Report: Terror plot in works 5 years : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Article Date 09/14/2001 Report: Terror plot in works 5 years

BOSTON, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Plans for the terror attacks on the United States may have been in the works for at least five years, the Boston Globe reported Friday.

The paper also said investigators have evidence indicating some of the hijackers took advantage of the U.S.'s good relations with Saudi Arabia to avoid close scrutiny in entering this country to take flight training in Florida.

At least five of the 10 men who hijacked two jet passenger planes after takeoff Tuesday from Boston's Logan International Airport and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York had ties to Saudi Arabia, an Arab ally, the Globe said.

One of them, Mohamed Atta, 33, who carried a Saudi passport, was able to get into the United States despite being implicated in a bus bombing in Israel in 1986. Atta and his cousin, Marwan Alshehri, 23, should have been denied visas because the two hijackers had been linked to Islamic extremists when they studied at the Technical University in Hamburg, Germany, the Globe said.

Flight instructors in Florida told the Globe it was common for students linked to Saudi Arabia to get visas to come to the United States for flying lessons with very little scrutiny or background checks by the State Department. "They basically got a free pass," said Globe reporter Kevin Cullen.

Chuck Clapper, who owns Lantana Air charter in Lantana, Fla., said several Florida flight schools have contracts with Saudi Arabian Airlines, and some have exemptions from visa checks.

He told the Globe that while some Arab nationalities need to satisfy the State Department of their suitability to obtain flight instructions in the United States, "Saudis don't. Iranians do. Libyans do. But the Saudis are allies, so they don't." Some of the hijackers had pilot licenses that indicated they were sponsored or employed by Saudi Arabian Airlines.

While Atta had a Saudi passport, two other hijackers, Waleed Alshehri and Marwan Alshehri, lived in Saudi Arabia before going to Florida last year for flight training. The five hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, the first to crash into the WTC Tuesday morning, were identified by sources to the Globe as Atta, Abdulrahman Alomari, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami.

Those on United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to crash, were identified as Fayez Ahmed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Marwan Alshehri, and Mohaid Alshehri. The Globe said Waleed Alshehri graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1997, and his arrival at the prestigious flight school the year before indicates the suicide mission was in the planning stages in 1996 if not earlier.

While officials so far have not been able to find concrete links between the hijackers and suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, he is considered by many to be the prime suspect in the plot. The Globe also said evidence gathered by investigators in the Boston area indicates hijackers began casing Logan International Airport as much as a year ago.

At least eight of the hijackers are believed to have stayed in Boston area hotels the night before the attack, according to reports.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

-- Swissrose (, September 14, 2001

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