01 October 2001 / 7 Dhul Hijjah 1423
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Another Saudi ‘hijacker’ turns up in Tunis
By Molouk Y. Ba-Isa & Saud Al-Towaim

JEDDAH, 18 September — Another “hijacker” from the FBI’s list has been found. Captain Saeed Hussain Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi citizen working for Tunis Air, expressed his worry after seeing his picture on CNN as a suspect in the crash of United Airlines flight 93 which went down in Stony Creek Township, Pa.

Al-Ghamdi, is a co-captain on Tunis Air, along with 22 other Saudi pilots who work for the company. He was in Paris when he saw the CNN report.

He confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Tunis that he studied in Florida in from 1998 to 1999 and then came back to work for Saudi Arabian Airlines. In August 2000 he returned to the US for further training. He was seconded to Tunis Air ten months ago.

Al-Ghamdi suspected that his picture could have been taken from his file in the aviation school in Florida. He told the Saudi Embassy in Tunis his whereabouts to make sure that they would come to his aid if he was arrested for any reason. Now Al-Ghamdi is reluctant to fly fearing he might face difficulties similar to that suffered by Saudia pilot Muhammad Bukhari who was detained in Manila.

The local media are working overtime to gather details on the alleged hijackers. Many of the published “facts” could be little more than gossip but the local community is anxious for any information. There is enormous skepticism concerning the validity of the FBI’s list of suspected hijackers.

Numerous local commentators have pointed out that there are thousands of individuals named Alghamdi and Alshehri in Saudi Arabia. “In Saudi Arabia, the names Alghamdi and Alshehri are as common as the name Smith in the United States,” said one journalist. Asharq Al-Awsat stated that in 1995 in Riyadh, a man named Abdulaziz Alomari, reported that his passport had been lost in the United States. And Al-Watan published information on several individuals named on the FBI’s list.

According to Al-Watan, Wail Alshehri and Waleed M. Alshehri are the sons of Muhammad Ali Asgley Alshehri, a well-known businessman in Khamis Mushayt. They come from a large family of 11 boys and one girl. Muhammad Alshehri stated that he hopes the investigation will prove that his sons were not involved in the hijackings.

He refuted information circulating in the Western media about his son Wail having a degree in aeronautics.

“My son Wail was 25 years old and had a BA in physical education from the Abha Teacher’s College,” said Alshehri. “He was mentally ill and had gone to numerous clerics for assistance in overcoming this instability. He had asked the school, where he taught, for a 6-month leave to go to Madinah. My other son Waleed was 21 years old and also studying at the Teacher’s College.”

Both of Alshehri’s sons disappeared in December last year and have not been heard from since. According to sources close to the family, both sons became very religious nine months prior to their disappearance and had spoken often of joining the Mujahedeen in Chechnya. They were hoping for martyrdom. Neither ever discussed politics nor Osama Bin Laden. Neither man knew anything about flying and both spoke very limited English. The Alshehri brothers had UAE driver’s licenses and it is believed that they flew to the United States directly from the UAE.

Ahmad Alghamdi is the son of Ibrahim Almussallam Alghamdi. The man was 20 years old and lived in Beljuraishi in the Baha Region. He was very religious since his youth and was active in the propagation of Islam.

A quiet teenager with few friends, Ahmad was the youngest of three brothers and four sisters. After finishing high school, he did not marry. Instead, he joined Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah and studied engineering. He never studied aviation. He stayed at the university just two months and then left without telling his family. They later discovered that he had gone to fight in Chechnya.

Ahmad Alghamdi’s mother does not believe that her son could have participated in such a horrible attack. Ahmad called his mother two months ago and never mentioned anything about going to the United States. He visited Saudi Arabia during last Ramadan (December).

Ahmad Alhaznawi was 35 years old. He was from Beljuraishi where his father is the imam of a mosque. His family has not heard from him since he went to join the Mujahedeen in Chechnya.

All that is known about another alleged hijacker, Hani Hanjour is that he had a Saudi driver’s license.

It is claimed that Fayez Ahmad is the son of Muhammad Fayez Alshehri, a school principal. Muhammad Alshehri said that two years ago his son told him that he was going to join the International Islamic Relief Organization. Since that time the only contact the family has had with him is one phone call that was received by his mother after Eid Al-Adha.

Hamza Saleh Alghamdi was 20 years old. He graduated from a Qur’an recitation high school. He left the Kingdom eight months ago to join the jihad in Chechnya against his family’s wishes. He did telephone several times from abroad, but his family is not sure where he was at the time. In one call he told them that he was active in Chechnya. Four months ago he called and asked his parents to forgive him and pray for him.

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