Public Domain]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Nawaf Alhazmi meet to discuss the 9/11 operation at a building known as the “House of Alghamdi” in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a statement made by bin al-Shibh in an interview prior to his capture in 2002 (see September 8-11, 2002 and September 11, 2002). Bin al-Shibh will say, “We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta’s right-hand man,” which the Guardian will interpret to mean Alhazmi, and not Hani Hanjour, flew Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon (see (December 2000-January 2001)). [Guardian, 9/9/2002] The 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation, will place Hanjour in Afghanistan in spring 2000, indicating he will arrive some months after this meeting is held, and could not therefore attend it. Please note: information from detainee interrogations is thought to be unreliable due to the methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 226] In a substitution for testimony introduced as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, KSM will place Hanjour’s arrival at the training camps in Afghanistan in “September or October” of 2000. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/31/2006, pp. 23 ]
Hijackers threaten the Indian Airlines plane, under Taliban supervision. [Source: Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images]Indian Airlines Flight 814 is hijacked and flown to Afghanistan where 155 passengers are held hostage for eight days. They are freed in return for the release of three militants held in Indian prisons. One of the hostages is killed. One of the men freed in the exchange is Saeed Sheikh, who will later allegedly wire money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001). [BBC, 12/31/1999] Another freed militant is Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar emerges in Pakistan a few days later, and tells a crowd of 10,000, “I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India.” [Associated Press, 1/5/2000] He then tours Pakistan for weeks under the protection of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] The ISI and Saeed help Azhar form a new Islamic militant group called Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Azhar is soon plotting attacks again. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; Guardian, 7/16/2002; Washington Post, 2/8/2003] The hijacking plot is blamed on Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (also known as Harkat ul-Ansar), a Pakistani militant group originally formed and developed in large part due to Pervez Musharraf in the early 1990s, and led by Azhar and Sheikh before their arrests in India (see Early 1993). Musharraf has just taken power in Pakistan in a coup two months earlier (see October 12, 1999). The Indian government publicly blames the ISI for backing the hijacking. Such claims are not surprising given the longstanding animosity between Pakistan and India; however, US officials also privately say the ISI backed the hijacking and may even have helped carry it out. The US and Britain demand that Pakistan ban Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and other similar groups, but Pakistan takes no action. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 48] The five hijackers, all Pakistanis and members of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, are released and return to Pakistan. They are never arrested. One of them will later be revealed to be Amjad Farooqi, a leader of both al-Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups who will be killed in mysterious circumstances in 2004 (see September 27, 2004). India is furious with the US for refusing to condemn Pakistan or pressure it to take action against the hijackers. According to some sources, al-Qaeda planned the hijacking in conjunction with Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. [Washington Post, 9/27/2004; Rashid, 2008, pp. 112-113] In 2001, the flight’s captain, Devi Sharan, will say that the hijackers of his plane used techniques similar to the 9/11 hijackers, suggesting a common modus operandi. The hijackers praised Osama bin Laden, had knives and slit the throat of a passenger, herded the passengers to the back of the plane where some of them used cell phones to call relatives, and one hijacker said he had trained on a simulator. [CNN, 9/26/2001]
Entity Tags: Indian Airlines Flight 814, Devi Sharan, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Al-Qaeda, Amjad Farooqi, Saeed Sheikh, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: BBC]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists create a charity to help the Taliban. The scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had both retired the year before after long and distinguished careers, and had both become radical Islamists. They set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan, including helping to guide the Taliban on scientific matters. A number of pro-Taliban Pakistani generals and business leaders are on the board of directors, including Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI. But not long after setting up an office in Kabul, the two scientists meet with Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and discuss weapons development. During a later visit, Mahmood provides one of bin Laden’s associates with information on how to construct a nuclear weapon. [Frantz and Collins, 2007, pp. 264-265; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 310-311] The two scientists will have a more extensive meeting with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2001, and will discuss how al-Qaeda can make a radioactive weapon (see Mid-August 2001). Shortly before 9/11, the CIA will learn of this meeting (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and also learn that UTN offered to sell a nuclear weapon to Libya, but the CIA will take no effective action against the group (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). In late 2001, the Wall Street Journal will report that “One Pakistani military analyst said it was inconceivable that a nuclear scientist would travel to Afghanistan without getting clearance from Pakistani officials and being debriefed each time. Pakistan maintains a strict watch on many of its nuclear scientists, using a special arm of the Army’s general headquarters to monitor them even after retirement.” Furthermore, a former ISI colonel says the ISI “was always aware of UTN’s activities and had encouraged Dr. Mahmoud’s Afghanistan trips. He said the ISI learned last year that Dr. Mahmoud had recently discussed nuclear matters with Mr. bin Laden, and Dr. Mahmoud agreed not to do so again.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/24/2001] The US will finally freeze UTN’s assets in December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger will later say that in early 2000 the National Security Council (NSC), the US military, and the CIA develops a “new technique for detecting Bin Laden.” Berger calls it “very promising as a way of determining where he would be if we had one strand of human intelligence.” The Los Angeles Times will comment, “But whether the new technique was some sort of high-tech homing device or silent surveillance craft is a question left to future generations.” The next two and a half pages of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report discussing this technique are completely censored. [Los Angeles Times, 7/27/2003] Despite Berger’s implication that the US does not have human intelligence on bin Laden’s movements at this time, other accounts indicate that it does (see March-April 2001 and April 2001).
In early 2000, Islamist militant leader Musab Abu al-Zarqawi starts a new training camp in Afghanistan, near the town of Herat. Osama bin Laden reportedly does not like him, but al-Zarqawi gets some help from al-Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel, who serves as a liaison between al-Zarqawi and al-Qaeda. His camp starts with only a dozen or so followers, but it rapidly grows and eventually numbers several thousand. His group consists mostly of Jordanians and Syrians, and is helped by links to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Atlantic Monthly, bin Laden repeatedly asks al-Zarqawi to come to him and take an oath of allegiance, but each time al-Zarqawi refuses. “Under no circumstances did [al-Zarqawi] want to become involved in the battle between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. He also did not believe that either bin Laden or the Taliban was serious enough about jihad.” But in October 2001, the US begins bombing Afghanistan, and al-Zarqawi’s camp is targeted. He is reportedly wounded in the chest when a ceiling falls on him. But in December 2001, he manages to escape to Iran with about 300 followers and is based there for several months while regrouping. [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006]
Officially, in 2000, 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour is said to enter the US on December 8, and briefly visit San Diego (see December 8, 2000). However, some reports suggest he may spend a significant amount of time in San Diego earlier in the year. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002]
For example, in the two weeks following 9/11, the FBI will identify him as having lived in San Diego during 2000. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; NBC (San Diego), 9/15/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/21/2001]
In 2004, court records relating to a local terror probe will include authorities stating that Hanjour, along with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had regularly dined and prayed with Mohdar Abdullah, a Yemeni university student in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/2/2004]
When Alhazmi and Almihdhar attend a San Diego flying school in May 2000 (see May 5 and 10, 2000), they are accompanied by one or even two men called Hani. [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001]
A neighbor of Abdussattar Shaikh, a Muslim leader and also undercover FBI asset living in San Diego, later remembers Shaikh having introduced him to a friend called Hani, who he assumes to have been Hanjour. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001] (Alhazmi and Almihdhar stay with Shaikh during 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000).) For a short period beginning August 10, another resident at Shaikh’s San Diego house is a Saudi called Yazeed al-Salmi. After 9/11, Al-Salmi will reportedly confide to having known Hanjour and, according to the 9/11 Commission, has “childhood ties” to him. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222 and 518]
Witnesses see Hanjour in San Diego with suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi at least twice in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
Little else is written about Hanjour’s movements during 2000, but the Washington Post notes that for at least part of the year, he “appears to have been in Saudi Arabia, because it was there that he obtained a student visa to take another English course. He applied in September 2000.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2001] The 9/11 Commission will claim that Hanjour goes to Afghanistan in spring 2000, where he spends time in al-Qaeda’s Al Farooq training camp. He is then sent to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Karachi, for training in using code words, before returning to Saudi Arabia on June 20, 2000. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 226] However, this account will come mainly from written reports of the interrogation of KSM, with whom the commission has no direct contact. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 146 and 521] Partly because of the highly coercive interrogation methods used, there will be questions about the reliability of KSM’s information. [New York Times, 6/17/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, the only time Hanjour is in San Diego this year is from December 8-12, before he moves to Arizona. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223]
Karl Inderfurth. [Source: Harikrishna Katragadda Mint]Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth, accompanied by State Department counterterrorism expert Michael Sheehan, visits Pakistan, shortly after Pervez Musharraf took power in a coup (see October 12, 1999). Inderfurth meets with Musharraf, and is disappointed with Musharraf’s reluctance to take any action against al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is living openly in the Pakistani town of Peshawar, and the previous month was implicated in an attempted bomb plot in Jordan (see November 30, 1999). A number of intelligence agencies are monitoring Zubaida’s communications (see October 1998 and After), and one of his top aides, Khalil Deek, appears to be a Jordanian intelligence mole (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). There are allegations that the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency has been protecting Zubaida (see 1998-2001). Musharraf indicates to Inderfurth that he is unwilling to act on US intelligence about Zubaida. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 295] US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam will later say: “The Pakistanis told us they could not find him, even though everyone knew where he was. The ISI just turned a blind eye to his activities.” In fact, there is evidence Zubaida was working with the ISI, helping them vet and train militants to later fight in the disputed region of Kashmir (see 1998-2001). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 48] Musharraf also tells Inderfurth that he is unwilling to support any program to capture Osama bin Laden, as his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, had been willing to do (see October 1999). And asked to pressure the Taliban, Musharraf sends ISI Director Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed to meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Mahmood is well known to be a supporter of the Taliban, so his visit is considered an empty gesture. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 295] Robert Einhorn, a specialist on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Clinton administration, does not go on the trip. Inderfurth will later say Einhorn’s absence showed a lack of interest by the administration in non-proliferation: “The fact that Mike [Sheehan] was included and Bob left out showed our priorities at that time. Our agenda was counterterrorism, al-Qaeda, and democracy. We had somehow divorced these from the nuclear threat and A. Q. Khan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 292]
Zakariya Essabar. [Source: Associated Press]Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar attends an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He leaves for the camp in January 2000 and stays at the camp for an usually long time—nine months—until October. Hamburg cell member Mounir El Motassadeq is at the same camp from late May until August 2000 (see May 22 to August 2000). The two of them train separately but see each other often. Hamburg associate Abdelghani Mzoudi also attends the same camp around this time (see Summer 2000).
