|Wednesday 19 September, 2001
Family of hijacker protests innocence
As the largest manhunt in US history continues, investigators try to piece together a vast international operation.
One of the suspected hijackers was Ziad Al-Jarrah, on board the United Airlines flight 93, which crashed into rural Pennsylvania. In a special interview, Outlook talks to Ziad's uncle, Jamal, who believes his nephew is innocent.
The attacks on US military and economic targets were carried out on 11 September 2001.
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|In New York, more than 5,000 people dead and missing. |
About 190 missing in Washington, including all passengers aboard the airliner which crashed into the Pentagon.
All 45 passengers and aircrew died in the aeroplane crash in Pennsylvania.
Three days after the World Trade Centre was fully destroyed and the Pentagon severely destroyed, the FBI released its list of the 19 suicide hijackers allegedly involved in the tragedy.
The Bureau claims most can be traced back to the Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect of the tragedy.
Believed to be a pilot
The FBI profile on Ziad Al-Jarrah offers scant information. It states 'believed to be a pilot.'
Little is known about his background. Ziad was 26 years old, a Sunni Muslim from a wealthy village in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon.
He had been studying in Germany, where he had a Turkish girlfriend. She lives in Bochum, some 200 miles from Hamburg, and apparently reported Ziad missing.
It is believed that while in Germany, Ziad took courses in aircraft construction and flight engineering, and obtained a Hamburg pilot's license.
Because of his links with Germany, Ziad has been associated with two of the 19 suspects, the Egyptian pilot Mohamed Atta, one of the men who allegedly piloted the aircraft that crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre, and Marwan Al-Shehhi, who allegedly crashed into the south tower.
Security agencies across the globe have been carrying out raids in Belgium, Holland, Lebanon and Germany. Agents have also been trying to expose an Islamic fundamentalist cell they believe may have been operating in Hamburg.
At the start of the investigation, authorities believed Ziad shared a flat in Hamburg with Atta, and had also studied at the Harburg Technical University in Hamburg with both Atta and Al-Shehhi.
However new information released by the prosecutor general in Germany indicates Ziad did not attend the same university as the other two suspects.
Speaking from Lebanon, Ziad's uncle, Jamal Al-Jarrah, recently confirmed this. Jamal said:
|'His name was added to the FBI list on Friday evening… We know that it was based on wrong information received from Hamburg… (it was said) that he was in the same university as one of the suspects, whose name was Mohamed Atta.' |
Jamal is not convinced his nephew was on board United Airlines Flight 93. On the other hand, he has not heard from him since the aircraft crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. He described him as:
'He is a modern man. He was living with his girlfriend in Germany. He was not religious, in the sense of radical. Last time he was here, he shared a party, dancing. We have a videotape of that.'
No religious thoughts
Jamal also said Ziad could not imagine his nephew involved in political or religious extremism. He did not 'care' about politics. He was a 'normal' Muslim. He behaved like other people behave.
Ziad had visited his father in the hospital in Lebanon, in February 2001. In August 2001, he sent his girlfriend to Lebanon to meet his family. He was planning to marry her in the summer of 2002.
|'He never expressed any religious thoughts or ideas. He never changed in his appearance, or behaviour. He was still the same person we know since he was born, and throughout all his life.' |
Recently Ziad had moved to the United States and was sent money there by his father. He was living in Miami and had joined a programme to learn how to fly one-engine aeroplanes.
Reports have repeatedly linked Ziad with Atta and Al-Shehhi.
Mohamed Atta, 33, was born in Kafr el Sheik, Egypt. He carried a Saudi passport and according to his father, an elderly Cairo lawyer, was an architect studying town planning.
In a recent interview, his father who is awaiting his son's regular telephone call, which comes every two months, said:
|'He would never accept to kill innocent people…' |
Atta trained as a pilot at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida and took flying lessons in December 2000 at the SimCenter Inc. flight school in Opa-Locka, close to Maimi, Florida, on a Boeing 727 full-motion flight simulator.
In Egypt, his name is associated with neither of the two militant Islamic organisations, which have operated in the country during the last 20 years.
The two groups, Jihad and Gamaa Islamiya, are currently inactive in Egypt. But both have been linked to Bin Laden.
Marwan Al-Shehhi, 23, was born in the United Arab Emirates. It is thought he is Atta's cousin.
He studied with Atta at Huffman Aviation and at SimCenter Inc., in Florida.
According to The New York Times, '… an instructor at the school, said the two men spent three hours each in the school's jet airline simulator on December 29 and 30, after telling him that they had completed flight school at Huffman Aviation… and wanted to apply for jobs as commercial pilots in their home countries overseas.'
All the 19 men involved in the attacks on the US died but dozens of others, possibly operating in terrorist cells, may have helped to execute the devastating plan of attack.
| FBI lists suspected hijackers
|American Airlines flight 11. Destroyed the north tower of the WTC.
The suspects are Waleed M Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Satam Al Suqami.
United Airlines flight 175. Destroyed the south tower of the WTC.
The five suspects are Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Mohald Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi.
American Airlines flight 77. Crashed into the Pentagon.
Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour are thought to be responsible.
United Airlines flight 93. Crashed in Pennsylvania.
Suspects are Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrahi and Saeed Alghamdi.