11 Hijackers Didn’t Know of Suicide Plan

by David Rose
The Observer
October 14, 2001

FBI investigators have officially concluded that 11 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked the aircraft on September 11 did not know they were on a suicide mission, intelligence sources in London said last night.

Unlike the eight “lead” attackers, who were all trained pilots, they did not leave messages for friends and family indicating they knew their lives were over. None of them had copies of the instructions for prayer and contemplation on the eve of the attacks and for “opening your chest to God” at the moment of immolation, which FBI agents discovered in the luggage of Mohamed Atta, the man believed to be the hijackers’ leader, who flew the first plane to destruction in New York.

It is understood the FBI has found evidence suggesting the 11 men expected to take part in “conventional” hijackings — with the planes flown to distant airports, and the passengers and crew taken hostage while the hijackers presented demands. Items found among the 11 men’s possessions suggest they had been preparing themselves for incarceration. One source said: “It looks as if they expected they might be going to prison, not paradise.”

The FBI analysis concludes the 11 may have believed the purpose of the hijackings was to free the perpetrators of previous extremist terrorist attacks on the USA, such as the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Other clues suggest the purpose for the 11 was to provide “muscle”: to overwhelm the passengers and crew. They had arrived in the USA only recently and had not had pilot training.

Atta’s final instructions, with their pleas for divine forgiveness, indicate that even the most fanatical fundamentalist had to make considerable psychological preparations before setting off to cause thousands of civilian deaths. Selecting those ready to carry out such a mission would not have been easy. By keeping a majority of the hijackers in the dark as to their real purpose, these problems were avoided, the sources said.

Western intelligence services say the FBI’s conclusions help to explain why, despite strong indications that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network was planning a spectacular atrocity, the West remained ignorant about its scale, location and detail. “Of course it is inescapable that this was a terrible intelligence failure,” a British Government source said. “But the FBI analysis at least puts it into context. The terrorists’ security was extraordinarily tight. They were employing intelligence organisations’ most basic principle: the need to know.”


Guardian Unlimited � Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

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