Attempt to Become a 9/11 Pilot? - When Essabar returns from the camp, he applies for a new passport, saying that he lost his previous one. When he gets a new one, he applies for a US visa. However, his application is rejected, probably because, as a Moroccan citizen, he is deemed an economic risk. Author Terry McDermott will later comment, “The timing suggests that [the Hamburg cell was] intent on finding a fourth pilot” for the 9/11 attacks. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 194, 201-202]
Bin Laden speaking at the podium in the top image. Ramzi bin al-Shibh is said to be the one wearing the red bandana on his head in the below image. [Source: London Times]Bin Laden is videotaped speaking to about 100 of his followers in Afghanistan. The video of the speech, which has no sound, will apparently be captured by US forces in late 2001 and leaked to the media in late 2006 (see September 30, 2006). The time stamp on the video footage reads “1/8/2000,” suggesting the speech took place in January 8, 2000 at the end of Ramadan, though it could also be from August 1, 2000, since some countries reverse the order of months and days. The speech takes place at Tarnak Farm, a complex of buildings near Kandahar where bin Laden sometimes lives. Bin Laden speaks in the open air at a podium while the audience sits on the ground. Ramzi bin al-Shibh is said to be in the audience, although photographs, video footage, and even credit card receipts place him at a meeting in Malaysia held from January 5-8 (see January 5-8, 2000). [London Times, 10/1/2006] The video footage focuses more on the audience than the crowd, leading at least one terrorism specialist to speculate that the video maybe have been made by an intelligence agency. [Associated Press, 10/3/2006] It appears US intelligence will later use the footage to identify bin Laden’s followers in the crowd (see September 30, 2006).
Mohamed Atta (left) and Ziad Jarrah (right). [Source: London Times]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah are filmed together recording their martyrdom wills in Afghanistan. The video footage will later be captured by US forces in late 2001 and leaked to the media in late 2006 (see September 30, 2006). The footage is significant because it is the only hard evidence that Atta and Jarrah were ever in the same place at the same time. Although the two men were frequently in close proximity to each other, for instance both attended Florida flight schools just a couple of miles apart at around the same time, their paths often just miss each other. However, they appear friendly to each other in this footage, frequently laughing and smiling. Atta reads his will and then Jarrah reads his, but their exact words are unknown since the sound was not recorded and lip-syncing experts apparently failed to understand what they said. [London Times, 10/1/2006]
A US satellite photo of the Darunta camp. [Source: US military]By the start of 2000, US intelligence has had a particular focus on Darunta Camp, one of al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. This simple camp near Jalalabad draws attention because of intelligence gathered during the last year indicating that al-Qaeda is experimenting with poisons and chemical weapons. The CIA has inserted a special device in the vicinity that can take high quality photographs of the camp from over ten miles away. Sometime in late January, the CIA learns that bin Laden has arrived in the camp. They pass this information on to Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, who are fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Massoud dispatches a small team on mules to get near the camp and fire rockets at bin Laden. However, when Massoud tells the CIA about this, the CIA’s lawyers are alarmed. They don’t want the CIA legally complicit if the operation kills innocent civilians and they order Massoud to withdraw his team. But due to poor communications the team goes ahead anyway and apparently shells the camp. However, bin Laden is not hurt and the incident passes without notice. Some US intelligence officials are upset at the legal policy that led to the order for Massoud’s team to withdraw. A new policy is drawn up allowing the CIA to assist Massoud on an operation if the primary purpose of the operation is to kill bin Laden or one of his top assistants. Otherwise, the US officially remains neutral in the war between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. [Coll, 2004, pp. 487-490]
The CIA and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials apparently fail to warn German intelligence about future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah. On January 30, 2000, Jarrah was questioned at Dubai airport in the UAE, and the CIA was involved in a decision to not arrest him (see January 30-31, 2000). But even though Jarrah’s flight from Dubai was tracked to Hamburg, Germany, apparently neither US nor UAE officials warn German intelligence about Jarrah. During Jarrah’s brief detention he confessed that he had just come from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he had a large number of jihadist propaganda videos in his luggage, leading UAE officials to strongly suspect he had just been to a militant training camp in Afghanistan. He also revealed that he has plans to learn how to fly airplanes in the US. An unnamed top German intelligence official will later say: “If we had been given the information that Jarrah had been to Afghanistan and was planning to go to flight school, we might have asked the Americans whether they thought this was normal.… If they had asked us, ‘Who is this guy who is learning to fly?’ then perhaps there might have been a different outcome.” He will suggest German intelligence might have started monitoring Jarrah, and thus discovered the 9/11 plot. However, this official will complain: “But it was one-way traffic [with the CIA]. You gave information, and you got no response.” The CIA will later deny that it has any knowledge of Jarrah before 9/11. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Note that a UAE official claims that the CIA said it would secretly track Jarrah from Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000). If this is true, it could explain why neither the UAE nor CIA told Germany about Jarrah.
The front cover of the matchbox announcing a reward for bin Laden. [Source: Saeed Khan / Getty Images]The US begins circulating matchboxes in Pakistan with a picture of bin Laden and an announcement of a large reward for information leading to his capture. The reward promises confidentiality but also only lists the reward money as $500,000 instead of the $5 million announced by Washington. Additionally, 100 rupee notes, worth about $2, are being circulated with a message stamped on them announcing the reward. There is no matchbox campaign for other known al-Qaeda leaders. [Associated Press, 2/16/2000] The reward program is notable for its late start and low profile, especially when compared to a similar matchbox reward program for Ramzi Yousef starting in 1993 (see April 2, 1993). That program was announced about a month after Yousef was determined to be a major suspect, and it eventually helped with his capture (see February 3-7, 1995). The bin Laden campaign will come to an end by early 2004 (see January 2004).
Around this time, special CIA paramilitary teams begin “working with tribes and warlords in southern Afghanistan” and help “create a significant new network in the region of the Taliban’s greatest strength.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2001] Journalist Bob Woodward will later report that from 2000 through March 2001, the CIA also deploys paramilitary teams at least five times into Afghanistan to work with the Northern Alliance in the north part of the country. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 77-78]
Future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar talk to San Diego acquaintances about the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, in which they fought, but apparently do not mention the war in Bosnia, which they also fought in (see 1993-1999 and 1995). Alhazmi says that it would be a “big honor” to fight for Islam. He also expresses his admiration for Osama bin Laden and says bin Laden is acting on behalf of all Muslims. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 191] Furthermore, Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant who is also Alhazmi’s landlord in San Diego, will later claim that Alhazmi has a particular interest in news about Chechnya, and he becomes very upset at any news about Russian victories over the Islamist fighters there. [9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004] Alhazmi will make similar comments in Virginia to two roommates there (see (Mid April 2001)).
