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Hijacker list raises more questions

Jamal Khashoggi, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, ARAB NEWS, ARAB NEWS


Hanjour family denies Hani’s involvement in crime (September 22, 2001, Page 1)

By Jamal Khashoggi & Badr Al-Nayyef

JEDDAH — The family of Hani Hasan Hanjour, a suspect in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon in Washington, have started accepting messages of condolence in the belief that their son may have died in the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon.

Hanjour’s family has denied his involvement in the operation. “We don’t know what happened to our son on the plane. He had contacted us eight hours before the incident to inquire about our health. He was very normal,” the family told the Saudi daily Al-Watan.

According to previous reports, Hanjour was working as a pilot for Emirates Airlines in the United Arab Emirates. The family said its contacts with their son had ceased after his departure for the UAE.

A picture of Hanjour handed out by the FBI — taken by a surveillance camera — was published in local newspapers here. In that picture, Hanjour stands with Majed Moqaid, another suspect, at the ATM of a bank. The photo of Ahmad Abdullah Al-Nami, another suspect, published in Al-Watan was identical to the one provided by the FBI. Al-Nami is accused of hijacking United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in Stony Creek, Pa. Al-Nami has been missing since December and his family did not know his whereabouts. According to Al-Watan, Al-Nami became very religious about two-and a-half-years ago. He was imam of the mosque in his district in the southern city of Abha.

Abdul Rahman Al-Haznawi, brother of another suspect, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Haznawi, said the picture published on Thursday by some local newspapers did not resemble his brother. “There is no similarity between the photo published and my brother,” he told Al-Madinah newspaper. He said he does not believe his brother was involved in the attacks. “He never had any such intention,” he stated categorically.

Arab News had pointed out the similarity of the Al-Haznawi pictures after his friend confirmed that the two were identical. However, in the light of Al-Madinah report the FBI should check Al-Haznawi’s file to make sure he had in fact taken part in the attacks. Al-Haznawi’s family said their son had left them in ambiguous circumstances about a year ago.

With regard to Salim and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, accused of taking part in the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon, their father told a press conference that he was not sure whether the photos published were of his sons. Salim and Nawaf had left the Kingdom to take part in Jihad in Chechnya several years ago.

Muhammad Salim Al-Hazmi, the father, told Al-Watan that the published pictures of his sons were not clear. He said he was ready to provide information about his sons to the Saudi authorities. Al-Hazmi has a supermarket and a building in Makkah’s Nawariya district.

More information is now available about Muhannad Al-Shahri, who is accused of hijacking United Airlines Flight 175 which smashed into the World Trade Center. The FBI gave his name as Mohald Alshehri. His family told Al-Watan that he had gone to Chechnya to fight in the Jihad there more than a year ago. There was no information about him. He only contacted his mother during last Eid Al-Adha festival, when he told her that he was in Chechnya.

His family believes that Muhannad was one of the victims of the operation, but was not among the hijackers. Muhannad’s teacher told the Arabic daily that he was a regular student with a quiet nature. He studied at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University’s branch in Abha only for one semester. He later moved to Riyadh. He was 24 years old and had six brothers. The father of Hamza Al-Ghamdi, who is accused of hijacking the plane that hit the Pentagon, told Al-Watan that the picture provided by the FBI was not that of his son. “It has no resemblance to him at all,” he added. Arab News has obtained a new picture of Hamza.

In a related development, Saudi Arabian Airlines called back Capt. Saeed Al-Ghamdi, who was in Tunisia for training, to Jeddah on Wednesday to protect him from investigations.

Arab News has learned that Ghamdi had discussed with Saudia’s leadership whether to take legal action against the American media for defamation. The CNN carried Ghamdi’s picture on Monday, saying he was among the suspects who hijacked the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. A family member of Majed Mishaan Al-Harbi, 22, another suspect, told Arab News that Majed was studying at King Saud University in Riyadh at the Faculty of Administration and Economics. He said he was a peace-loving person and did not behave strangely in any way.

The family member, who requested anonymity, said that he met Majed a year ago in Riyadh. “At that time, he told me he was going to Qatar to meet his friends. He had a plan to visit the United States to learn English,” he said, and added that the picture of Majed carried by the media did not bear a clear resemblance. He believed that it was not the picture of Majed.

Sources close to the family said Majed loved sports and travel. He was a social and affectionate person. They did not believe he had participated in the attacks. According to the US Department of Justice, Majed is a suspect in the attack against the Pentagon.


