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Hijacker Went to Bay Area School

Hani Hanjour lived in the Bay Area for several months.
Sherry Hu

It appears that one of the suicide hijackers was in the Bay Area longer than the authorities first thought.

For more than four months, from the end of April to September of 1996, accused hijacker Hani Hanjour lived as a student in Oakland. The FBI confirms that the Bay Area was probably Hanjour's first stop in the United States.

Hanjour may have piloted American Airlines Flight 77, which slammed into the Pentagon on September 11.

Learning the language was apparently one of Hanjour's early missions. He attended English classes at the ELS Language Center, which rents space on the campus of Holy Names College in Oakland. ELS says it turned over Hanjour's student file to the FBI only last week. ELS had said that Hanjour never showed up for classes, but after reviewing databases, found Hanjour's records by using a different spelling.

Along with polishing his English skills, Hanjour had other interests. In September of 1996, Hanjour paid the $150 dollar application fee to enroll at the Sierra Academy in Oakland, an aeronautics school specializing in airline training.
Sierra Academy Vice President Dan Schafer said Hanjour was interested in becoming a pilot. But after a half-hour at an orientation class, Hanjour disappeared. Schafer said that the rigorous and expensive year-long program may have scared him off. But, Schafer speculates, "He went somewhere else, and got what he needed."

The FBI has yet to connect any of Hanjour's accomplices to the Bay Area, and says there's no indication attacks on the Bay Area were being planned. But California Senator Dianne Feinstein told a newspaper this week that terrorist cells exist in the Bay Area.
"This has been long-standing knowledge on my part, going way, way back to the days when I was mayor," Feinstein told Channel 5. However, she declined to give any more specifics.

Since the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the FBI has set up an emergency operations center in San Francisco. More than 300 agents are chasing 2000 leads, in the hopes of preventing a potential terrorist attack in the Bay Area.

» 10-10-2001      

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