Maj. Brock Gaston. [Source: State Department]CIA official Gary Berntsen and a US Army Special Forces major known as Brock (an apparent reference to Maj. Brock Gaston) lead a six-person team with the mission to enter Afghanistan and capture one of bin Laden’s top aides. The exact target is not specified; the team is expected to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. The team passes through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, then meets up with Northern Alliance forces in the part of Afghanistan still under their control. But from the very beginning they encounter resistance from a CIA superior officer who is based in a nearby country and is in charge of CIA relations with the Northern Alliance. Known publicly only by his first name Lawrence, he apparently had a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and has a personal dispute with Gaston. The team stays at Ahmad Shad Massoud’s Northern Alliance headquarters high in the Afghan mountains for about two weeks. However, they never have a chance to cross into Taliban territory for their mission because Lawrence is sending back a stream of negative messages to CIA headquarters about the risks of their mission. A debate ensues back at headquarters. Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center, and his assistant Hank Crumpton support continuing the mission. But CIA Director George Tenet and his assistant Jim Pavitt cancel the mission on March 25. Upon returning to the US, Berntsen, Gaston, Black, and Crumpton formally call for Lawrence’s dismissal, but to no effect. Berntsen will later comment that Black and Crumpton “had shown a willingness to plan and execute risky missions. But neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bill Clinton had the will to wage a real fight against terrorists who were killing US citizens.” [CNN, 12/15/2001; Berntsen and Pezzullo, 2005, pp. 43-64]
According to al-Qaeda military instructor Abu Daoud, Osama bin Laden sends four hundred fighters to Chechnya with explosives and weapons. Western intelligence sources will confirm the movement in August 2000, but they will not be able to say whether the fighters are Arabs or Afghans. Abu Daoud will also tell the Associated Press that hundreds of other fighters went in February 1999 and many returned. [Associated Press, 8/30/2000] Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, reportedly fight in Chechnya (see 1993-1999). Several others plan to do so (see 1996-December 2000), and Ahmed Alghamdi and Saeed Alghamdi have documentation suggesting travel to a Russian Republic. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 233]
A secret CIA report details al-Qaeda’s use of the honey trade to generate income and secretly move weapons, drugs, and operatives around the world. The CIA had been gathering information and monitoring some honey stores for almost two years before the study. Bin Laden is believed to control a number of retail honey shops in various countries, especially in Sudan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Khalil Deek, an American citizen, are said to be particularly tied to the honey trade. One US official will later say, “The smell and consistency of the honey makes it easy to hide weapons and drugs in the shipments. Inspectors don’t want to inspect that product. It’s too messy.” But although a number of companies dealing in honey are tied to al-Qaeda (and sometimes to Islamic Jihad), the US will not make any move to freeze the assets of these companies until after 9/11. [New York Times, 10/11/2001] Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later claim Deek was “running an underground railroad in the Middle East for terrorists, shuttling them to different countries,” which would fit with his alleged role in the honey network. [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005]
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mounir El Motassadeq attends an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He leaves on May 22, 2000, flying from Hamburg, Germany, to Istanbul, Turkey, and then on to Pakistan. He is there at the same time as another Hamburg cell member, Zakariya Essabar (see January-October 2000). Although they train separately, they are at the same camp and see each other frequently. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 194, 201-202] Hamburg associate Abdelghani Mzoudi also attends the same camp around this time, and El Motassadeq will later testify in court that he meets with him at the camp. (see Summer 2000). El Motassadeq leaves Afghanistan in August 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 8/30/2002] El Motassadeq’s trip to the camp is likely noticed by the Turkish government, because he is on a watch list and he uses a known route to the camps (see May 22, 2000).
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf publicly supports the Taliban. He refers to the Taliban when he says in a press conference: “I just want to say that there is a difference of understanding on who is a terrorist. The perceptions are different in the United States and in Pakistan, in the West and what we understand is terrorism.” The Taliban are closely linked to the Pashtun ethnic group, and he further refers to them as he says: “Afghanistan’s majority ethic Pashtuns have to be on our side. This is our national interest.… The Taliban cannot be alienated by Pakistan. We have a national security interest there.” Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment that this statement “outraged many Afghans, including all the anti-Taliban factions.” Rashid will add: “Such remarks were to make Musharraf a hated figure for most Afghans, something he could not live down even after 9/11.… Musharraf became known as ‘double-talk Musharraf,’ speaking with one breath about how he would turn Pakistan into a moderate Islamic state, and then just as vehemently with another supporting jihad and militancy.” That same month, Maj. Gen. Ghulam Ahmad Khan, an officer close to Musharraf, says publicly: “We are trying to stop the US from undermining the Taliban regime. They cannot do it without Pakistan’s help, because they have no assets there, but we will not allow it to happen.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 50-51, 414]
Under interrogation after 9/11, al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash will claim he met some of the 9/11 hijackers at Kandahar airport in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000. Although he will not be able to recall all of them, he will say the group includes Satam Al Suqami, Waleed and Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Hamza Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed. He will say he was closest to Saeed Alghamdi, whom he convinced to become a martyr and whom he asked to recruit a friend, Ahmed Alghamdi, to the same cause. However, doubts will later be expressed about the reliability of such statements from prisoners like bin Attash, due to the methods used to obtain them (see June 16, 2004) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 233-4] Al-Qaeda’s division of passports and host country issues is based at the airport and it alters passports, visas and identification cards. Some people involved in the plot will later be reported to have altered travel documents (see July 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 56 ] 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami and would-be hijacker Mushabib al-Hamlan are also said to be at the same Kandahar camp, Al Farooq, and are assigned to guard the airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] By the late 1990s, the Kandahar airport will become the main logistics lifeline for al-Qaeda and the Taliban to the outside world. One Ariana pilot will later recall, “I would see Arabs with [satellite] phones walking around the terminal, in touch with the Taliban at the highest levels.” On one occasion, he sees Taliban ruler Mullah Omar meeting in the middle of the airport with a rebel leader from Tajikistan, surrounded by aides. “There they were, cross-legged on their mats, chattering into cell phones.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 140] At this time, the Kandahar airport is being mainly used by Ariana Airlines, which has been completely co-opted by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and aircraft companies controlled by international arms dealer Victor Bout (see 1998).
Entity Tags: Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, Mullah Omar, Khallad bin Attash, Ariana Airlines, Salem Alhazmi, Satam Al Suqami, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Mushabib al-Hamlan, Hamza Alghamdi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Alleged al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Abdelghani Mzoudi attends an al-Qaeda training camp. Mzoudi has long been an associate of future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg cell. In the summer of 2002, a witness will tell German intelligence that Mzoudi was seen at one of the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg cell, will later testify in a German court that he met Mzoudi in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000). Their mutual acquaintance Zakariya Essabar is at the same camp as El Motassadeq at this time (see January-October 2000). [Associated Press, 5/9/2003] Mzoudi will later be convicted of a role in the 9/11 attacks, but will then be acquitted after the US does not allow a key witness in its custody to be questioned (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).
CIA Director George Tenet makes a secret trip to Pakistan to complain about funds being moved through Islamic charities to al-Qaeda. This is part of an effort coordinated by the National Security Council to cut off the vast sums of money that intelligence officials believe flow to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network through Islamic charities and wealthy donors from across the Middle East. The US campaign prompts the Pakistani government in early 2001 to make some efforts to ban raising funds explicitly designated for holy war. Former US officials will later claim the trip is part of a larger effort to disrupt bin Laden’s financial network following the 1998 US embassy bombings. [Wall Street Journal, 10/1/2001]
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) prepares to attack US military personnel in Singapore, but consults al-Qaeda’s top leaders and passes them a casing video before it begins carrying out the plot. The initial plan is to attack a bus that transports US military personnel from a metro station in Singapore and is devised by a JI operative called Faiz abu Baker Bafana. However, when the proposal is shown to JI leader Hambali, Bafana is told that he needs the approval of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for the operation and that he has to travel to Afghanistan to get it. Bafana cannot find KSM, so he talks to Mohammed Atef, who promises to provide funding and suicide bombers, as long as JI contributes explosives and transport. KSM subsequently sends Bafana money for the operation. 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar apparently visits Malaysia twice to move the plot forward (see October 2000 and June 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/8/2006] JI sends Atef a casing video, which will be found after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Even though the US sits on the video for a month, Singapore is able to roll the plot up based on information it obtains on its own (see November 15-Late December 2001).
A sign put up by the Taliban reads: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan not only engenders illegal things forbidden but launches effective struggles against illicit drugs as these drugs are a great threat to personality, wisdom, life, health, economy, and morality.” [Source: BBC]The Taliban bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. As a result, the opium yield drops dramatically in 2001, from 3,656 tons to 185 tons. Of that, 83 percent is from Northern Alliance-controlled lands. This is supposedly done in response to Western pressure. [Observer, 11/25/2001; Guardian, 2/21/2002; Reuters, 3/3/2002] However, United Nations officials later suggest that the ban was actually used by the Taliban to drive up their drug profits. According to these officials, for several years, the Taliban had stockpiled over half of their annual opium harvest in a series of warehouses around the country. When the ban begins, a kilogram of opium sells for around $44 wholesale, but one year later the price rises to $400. [USA Today, 10/16/2001] Time magazine will later suggest that the ban was the idea of al-Qaeda’s financial experts working with Haji Juma Khan (see December 2001 and After) and other alleged top Afghan drug traffickers. The ban “meant huge profits for the Taliban and their trafficker friends who were sitting on large stockpiles when prices soared.” [Time, 8/2/2004]
Midhat Mursi. [Source: Washington Post]Agents of the DGSE, the French intelligence agency, examine an aerial photo and spot al-Qaeda leader Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri) standing close to Osama bin Laden. Mursi is considered al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical weapons expert (he will apparently be killed in 2006 (see January 13, 2006). French intelligence reports from before 9/11 show that Mursi is being closely watched by intelligence agencies, with the French exchanging information about him with the Mossad, CIA, and Egyptian intelligence. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007] The quality of the aerial photo must have been extremely high in order for Mursi and bin Laden to be recognized, but it has not been explained how such a photo was obtained or what other photos of bin Laden or other al-Qaeda leaders may have been taken before 9/11. Less than two weeks later, the US begins flying Predator drones over Afghanistan to track bin Laden (see September 7-October 2000).