Hijacker list raises more questions (ARAB NEWS, Thursday, September 20, Page-1)

By Jamal Khashoggi

Deputy Editor-in-Chief

JEDDAH -- Arab News has obtained the photographs of the accused in the terrible hijacking operations which traumatized the United States on Tuesday and unveiled the vulnerability of the US security system. The pictures have been collected from the visa files at US embassies, the US immigration department and schools where the alleged hijackers studied.

The photographs and the information gathered by news reporters, both inside and outside the Kingdom, help shed light on several new points. These add to the unfolding picture of what happened during Tuesday morning's tragedy.

The new information also helps clear clouds of suspicion hanging over the Saudi pilots who were trained in the US and whose names and photographs unfortunately resemble those of some suspects. In the rush to reveal information, these were published without due authentication. According to a US source, the FBI committed some errors in its inquiries at the beginning of the investigation. First, it asked about pilots or trainees at airlines whose names resembled those of the hijackers. This was on the presumption that the hijackers should be pilots or experts in aviation. This led to the confusion about the names of pilots Saeed Al-Ghamdi who turned up in Tunis, Abdul Rahman Al-Amri who was in Jeddah and Waleed A. Al-Shehri, who showed up in Rabat. These three men have been cleared of any association with the alleged hijackers.

The latest details, which are corroborated by the FBI's rectified information, point to the presence of four aviation experts in the list of 19 suspects. The investigations also confirmed that these individuals studied in American aeronautical schools. It is still possible that some of the current suspects did not have any connection with the hijackings but were simply passengers on the planes. In parentheses beside the names are alternate spellings from the FBI.

American Airlines Flight 11 which took off from Boston and smashed into the World Trade Center at 8.45 a.m., was commandeered by the suspected Egyptian, Muhammad Atta, about whom there is plenty of information. He took seat 3C in the first class section and was assisted in the hijacking by Wael Al-Shehri (Wail Alshehri) whose seat was 2A in the same class. His brother Waleed Al-Shehri took a seat next to him. According to local reports, the brothers disappeared from Khamis Mushayt in the south of the Kingdom last December. Their photos resembled the photos provided by their family and were published in several Saudi newspapers yesterday.

The other suspects on the plane were Abdul Aziz Al-Omri (Abdulaziz Alomari), whose name was given as Abdul in the flight manifest and Sattam Al-Saqmi (Satam Al-Suqami) in seat 10B. Arab News' report about the presence of the Saudi pilot Abdul Rahman Al-Omri in Jeddah, safe and sound, made the FBI withdraw his photo and amend the name of the hijacker.

The second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the World Trade Center at 9:05 a.m. According to available information the plane was controlled by Marwan Al-Shehhi of the United Arab Emirates. He was a close friend of Muhammad Atta who carried out the first hijacking. Investigations have revealed that both men studied together in Germany and the US and lived together in the same houses and hotels. For their final flights both headed toward Los Angeles, but they flew in separate planes which took off from Boston a few minutes apart.

There are certain aspects of their lives which seem to preclude a link with the operations of Islamic extremists. The two friends were notorious for their addiction to liquor, and Atta was a heavy drinker. This fact does not mesh well with the image of zealous young men going to participate in a holy war in Chechnya.

The FBI believes that Al-Shehhi was helped in the hijacking operation by Fayez Ahmad (Fayez Ahmed). According to local information, a youth called Fayez Ahmad Al-Shehri left his home in Asir last Eid Al-Adha saying he intended to join a holy war or relief operation. The FBI does not have any more information about him nor could we obtain his photograph. The other suspected hijacker on that flight is Ahmad Al-Ghamdi (Ahmed Alghamdi), seat 9D. It has been learned that a young man carrying that name from Beljuraishi, in the south of the Kingdom, studied at the Engineering Faculty in the Umm Al-Qura University. He left his studies in order to participate in jihad in Chechnya last year, according to his father Ibrahim Al-Ghamdi.

There are some questions about Ahmad Al-Ghamdi's identity. When his photo was shown to an acquaintance, the man said it was the photo of Ahmad Al-Haznawi Al-Ghamdi (Ahmed Alhaznawi), a suspect in the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. This means the FBI has yet to provide a physical description for the alleged hijacker Ahmad Al-Ghamdi.