The Taliban take the Northern Alliance stronghold of Taloqan after a month-long seige. The battle is unusual, because, for the first time, a large portion of the Taliban’s force—about one-third of the 15,000 force besieging Taloqan—is made up of non-Afghans loosely allied to al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda had been organizing a special unit known as the 055 Brigade, and this is one of the unit’s first battles. Furthermore, the Pakistani ISI provides more than 100 Pakistani military officials to manage artillery and communications, and the ISI generally directs the Taliban offensive. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes at the time about the role of foreigners and the ISI in the Taliban offensive, after interviewing Western intelligence figures, UN diplomats, and Afghans. He will later write that this battle marked “the first time people in the United States and Europe began to take notice” of these ISI and al-Qaeda roles in the Taliban offensives. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 17, 409]
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the future 9/11 hijackers, travels to Afghanistan and meets Osama bin Laden. German intelligence soon learns of the trip, and even gets wiretapped recordings of some of his conversations there. Zammar has been an Islamist militant for a long time, and went to training camps in Afghanistan in 1991 and 1994. Living in Hamburg, he was able to collect about 12,000 Deutsche Marks (approximately $6,000 at the time) for al-Qaeda. In September 2000, he takes the money to Afghanistan. He is able to get a face-to-face meeting with bin Laden, in a training camp near Kandahar. Zammar is still at the training camp in early October, when al-Qaeda bombs the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). He and the others in the camp have a celebration this night. This account is based on a confession Zammar will give to visiting German officials while he is secretly imprisoned in Syria in 2002 (see November 20-22, 2002). It is almost certain Zammar is frequently tortured there. However, Der Spiegel will later claim that German intelligence is able to verify many of the details of this trip on its own, because it receives wiretapped recordings of Zammar’s conversations in Afghanistan from at least one foreign intelligence agency. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]
Jose Padilla, an American Muslim who has recently become interested in becoming an al-Qaeda fighter, attends an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He goes under the name Abdullah al-Espani. [Associated Press, 6/2004]
The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex. [Source: CBC]An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque inside his Tarnak Farms complex. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 220-21] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 1/29/2002]
Ayman al-Zawahiri (left), Ahmed Refai Taha (center), and Osama bin Laden (right) on Al Jazeera. [Source: Al Jazeera]Al Jazeera broadcasts a video featuring Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and
Ahmed Refai Taha, head of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group formerly led by the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. In the video, filmed in Afghanistan several months earlier, bin Laden promises “to do all we can” to liberate Abdul-Rahman from his imprisonment in the US. Al-Zawahiri says that he is “talking business” about helping to free Abdul-Rahman. “I’m talking jihad.” Additionally, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, one of the Blind Sheikh’s sons, is heard on the tape saying, “O brothers, everywhere, avenge your leaders, avenge your sheik. Let’s go to the grounds of jihad. Let us spill blood. Let’s go spill blood.” [New York Times, 9/8/2004] In July 2001, the FBI will overhear an Arabic translator tell the Blind Sheikh that the October 2000 bombing of the USS ‘Cole’ was done for him “so he could be released.” The translator is also overheard saying that if he is not released, the bombers are prepared to “execute another operation.” [New York Times, 6/6/2002]
A classified State Department cable observes that “while Pakistani support for the Taliban has been long-standing, the magnitude of recent support is unprecedented.” The US has “seen reports that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. We also understand that large numbers of Pakistani nationals have recently moved into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, apparently with the tacit acquiescence of the Pakistani government.” Direct Pakistani involvement in Taliban military operations has increased. In response, the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is ordered to confront Pakistani officials on the issue and make clear that the US will not accept a Taliban military victory in Afghanistan. [US Department of State, 9/26/2000 ]
Bin Laden has personally approves an al-Qaeda plan to hijack a US airplane. A French intelligence report in January 2001 will describe an al-Qaeda plot to hijack aircraft, possibly one flying from Frankfurt to the US (see January 5, 2001). The report notes that, “In October 2000 bin Laden attended a meeting in Afghanistan at which the decision to mount this action was upheld.” [Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007] At the meeting, bin Laden also decides that his next action against the US will involve a hijacking. However, there is still disagreement among al-Qaeda leaders over how the plot would work. [Agence France-Presse, 4/16/2007] The French report also claims that in early 2000, bin Laden met with Chechen rebels, the Taliban, and other al-Qaeda leaders to begin planning this hijacking (see Early 2000). The Chechens are likely connected to Chechen leader Ibn Khattab, who has a long history of collaboration with bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002) and is said to be planning an attack against the US with him around this time (see Before April 13, 2001). The French will apparently pass all this information to the CIA in early 2001 (see January 5, 2001).
Zacarias Moussaoui had been staying in Malaysia so that he could take flight training classes at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca. However, he is unhappy with the quality of training there. He takes the $35,000 given to him by his hosts, Yazid Sufaat and Hambali, and spends it to buy fertilizer to construct bombs. Then he gives up and travels to London in early December (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000), where he meets with Ramzi bin al-Shibh (who stays in London from December 2 to 9). Hambali sends a messenger to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan to complain about Moussaoui’s attitude. On December 9, Moussaoui leaves London. He makes his way to Afghanistan and meets with Mohammed. Mohammed decides to send him to take flight training classes in the US instead. He is given $35,000 in cash to pay for flying lessons by someone in Pakistan. After he enters the US in February, bin al-Shibh wires him another $14,000 from Germany. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002; Washington Post, 3/28/2003; US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
Following the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000), the CIA discusses possible policy changes in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Disappointed by US inaction, Alec Station chief Richard Blee decides “we’ve got to change the rules,” because he thinks al-Qaeda is getting stronger and stronger. This entails enhanced support for the Northern Alliance led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, which is the only credible opposition fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Although some CIA officers still think Alec Station’s staff is “over the top,” both the CIA’s Near East division and Counterterrorist Center chief Cofer Black agree with Blee, and they decide what is needed is aid to enable Massoud to pressure the Taliban, creating the conditions for CIA operations against bin Laden. The list of assistance includes cash to bribe commanders, trucks, helicopters, light arms, ammunition, uniforms, food, and possibly mortars and artillery. The plan will cost between $50 and $150 million, and will include a permanent CIA base in Afghan territory controlled by the Northern Alliance. CIA officers will then be able to accompany Massoud’s men on missions. It takes some time to arrive at these conclusions, which will be formalized into a plan (see December 29, 2000). However, the plan will not be accepted by the outgoing Clinton administration or the incoming Bush administration (see December 20, 2000). [Coll, 2004, pp. 539-541; Washington Post, 2/23/2004]
Shortly after the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), the US supposedly obtains intelligence that prompts President Clinton to consider another missile strike on bin Laden. The US presidential election is in early November. Author Lawrence Wright will later write, “Clinton maintains that, despite the awkward political timing, his administration came close to launching another missile attack… but at the last minute the CIA recommended calling it off because [bin Laden’s] presence at the site was not completely certain.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 244] Additionally, the tie between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda had not yet been confirmed. The first strong evidence of such a tie will come in late November 2000 when details of an al-Qaeda operative’s confession are given to the FBI (see Late October-Late November 2000). The 9/11 Commission will make no mention of any planned strikes around this time in their final report while discussing the missed opportunities to strike at bin Laden. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237] However, the Washington Post will detail the opportunity, saying the target was a “stone compound, built around a central courtyard full of al-Qaeda operatives.” But the strike is canceled when CIA Director George Tenet calls National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and says about the quality of intelligence, “We just don’t have it.” [Washington Post, 12/19/2001] Ironically, it appears bin Laden was actually hoping to be attacked, anticipating that it would boost his reputation in the Muslim world. In the summer of 2001, the NSA will monitor two al-Qaeda operatives discussing how disappointed they are that the US did not retaliate after the Cole bombing (see June 30-July 1, 2001).
After leaving Yemen following the bombing of the USS Cole (see Around October 12, 2000), 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar travels to various countries in Asia.
He is reportedly in Malaysia in October (see October 2000);
From late 2000 to February 2001 he stays with his cousin in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (see Late 2000-February 2001);
He then returns to Yemen, to stay with his family at an al-Qaeda communications hub monitored by US intelligence (see February 2001, Late August 1998, and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000));
Following this, he goes to Afghanistan;
There are some reports he travels to the United Arab Emirates in June (see June 2001);
He is also said to be in Malaysia again in June (see June 2001);
Finally, he goes to stay with his cousin in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for another month. Before flying to New York (see July 4, 2001), Almihdhar tells his cousin that Osama bin Laden is planning five attacks on the US and asks the cousin to watch over his family, because he has a job to do (see Between June 1 and July 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 137 ]
After 9/11, there will be speculation that during this period Almihdhar is coordinating the arrival of the other muscle hijackers. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, this would his explain his stay in Saudi Arabia and his return only after all the other hijackers had arrived. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, there is some evidence suggesting that Almihdhar may have visited the US in this time frame, perhaps using a passport in a false name (see June 10, 2000).
Kabir Mohabbat. [Source: ZDF]In 1999, Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman, had initiated conversations about bin Laden between the US government and the Taliban. According to Mohabbat, the Taliban were ready to hand bin Laden over to a third country, or the International Court of Justice, in exchange for having the US-led sanctions against Afghanistan lifted. (Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament, later confirms that he helps Mohabbat make contact with the US government in 1999.) The initial talks lead to a secret meeting this month between Taliban ministers and US officials in a Frankfurt hotel. Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil reportedly says in the meeting, “You can have him whenever the Americans are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him.” However, after this face-to-face meeting, further discussions are never held because, Brok believes, a “political decision” has been made by US officials not to continue the negotiations. He does not clarify when he believes such a decision was made. [Reuters, 6/5/2004 Sources: Elmar Brok]
Leading British radical and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) sends a computer to the Taliban’s foreign minister. The computer is part of a package of cash and hardware hand-delivered by Abu Hamza’s aide James Ujaama. According to testimony by FBI agent Fred Humphries, Abu Hamza sends the computer to “curry favor” with the Taliban. The cash is allegedly for a girls’ school in Khost, although Ujaama will later say that the school does not exist and it is unclear what happens to the money. Ujaama is accompanied on the trip by Feroz Abbasi, a recruit Abu Hamza is sending to Pakistan for military training (see December 2000-December 2001), although Ujaama does not accompany Abbasi all the way to his destination, angering Abu Hamza. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 196-197]
After the attack on the USS Cole, the military not only draws up plans to directly target bin Laden (see November 7, 2000), but also comes up with a larger plan looking at alternatives to assassination. Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepared a plan to incorporate military, economic, diplomatic, and political activities to pressure the Taliban to expel bin Laden. A “Phased Campaign Concept” calls for wider-ranging military strikes against the Taliban and other targets, but doesn’t include contingency plans for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept is briefed to Deputy National Security Adviser Donald Kerrick and other officials in December 2000, but it is never acted on. The military makes no similar plans after Bush’s inauguration, and the CIA’s invasion plans are mostly relied upon when the US invades Afghanistan in October 2001. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 4/4/2004]
Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani. [Source: US Defense Department]Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi is allegedly arrested in Pakistan and then released. This is according to the Guantanamo file of Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, who is arrested on September 10, 2002 (see September 10-11, 2002). Rabbani supposedly is running several al-Qaeda safe houses in Karachi, Pakistan, from early 2000 until his arrest. His file states that, according to an unnamed high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoner, Rabbani and Alghamdi are on the road either heading to or from Afghanistan and are arrested by Pakistani police. But Rabbani pays a small bribe and both of them are released. It is unknown if the police know anything about the backgrounds of the two men. [US Department of Defense, 6/9/2008] It is not mentioned when this incident happens, if it indeed happens, but presumably it would be some time between mid-2000 and early 2001, when Alghamdi likely spends time in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Note that this is based on Guantanamo files leaked to the public in 2011 by the non-profit whistleblower group WikiLeaks. There are many doubts about the reliability of the information in the files (see April 24, 2011).
Stills from martyr videos recorded in March 2001. From top to bottom: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi, Wail Alshehri, and Hamza Alghamdi. The backgrounds were digitally inserted later.
[Source: Al-Jazeera]Supposedly, all 13 of the “muscle” hijackers record a farewell video before leaving training in Kandahar, Afghanistan, around this time. [CBS News, 10/9/2002] Several will be released after 9/11. A video of Ahmed Alhaznawi will be shown by the Al Jazeera television network in April 2002. In it, he pledges to give his life to “martyrdom” and swears to send a “bloodied message” to Americans by attacking them in their “heartland” (see April 15, 2002). [Guardian, 4/16/2002] In September 2002, Al Jazeera will show a similar farewell video of Abdulaziz Alomari. [Associated Press, 9/9/2002] Alomari states, “God praise everybody who trained and helped me, namely the leader Sheik Osama bin Laden” (see September 9, 2002). [Washington Post, 9/11/2002] Also in September 2002, some images broadcast on Al Jazeera will suggest that al-Qaeda has martyr videos for nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers (see September 9, 2002). Saeed Alghamdi’s video will be released in September 2003. In it, he will mention that the video was recorded in late December 2000 (see September 12, 2003).
Wail Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi’s videos will be released in September 2006 (see September 7, 2006). [Associated Press, 9/7/2006] Ahmed Alghamdi’s video will be released in September 2008 (see September 19, 2008).
Entity Tags: Mohand Alshehri, Osama bin Laden, Salem Alhazmi, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Wail Alshehri, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda over a period of three to five years until it is ineffectual. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The main component is a dramatic increase in covert aid to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to first tie down the terrorists and then “eliminate the sanctuary” for bin Laden. Financial support for terrorist activities will be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda will be given aid to defeat them, and the US will plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan will cost several hundred million dollars. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision until the new administration is in place. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush administration] a war when they took office on January 20. That wasn’t going to happen.” However, the plan is rejected by the Bush administration and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). According to one senior Bush administration official, the proposal amounts to “everything we’ve done since 9/11.” [Time, 8/12/2002]
Saeed Alghamdi training with weapons in Afghanistan. [Source: Al Jazeera]Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi apparently records a martyr video in Afghanistan on this day. In the video, which will be released in September 2003, Alghamdi specifically mentions that the video is recorded on December 23, 2000, and that it is his last will and testament before he goes on his martyrdom operation in the US (see September 12, 2003). In addition to a speech, the video shows Alghamdi training with a variety of weapons, showing that he must be at a militant training camp in Afghanistan. [CNN, 9/12/2003]
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger asks CIA Director how he would go after al-Qaeda if he were unconstrained by resources and policies. He assigns Cofer Black and the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center to develops a plan for the incoming Bush administration. It is dubbed the “Blue Sky Memo.” The CIA presents it to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on December 29, 2000. It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken on it in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; and the new Bush administration does not appear interested in it either. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Tenet, 2007, pp. 130-131] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepares a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky Memo. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, National Security Council, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Clinton administration, Cofer Black, George J. Tenet, Counterterrorist Center, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Gen. Anthony Zinni [Source: US Marine Corps.]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton prepares a paper with 13 options for using force against bin Laden. Several of the options describe Special Forces raids to capture or kill bin Laden. But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later say that when military operations on al-Qaeda were discussed, “the overwhelming message to the White House from the uniformed military leadership was, ‘We don’t want to do this.’” Shelton’s chief of operations will later describe the paper as a tool to “educate” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clarke, and others about the “extraordinary complexity” of going ahead with any of the options. The military repeatedly complains that the CIA’s intelligence about bin Laden isn’t good enough while the CIA complains that the military’s intelligence requirements are too demanding. One CIA document notes that there is “lots of desire” for a military strike against bin Laden amongst lower-level US military officials, but “reluctance at the political level.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003; Coll, 2004, pp. 533] One reason for such reluctance is the close ties between the US military and Pakistan. Author Steve Coll will later note, “The Pentagon, especially General Anthony Zinni at Centcom, who remained close to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf personally, emphasized the benefits of engagement with Pakistan’s generals.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 490]
In 2008, Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant heading an Islamist militant group in Morocco, will be arrested in Morocco (see February 18, 2008 and February 29, 2008). Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa will claim that in 2001 Belliraj and several of his followers travel to Afghanistan to meet al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri gives Belliraj specific instructions to carry out. Belliraj’s followers then train in al-Qaeda camps alongside militants belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, another al-Qaeda linked Moroccan militant group. That group will later carry out a series of attacks in Casablanca in 2003 (see May 16, 2003) and play a role in the Madrid train bombings in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). It is not known if Belliraj meets al-Zawahiri before or after the 9/11 attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Het Laatste News, 3/4/2008] Belliraj’s group maintains al-Qaeda links after this. For instance, in 2005 Belliraj visits training camps run by the Algerian militant group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. One year later, that group will change its name to be Al-Qaeda in the Magreb. [Maghreb Arabe Presse, 3/2/2008]
As part of a new US intelligence effort to prevent al-Qaeda getting weapons of mass destruction, “a third-country national working for the CIA” goes into an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan where chemical weapons are possibly being made. The agent takes soil samples, but later analysis does not show any dangerous chemicals. According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, the “CIA took pride in the risks the third-country national had run in going to the camp.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 178-179]
During a post-9/11 trial in Germany, Shadi Abdellah, a militant who briefly served as one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, will claim that in early 2001: “Bin Laden spoke in a speech of an attack against the United States and said there would be thousands of dead.… When there was an attack, we weren’t told. They just said to us, ‘Pray for your brothers.’” [Guardian, 11/28/2002; Associated Press, 11/2/2004] According to another account, Abdellah hears bin Laden say: “We will hit America’s spine soon. Thousands will die. We will hit them hard.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/28/2002] Abdellah spent time at al-Qaeda training camps from early 2000 until May 2001, so presumably this speech was in May 2001 or before then. Abdellah will be captured in Germany in 2002 for a role in helping to plot attacks against Jewish targets there (see April 2002). [Guardian, 11/28/2002; Associated Press, 11/2/2004] Bin Laden will make other similar public comments hinting at a massive attack against the US later in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001). While it is unknown if US intelligence is aware of such speeches before 9/11, by July 2001 the CIA will report that a source in Afghanistan has said, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack” (see July 2001).