The man sitting next to Ahmad Al-Ghamdi on the plane was Hamza Al-Ghamdi about whom FBI has not obtained any significant information. There is local information about a young man called Hamza Saleh Al-Ghamdi, age 20, who left the Kingdom eight months ago for jihad in Chechnya. The final suspect on flight 175 was Muheed Al-Shehri (Mohaid Alshehri) who was in the first class section, seat 2B. There is no local information available about him. The FBI says it was possible that he lived in Delray Beach, Fla.

The third doomed plane, American Airlines Flight 77 took off from Washington DC and struck the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m. According to the FBI the plane was controlled by Hani Hanjour. His photo was not available. The basic information known about him is that he was 29 years old, an expert in aeronautics who got his pilot's license in 1999. His friends say he left the UAE last December and his family did not have any more information about him after that time.

The suspects who helped him were Khalid Al-Mehdar, seat 12B, about whom no local information is available. The FBI learned that he could have been staying in Los Angeles or New York and it is thought that his birth date was 5/12/75. American security sources say that Majed Mashan Majeed (Majed Moqed), seat 12B, is a Saudi though no local or other information is available about him. Nawaf Al-Hazmi (Nawaq Alhazmi) and his brother Salim (Salem Alhazmi) were sitting in seats 5F and 5E in the front of the plane and both gave the same date of birth in their visa application, 2/2/81. The FBI believes that they might have been staying in New Jersey and Los Angeles. According to locally available information, the elder brother, Nawaf, 25, left the Kingdom four years ago, telling his parents that he was going for jihad. He later contacted them from Pakistan saying he was on his way to Chechnya. He had only an intermediate school education. Salim, 21, left school about one and a half years ago and informed his parents from Pakistan that he was also going to Chechnya on jihad. Yesterday in Makkah, Muhammad Al Hazmi was shown the pictures of the two accused hijackers and he stated that they were not his sons, Nawaf and Salim.

According to the FBI, Lebanese national Ziyad Jarrah (Ziad Jarrahi) took control of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in Stony Creek, Pa. There are several reports about his personality. His father said he was a pleasure-loving youth and he had a girlfriend who shared his apartment in Germany. She said he disappeared for one and a half months and later she heard that he went to Afghanistan. But he used the same telephone number and address of Ahmad Al-Naami (Ahmed Alnami) and Ahmad Al-Haznawi Al-Ghamdi (Ahmed Alhaznawi) who joined him in the same journey. The FBI believes they all participated in the hijacking operation. Locally there is some information available about a youth called Ahmad Abdullah Al-Naami, 23, from Asir, in the south of the Kingdom. He was a student at the Shariah College of King Khaled University in Abha and disappeared 15 months ago after he performed Umrah. The last time he telephoned his family was four months back. His relatives said he did not have any knowledge of flying while security sources in the US claim he was a pilot.

There is some local information about Ahmad Al-Haznawi Al-Ghamdi from Beljuraishi. He left for jihad and his father, an imam at the local mosque, did not have any information about him after that. The photo the FBI is circulating as being that of Ahmad Al-Ghamdi on UA Flight 175 is now thought to be the photo of Ahmad Al-Haznawi Al-Ghamdi.

The last of the suspects is Saeed Al-Ghamdi who has been mixed up by the FBI with the Saudi Arabian Airlines pilot, who carries the same name and has been located in Tunis. The FBI does not have any worthy information about him except that he used the same telephone number and address as Al-Haznawi, Jarrah and Al-Naami.

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Yana Way, Bellingham, USA
I think this article proves pretty conclusively that this whole 'islamic terrorist' idea is false. All evidence supports this as being something engineered and carried out through a specific group located somewhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chechnya - a group with a separate agenda of its own for its own purposes.

It is obvious because all info points to these young men being recruited for operations in Chechnya or the surrounding areas...

All talk of generic 'islamic terrorism' should end in the media. This is not anymore Islamic than US and British agendas in Iraq are Christian. Religion is used by the recruiters of this specific group for recruitment - but they obviously do not truly believe in Islam or they wouldn't recruit many who violate Islamic Law and ask them to violate Islamic Law.

The media must separate this political agenda from Islam.

Cody, Jackson, USA
Do you really believe these men where not guilty? Or Arab for that matter? Why is it you folks swear you love GOD yet kill innocent people in his name? The wrath be on you and yes the good old USA is fixing to kick some ass! You are either with us or against us but blood is going to flow. I pray to GOD for mercy on the terroists souls because they are are about to be brought to justice!

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