Lee Wolosky. [Source: Center for American Progress]By the end of the Clinton administration, an effort by some US officials to arrest international arms dealer Victor Bout is gathering steam (see Early Spring 1999-2000). National Security Council (NSC) adviser Lee Wolosky has been gathering evidence of Bout’s airplanes being used to smuggle weapons and possibly drugs for the Taliban. Shortly after the Bush administration takes office, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Wolosky, and other NSC deputies hold a briefing about Bout’s activities for Condoleezza Rice, the new national security adviser. Rice appears interested, and authorizes the NSC team to continue to pursue an attempt to get an arrest warrant for Bout strong enough to secure a conviction. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 186-187] However, Rice focuses on diplomatic solutions and does not allow any actual covert action against Bout. The FBI also does not have an open investigation into Bout and does not appear particularly interested in him. “Look but don’t touch,” is how one White House official will later describe Rice’s approach. [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193] In late spring 2001, Wolosky briefs Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about Bout and global organized crime. He receives a go-ahead to present a full briefing to President Bush on the topic, but no specific date is set. Wolosky is still trying to arrange a date when the 9/11 attacks occur. The Bush administration’s interest in Bout was already fading before 9/11, and after 9/11 the remaining interest in him is lost, despite Bout’s ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Wolosky soon quits. “We knew we were being phased out,” he will later say. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bout moves to Russia not long after 9/11, but Rice decides that Russia should not be pressured about arms trafficking in general and Bout in particular. One source who talks to Rice claims that she reasons the US has “bigger fish to fry.” [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003]
After the Bush administration takes office in January 2001, it is slow to develop new approaches to Pakistan and Afghanistan. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice orders a new policy review for al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but sets no deadline for it to be completed. State Department officials will later say that Secretary of State Colin Powell shows little interest in the policy review. It takes four months for the Bush administration to even nominate a new assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf exchange formal letters with each other shortly after Bush takes office, but the letters have little impact. In January, US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam prepares two cables to brief the new Bush administration about Pakistan, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. There is no response from Washington and no request for further information, even though Milam is the point person for meetings with the Taliban. The US embassy is not consulted at all about the new policy review, indicating just how low a priority the review is. A senior US diplomat will later say: “Al-Qaeda was not on the radar screen in Washington. Nobody thought there was any urgency to the policy review. Papers were circulated, dates were made to meet, and were broken—it was the usual bureaucratic approach.” The first significant meeting related to the review takes place in April, but little is accomplished (see April 30, 2001). The first cabinet-level meeting relating to the policy review takes place on September 4, just one week before the 9/11 attacks. US policy towards Pakistan is discussed, but no firm decisions are reached (see September 4, 2001). After 9/11, Rice will say: “America’s al-Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and our overall foreign policy.… Al-Qaeda was both a client of and patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided al-Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection, and we had to sever that.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 56-60]
Alain Chouet. [Source: La Repubblica]A five page summary French intelligence report dated on this day is entitled “Hijacking of an Airplane by Radical Islamists.” The report details tactical discussions since early 2000 between bin Laden, Chechen rebels, and the Taliban about a hijacking against US airlines (Early 2000 and October 2000). The plot considers hijacking a US airliner flying from Frankfurt to the US or hijacking a French or German airliner. The French intelligence comes from Uzbek spies who have infiltrated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant group based in Uzbekistan next door to Afghanistan and closely tied to bin Laden and the Taliban. Some of the spies ended up in al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The French report makes clear that the information was independently verified from other sources, including satellite telephone intercepts and possibly spies recruited in France. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007; Associated Press, 4/16/2007; Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007] When this French report will be leaked to the press in 2007, French officials will insist that the information in it would have been forwarded to the CIA at the time. For instance, Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, responsible at the time for communications between French and other foreign intelligence services, will say the information would have gone to Bill Murray, chief of the CIA Paris station. Lorenzi says, “That, typically, is the kind of information that would certainly have been forwarded to the CIA. It would even have been an error not to have done it.” [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007] Alain Chouet, head of the French intelligence subdivision tracking terrorist movements, also says the information was certainly passed to the CIA. “We transmitted everything to our American counterparts, everything that could have posed a threat, and they did the same with us.” Chouet thinks it is possible the information was deliberate misdirection by al-Qaeda, because it does not mention multiple hijackings or suicide pilots. No CIA officials have gone on record saying that they received the warning. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007; Associated Press, 4/16/2007] However, the Chechens are likely connected to Chechen leader Ibn Khattab, who has a long history of collaboration with bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002), and by April 2001 an FBI report says that Ibn Khattab and bin Laden are seriously planning an attack together, possibly against US interests (see Before April 13, 2001). In May 2001, President Bush will be given a warning entitled, “Terrorist Groups Said Cooperating on US Hostage Plot,” which could involve a hijacking to free al-Qaeda prisoners in the US (see May 23, 2001). The plot described by French intelligence is also designed to free al-Qaeda prisoners in the US, though this may just be coincidence as the terrorist groups in Bush’s warning have not been publicly named. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007]
Ahmed Zaidan. [Source: PBS]Ahmed Zaidan, a journalist for Al Jazeera, is invited to a wedding also attended by al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan (see February 26, 2001), and while there he talks to Atef about al-Qaeda’s military strategy. He will later recall that Atef told him, “He was explaining to me what’s going to happen in the coming five years.… There are two or three places in the world which [are] the most suitable places to fight Americans: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. We are expecting the United States to invade Afghanistan. And we are preparing for that. We want them to come to Afghanistan.” Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later comment, “Did they want us involve in the war on the ground in Islamic countries? Absolutely. Part of the goal was to make sure that Muslims perceived America as the infidel invader of Muslim lands.” [William Cran, 4/15/2007] It is not known if any Western intelligence agencies were aware of this strategy prior to 9/11. However, other al-Qaeda-linked figures will make similar comments to reporters before 9/11 (see April 2001 and August 2-3, 2001).
Mohammed bin Laden (center), the son of Osama bin Laden (right),
marries the daughter of Mohammed Atef (left).
[Source: Al Jazeera]Bin Laden attends the wedding of his son Mohammed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Although Osama bin Laden is supposedly long estranged from his family, bin Laden’s stepmother, two brothers, and sister are also said to attend, according to the only journalist who was invited. [Reuters, 3/1/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 10/7/2001]
John McLaughlin. [Source: CIA]According to a later account by CIA Director George Tenet, Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin expresses frustration at the lack of action about Osama bin Laden during a meeting of deputy cabinet officials. McLaughlin reportedly says, “I think we should deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban. They either hand bin Laden over or we rain hell on them.” According to Tenet, “An odd silence followed. No one seemed to like the idea. Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, called John after the meeting and offered a friendly word of advice: ‘You are going to get your suspenders snapped if you keep making policy recommendations. That is not your role.’” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 145]
Chris Isham. [Source: Viewimages.com]In March 2001, the ISI learns that one of bin Laden’s operatives, who is working on a sensitive al-Qaeda job in Afghanistan, has been providing information to the CIA at the US consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan. The operative, whose CIA codename is “Max,” becomes worried that the ISI will disclose to al-Qaeda his dealings with the CIA. The next month, ABC News reporters Chris Isham and John Miller meet with Max and help him defect to the US and talk to the FBI. Max tells the reporters that in 1999 and 2000 he was trained as part of a small group by Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders. Asked by Isham and Miller whether al-Qaeda is planning any operations targeting the US, he describes a plan to hijack an airplane carrying a US senator or ambassador and then use the dignitary to bargain for the release of the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. US intelligence learned of the same basic plot idea in 1998 (see 1998). Max does defect and will be extensively debriefed by the FBI. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 282] In May 2001, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) will be sent to top White House officials warning that “terrorist groups [are] cooperating on [a] US hostage plot”(see May 23, 2001). It is not known for how long Max was talking to the CIA or what he told them before he was exposed, but his account contradicts assertions that US intelligence did not have any well placed informants in al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. An Afghan named “Ahmed” defects around the same time and there are similarities between his case and that of Max, but it is unknown if they are in fact the same person or not (see April 2001).
Rahmatullah Hashimi. [Source: PBS]Taliban envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi meets with reporters, middle-ranking State Department bureaucrats, and private Afghanistan experts in Washington. He carries a gift carpet and a letter from Afghan leader Mullah Omar for President Bush. He discusses turning bin Laden over, but the US wants to be handed bin Laden and the Taliban want to turn him over to some third country. A CIA official later says, “We never heard what they were trying to say. We had no common language. Ours was, ‘Give up bin Laden.’ They were saying, ‘Do something to help us give him up.’… I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck.” Others claim the Taliban were never sincere. About 20 more meetings on giving up bin Laden take place up until 9/11, all fruitless. [Washington Post, 10/29/2001] Allegedly, Hashimi also proposes that the Taliban would hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the US to locate and kill him. However, this offer is refused. This report, however, comes from Laila Helms, daughter of former CIA director Richard Helms. While it’s interesting that this information came out before 9/11, one must be skeptical, since Helms’ job was public relations for the Taliban. [Village Voice, 6/6/2001] Hashimi will mention to a reporter in June 2001 that he was in the US for a total of six weeks. [United Press International, 6/14/2001] According to one article at the time, Hashimi meets with “several senior officials from the State Department, CIA and National Security Council but also from the non-governmental organization Council on Foreign Relations.” Secretary of State Colin Powell is reportedly irate at the meetings because he had not been informed that high level officials would be meeting with Hashimi in the US. He blames CIA Director George Tenet “having laid on a red carpet for [Mullah] Omar’s adviser.” [Intelligence Newsletter, 4/19/2001] Hashimi reportedly directly meets with Tenet. [Irish Times, 11/19/2001]
Entity Tags: Taliban, US Department of State, Osama bin Laden, National Security Council, Rahmatullah Hashimi, Laila Helms, Colin Powell, Central Intelligence Agency, Council on Foreign Relations, Mullah Omar, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. [Source: CNN]The Taliban begins blowing up two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan—ancient statues carved into an Afghan mountainside, which are considered priceless treasures. They face great international condemnation in response, but no longer seem to be courting international recognition. Apparently, even ISI efforts to dissuade them fail. [Time, 8/12/2002; Time, 8/12/2002] Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf wrote Taliban head Mullah Omar a four-page letter urging him not to blow up the statues, and the letter was secretly hand-delivered to Omar by IS Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, but the letter had no effect. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 409] Omar had previously announced the statues would not be harmed and even opened a National Museum in 2000. The change in policy appears to be due to bin Laden’s growing influence. Journalist Kathy Gannon will later write, “bin Laden’s hardliner rhetoric set the policy, and he campaigned vigorously for the destruction of the statues.” The destruction of the statues further isolates the Taliban internationally, leaving them more dependent on bin Laden’s generosity. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 79-81]
Britain officially bans al-Qaeda and 20 other alleged terrorist groups, including the Pakistani militant groups Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 414] Britain is behind the US on al-Qaeda, as the US officially declared al-Qaeda a foreign terrorist organization in 1999 (see October 8, 1999). However, the US will not declare Harkat ul-Mujahedeen a terrorist organization until September 25, 2001, Lashkar-e-Toiba until December 20, 2001, and Jaish-e-Mohammed until December 26, 2001 (see December 20, 2001).
Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley chairs an informal meeting of some counterparts from other agencies to discuss al-Qaeda. They begin a broad review of the government’s approach to al-Qaeda and Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the approach is “two-pronged and included a crisis warning effort to deal with immediate threats and longer-range planning by senior officials to put into place a comprehensive strategy to eradicate al-Qaeda.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke again pushes for immediate decisions on assisting Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Hadley suggests dealing with this as part of the broad review. Clarke supports a larger program, but he warns that delay risks the Alliance’s defeat. Clarke also advocates using the armed Predator drone. However, despite an increasing number of alarming warnings following this meeting, there is little follow-up. “By June, a draft of a presidential directive authorizing an ambitious covert action plan is circulating through the upper echelons of the administration, but there seem[s] little urgency about putting the plan into effect.” [New York Times, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 4/4/2004]
The Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits “an unprecedentedly detailed report” to the UN Security Council about bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections to Pakistan and the ISI. The report provides “a listing of all bin Laden’s bases, his government contacts and foreign advisers,” and enough information to potentially locate and kill him. It is said to contain an “astonishing degree of information.” The US fails to use the information in any noticable manner. Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane’s Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure than the result of “a political decision not to act against bin Laden.” [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/5/2001; Times of India, 10/8/2001] In May 2002, Jane’s will further comment,“it is becoming clear that this was only the most high profile of a number of attempts by the Russians to alert the US and other members of the Security Council to the extent of the inter-dependence between the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the ISI. According to [our] Russian sources, there was a regular flow of information from Moscow to the US dating back to the last years of the Clinton presidency. It seems apparent, however, that although this intelligence was being received by the CIA and other US agencies, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm within political - as opposed to military - circles for the launch of pre-emptive strikes against either the Taliban or al-Qaeda. However, given the detailed intelligence being provided by the Russians - and the fact that bin Laden was making very clear threats to launch further strikes against US targets - it seems bizarre, to say the least, that no high-level political decision was taken to focus US intelligence efforts on al-Qaeda and its international network…” [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 5/28/2002]
Journalist Hamid Mir talks to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is living in exile in Iran at the time. Hekmatyar predicts that the Taliban will fall by the end of the year. Mir will later recall, “he was telling me that the Americans will attack Afghanistan, Taliban government will fall, and then we’ll continue our jihad against the Americans.” Hekmatyar is opposed to the Taliban but openly supports bin Laden. He tells Mir, “Osama bin Laden is a great man and I support his ideology and I support his objectives.… He is a good friend of mine and he is a real muhjahid.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287] A senior Taliban official will make a similar prediction to Mir before 9/11 and hint the justification for the US attack would be a major attack against US interests (see August 2-3, 2001).
Peter Jouvenal. [Source: Dominc Medley]British cameraman Peter Jouvenal is reporting on Afghanistan at this time and using a young Afghan known only as “Ahmed” to run errands. Ahmed also has a job running errands for Osama bin Laden at the same time. Jouvenal will later recount that Ahmed was helping bin Laden by “meeting people in Pakistan and taking them across the border, taking messages around for Osama, buying his food, taking messages to the Internet and logging on and receiving, printing, sending.” Ahmed buys bin Laden’s meals most every day. But Jouvenal says that “somewhere on the line Ahmed tied up with the CIA” and decided that working for bin Laden was too dangerous. Ahmed asks Jouvenal for help to get a visa for himself and his family to defect to the US, which Ahmed eventually gets. He also tells Jouvenal that al-Qaeda is planning to hijack an airplane in the US in an attempt to get Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman released from prison. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287-289] There are some similarities between Ahmed’s case and the case of “Max” who leaves Afghanistan around the same time and warns of a hijacking, but there are differences as well (see March-April 2001). It is not known if they are the same person. Regardless, Ahmed’s case contradicts CIA assertions that they never had any asserts close to bin Laden. It is not known why the CIA did not use Ahmed to track bin Laden’s location or poison his food. One month later the White House will be warned of the hijacking plot, but it is unknown if this came from Ahmed or other sources (see May 23, 2001).
A taxi driver from Bavaria, Germany, will tell police after 9/11 that in April 2000 or April 2001 he drives three Afghans from Furth, Germany, to meet future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Hamburg. According to Focus, a German newsweekly, Atta pays the approximately $650 taxi bill. Police will later determine the identities of the suspicious passengers. One of them, aged 44, trained as a pilot in Afghanistan. His 33-year-old brother is another passenger. The brother has military training and has just come back from the US. No details of the third man will be made public. Video tapes, aviation papers, and documents that are confiscated in their house will be investigated after 9/11. [Focus (Munchen), 9/24/2001] The BBC will also report on this taxi ride two months after Focus does. But in the BBC version, the taxi ride happens in April 2001. The taxi driver, Karl-Heinz Horst, will be interviewed by the BBC. He will say that at one point the taxi goes by a road accident with injured people on the ground, and one of the men in the taxi jokes that he’d seen plenty of dead bodies in Afghanistan when he was a soldier there. Horst will also mention that the man who tells the dead bodies joke jumps out and hugs Atta when they arrive at the Hamburg railway station where Atta is waiting for them. [BBC, 12/12/2001] In mid-2002, Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Pakistan (see April, June, or August 2002). He will later claim he asked KSM about this taxi ride. KSM neither confirms nor denies that he was the third man in the taxi. A 2003 book co-written by Fouda will also say the taxi ride takes place in April 2001. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 137] It will be claimed that KSM is in Italy for three weeks in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
The Lackawanna Six. Top row, from left: Faysal Galab, Mukhtar al-Bakri, and Sahim Alwan. Bottom row, from left: Yahya Goba, Shafel Mosed, and Yaseinn Taher. [Source: Associated Press]A group of seven men in Lackawanna, near Buffalo, New York, are influenced by religious discussions with two al-Qaeda operatives, Kamal Derwish and Juma al-Dosari. The seven US citizens—Yaseinn Taher, Yahya Goba, Shafel Mosed, Mukhtar al-Bakri, Sahim Alwan, Faysal Galab, and Jaber Elbaneh—leave for jihad training in Afghanistan. They tell friends they are merely going to Pakistan for religious instruction. Escorted by Derwish, the men travel separately and attend a six-week long weapons course at the Al Farooq camp. Some of them meet Osama bin Laden in Kandahar and they all hear him give a speech (see (June 2001)). However, most of them apparently think they are in over their heads and find excuses to cut their basic training course short and return home. The six who return show little to no evidence of any al-Qaeda plotting in the following months. Jaber Elbaneh, however, becomes committed and stays overseas with al-Qaeda. The six who return will later be arrested and dubbed an al-Qaeda cell known as the “Lackawanna Six” (see September 13, 2002). [PBS Frontline, 10/16/2003]
Entity Tags: Yaseinn Taher, Al Farooq training camp, Shafel Mosed, Yahya Goba, Osama bin Laden, Faysal Galab, Jaber Elbaneh, Juma al-Dosari, Sahim Alwan, Mukhtar al-Bakri, Kamal Derwish
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Ahmed Shah Massoud speaking before European Parliament. [Source: Robert Sanchez/ Black Star]Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been trying to get aid from the US but his people are only allowed to meet with low level US officials. In an attempt to get his message across, he addresses the European Parliament: “If President Bush doesn’t help us, these terrorists will damage the US and Europe very soon.” [Dawn (Karachi), 4/7/2001; Time, 8/12/2002] A classified US intelligence document states, “Massoud’s intelligence staff is aware that the attack against the US will be on a scale larger than the 1998 embassy bombings, which killed over two hundred people and injured thousands (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).” [Defense Intelligence Agency, 11/21/2001 ] Massoud also meets privately with some CIA officials while in Europe (see Early April 2001). He tells them that his guerrilla war against the Taliban is faltering and unless the US gives a significant amount of aid, the Taliban will conquer all of Afghanistan. No more aid is forthcoming. [Washington Post, 2/23/2004]
While staying in a flat in Alexandria, Virginia (see Early April-Early May, 2001), 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour tell two roommates that they had thought of going to Afghanistan for jihad. According to the 9/11 Commission, “The al-Qaeda operatives spent little time with their roommates, but did mention at one point that they had considered going to Afghanistan for jihad.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 523] In fact, Alhazmi, an al-Qaeda veteran, has already spent time in Afghanistan (see 1993-1999). Hanjour may also have traveled to Afghanistan already (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). Alhazmi made similar comments when he lived in San Diego (see (Spring 2000)).
The US State Department issues its annual report on terrorism. The report cites the role of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and notes the Taliban “continued to provide safe haven for international terrorists, particularly Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his network.” However, as CNN describes it, “Unlike last year’s report, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization is mentioned, but the 2001 report does not contain a photograph of bin Laden or a lengthy description of him and the group. A senior State Department official told CNN that the US government made a mistake last year by focusing too tightly on bin Laden and ‘personalizing terrorism… describing parts of the elephant and not the whole beast.’” [CNN, 4/30/2001] The report is unusually critical of Pakistan, noting, “Pakistan increased its support to the Taliban and continued its support to militant groups active in Indian-held Kashmir, such as the Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM), some of which engaged in terrorism.… Credible reporting indicates that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. Pakistan has not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals from moving into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. [Pakistan] also failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrassas, or religious schools, that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism.” However, despite this criticism and a further critique that Afghanistan has been the “primary hub” for militants “involved in most major terrorist plots or attacks against the United States in the past 15 years and now engaged in international militant and terrorist acts around the world,” neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is placed on the official list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The report merely hints that both of them could be added to the list in the next year unless their behavior improves. [US Department of State, 4/30/2001; CNN, 4/30/2001] In 1999, an unnamed Western diplomat explained to Human Rights Watch that if Pakistan were designated a terrorist state, it would mean the termination of international financial assistance. This would result in the near-collapse of the Pakistani economy, since two-thirds of Pakistan’s budget is funded by international loans and credits. [Human Rights Watch, 7/1/2001]
Gen. William F. Kernan (2002) [Source: Wikipedia]General William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command, later mentions: “The details of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan which fought the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, were largely taken from a scenario examined by Central Command in May 2001.” [Agence France-Presse, 7/23/2002] This seems to contradict other accounts suggesting the military made no Afghanistan invasion plans or preparations after Bush took office (see December 2000).
“Massoud,” a 22-year-old Afghan, tells ABC News that al-Qaeda is “planning to hijack aircraft as a means of attacking the West,” according to journalist Edward Girardet. Girardet will write in a 2011 book that “ABC never used this information because of pressure brought about by a certain intelligence agency, presumably the CIA.” Massoud is employed by journalist Peter Jouvenal as a “runner” between Kabul and Pakistan, as a “means of tracking potential stories for the BBC, CNN, and other networks.” Jouvenal is Girardet’s source for Massoud’s story. Massoud also claims to work for the Pakistani ISI, the CIA, and al-Qaeda. He travels with Jouvenal to meet ABC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of an effort to get asylum. [Girardet, 2011, pp. 333]
John Walker Lindh.
[Source: Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff's Department]John Walker Lindh, a young Caucasian man from California who has converted to Islam, travels to Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attempt to fight for Islamic causes. He had been studying the Koran for about six months elsewhere in Pakistan, but otherwise had no particularly special training, qualifications, or connections. Within days, he is accepted into al-Qaeda and sent to the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan. Seven other US citizens are already training there (see April-August 2001). He inadvertently learns details of the 9/11 attacks. In June, he is told by an instructor that “bin Laden had sent forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist operations against the United States and Israel.” He learns that the 9/11 plot is to consist of five attacks, not the four that actually occur. The other fifteen operations are to take place later. He is asked if he wants to participate in a suicide mission, but declines. [Mahoney, 2003, pp. 162, 216; Bamford, 2004, pp. 234-36]
News of Upcoming Attacks Are Widespread in Camps - Although Lindh does not tell this information to any US officials, the fact that he learns this much so quickly is indicative of how widely news of the upcoming attacks are spreading in the al-Qaeda training camps. For instance, early 2001, bin Laden gave a speech at one of the camps talking about an attack on the US that would kill thousands (see Early 2001). In the summer, bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs (see Summer 2001). By July, a source will tell the CIA that (see July 2001)
What Could an Informant in the Camps Learn? - Author James Bamford comments, “The decision to keep CIA employees at arm’s length from [al-Qaeda] was a serious mistake. At the same moment the CIA was convinced al-Qaeda was impenetrable, a number of American citizens were secretly joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan—and being welcomed with open arms.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 161]
Binyam Mohamed, a 23-year old Muslim of Ethiopian descent residing in London, flies to Pakistan to experience Islam in its “purest form” as practiced by the Taliban. Mohamed, who was abandoned by his family in London when he was 15, is a former heroin addict and desultory college student who turned to the local mosque as a way to avoid his drug-using friends. He will later claim, “I really had no idea what it was” that the Taliban espoused; he goes to Afghanistan on the advice of some in the mosque. After arriving in Pakistan, he sneaks into Afghanistan in the back of a truck. He will later say that he learns about the Muslim rebels in Chechnya from sympathizers in Jalalabad, and determines to aid the Muslim cause, but, he claims, as an aid worker, not a terrorist or Taliban fighter. Yet he agrees to undergo basic training in Afghanistan for fighters. He will later say: “I was told that the Russians don’t separate between aid workers and those doing the fighting, and that if I wanted to go to Chechnya, I needed basic training. I was so young, I didn’t question it. I didn’t expect to fire a gun except in training, let alone kill someone.… I would never have taken up arms against British or American soldiers, let alone attacked civilians. I wanted to protect civilians, not kill them.” He completes a 45-day “boot camp” course, where, he will later say, he learned nothing to do with terrorism, such as bomb-making techniques. But instead of traveling to Chechnya, he goes to Kabul, where he contracts malaria. He is in the hospital when he learns of the 9/11 attacks. He thinks Afghanistan will soon be under attack from Western forces, and, he will later say, decides to leave for London before the fighting can start (see September 2001 - April 9, 2002). “All I wanted to do was to get back to London, to the country that I thought of as home, to continue my education and find a job; to get back to my life, minus the drugs,” he will say. [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009]
Secretary of State Powell announces that the US is granting $43 million in aid to the Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop occurred in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/2001] Powell promises that the US will “continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/13/2004] And in fact, in the same month Powell asks Congress to give Afghanistan $7 million more, to be used for regional energy cooperation and to fight child prostitution. [Coll, 2004, pp. 559] This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [US Department of State, 12/11/2001] A Newsday editorial notes that the Taliban “are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift… Why are we sending these people money—so much that Washington is, in effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?” [Newsday, 5/29/2001] However, there were allegations that the drug ban was merely a means for the Taliban to drive up prices (see July 2000). In fact, according to a March 2001 State Department report, “Prospects for progress on drug-control efforts in Afghanistan remain dim as long as the country remains at war. Nothing indicates that either the Taliban or the Northern Alliance intend to take serious action to destroy heroin or morphine base laboratories, or stop drug trafficking.” [USA Today, 10/16/2001]
An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 claims that Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, makes a clandestine visit to Pakistan around this time. After meeting with senior army officials, he visits Afghanistan with ISI Director Mahmood. They meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and try to convince him that the US is likely to launch an attack on Afghanistan. They insist bin Laden be sent to Saudi Arabia, where he would be held in custody and not handed over to any third country. If bin Laden were to be tried in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah would help make sure he is acquitted. Mullah Omar apparently rejects the proposal. The article suggests that Abdullah is secretly a supporter of bin Laden and is trying to protect him from harm. [Asia Times, 8/22/2001] A similar meeting may also take place about a week after 9/11 (see September 19, 2001).
Word begins to spread within al-Qaeda that an attack against the US is imminent, according to later prison interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Many within al-Qaeda are aware that Mohammed has been preparing operatives to go to the US. Additionally, bin Laden makes several remarks hinting at an upcoming attack, spawning rumors throughout Muslim extremist circles worldwide.
In a recorded speech at the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden specifically urges trainees to pray for the success of an upcoming attack involving 20 martyrs. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
Members of the “Lackawanna Six” see bin Laden give a recorded speech at the Al Farooq camp in which he urges trainees to pray for 40 en route on a very important mission. It is not known if this is the same as the other Al Farooq speech or a separate one (see (June 2001)).
A bin Laden bodyguard later will claim that in May 2001 or earlier in the year he heard bin Laden tell people in Afghanistan that the US would be hit with an attack, and thousands would die (see Early 2001). [Guardian, 11/28/2002]
In mid-June 2001, bin Laden tells training camp trainees there will be an attack in the near future. US intelligence soon learns of this (see Mid-June 2001).
In June 2001, the CIA hears that Arabs in Afghanistan are said to be anticipating as many as eight celebrations, and al-Qaeda operatives are being told to await important news within days (see June 2001).
John Walker Lindh learns details of the 9/11 attack despite being a Caucasian and US citizen who only recently converted to Islam (see May-June 2001).
There are other indications that knowledge of the attacks spreads in Afghanistan. The Daily Telegraph later reports that “the idea of an attack on a skyscraper [is] discussed among [bin Laden’s] supporters in Kabul.” At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul sees diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a “nerve center” for al-Qaeda activity. [Daily Telegraph, 11/16/2001] US soldiers will later find forged visas, altered passports, listings of Florida flight schools and registration papers for a flight simulator in al-Qaeda houses in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 12/6/2001]
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