Skip to comments.Sept. 11 Hijackers May Have South Pacific Link
Posted on 07/21/2002 3:10:34 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Two of the September 11 hijackers may have spent several months in Fiji before flying into the U.S. last year, according to a report by the Pacific island nation's state-owned broadcaster.
Radio Fiji News reported that U.S. intelligence agencies have established that two of the 19 terrorists entered the U.S. from Fiji, where they had reportedly lived for six months.
It did not identify the two nor give further details of their reported stay in Fiji.
Mesake Koroi, director of news at the Fiji Broadcasting Corp., said Wednesday he had learned about the al Qaeda claim from sources at the Fiji national carrier, Air Pacific.
Two of the airline's pilots were sent home from training on Boeing Corp. simulators in Seattle last week on the grounds they did not meet new, stringent security requirements, he said.
In that context, the pilots reportedly were told that investigators were "looking into the possibility that two of the guys involved in Sept. 11 may have come from Fiji" - the implication being that this contributed to potential security concerns relating to Fiji.
Koroi stressed that there was no suggestion the pilots were themselves under suspicion.
The airline sources had said the terrorists were believed to have moved through Fiji from Pakistan.
Koroi cited earlier reports about a "racket" involving Pakistanis trying to obtain visas for the U.S. in Fiji.
"We've had quite a number of Pakistani people detained in Fiji, trying to get to America and other destinations with false passports [and visas] ... before Sept. 11."
The Fiji government denied any knowledge of the possible presence there of al Qaeda members.
Koroi said in his view the government was concerned that if the story "got out of hand" it could have a negative impact on tourism.
Spokesman Christopher Hodges at the U.S. Embassy in Suva said he had no comment.
"We don't have anything to add to what's publicly released regarding the investigations into Sept. 11 at this time," he said.
Another embassy officer, Ted Seay, said earlier that embassy officials had been discussing the report with the Fiji government, but he could not substantiate the claims.
Although the embassy's website carries a warning that "fraudulent American visas are being sold in Fiji," Hodges also said he was not aware of any "major problems" involving fake visas or passports.
Around 60,000 of Fiji's 830,000 people are Muslims. Most are ethnic Indians, who in total comprise about 44 per cent of the population.
Air Pacific managing director John Campbell said in response to queries that the two pilots had been in Seattle for training last week when "without prior notice" the Justice Department introduced a new requirement that users of flight training facilities have "additional security screening."
The pilots were therefore unable to receive clearance in time, and returned to Fiji. They and other pilots will return to Seattle once they have the necessary approval, Campbell said.
The airline flies Boeings on routes between Fiji and major Pacific Rim destinations, including Honolulu and Los Angeles.
Jeez, how many are Fijian? (or am I missing something here?)
Both Atta and Al-Shehhi, the two WTC pilots, were in the USA continuously from June 2000 except for brief trips to Europe, so they're out.
Ziad Jarrah, the Flight 93 pilot, travelled alone pretty much exclusively. Jarrah was the only one of the 9/11 hijackers who was a fully qualified pilot when he came to the USA, so he apparently had more autonomy than the others. He left the USA and returned to Afghanistan between sometime in December of 2000 and the end of January 2001, and his movements after that are sketchy until at least April 2001. In the research I did for the 9/11 timeline, I find "return dates" to the USA for Jarrah in both February and April, and somewhere during that time there were trips to Germany to visit his girlfriend and to Lebanon to visit his family during his father's open-heart surgery. It's possible that Jarrah could have been one of the two mentioned in this report, but it is highly unlinkely because he was on his own so much.
The Flight 77 pilot, Hani Hanjour, is confirmed in various places in the USA throughout the early part of 2001: San Diego in February, Phoenix in March, Paterson, NJ in March, etc. If Hanjour was out of the country at all in 2001--and it has been suggested that he was, although there are no details--it was only for a very brief period. It's not him.
Nawaq Alhazmi from Flight 77 functioned as a organizer for the operation (Alhazmi was the only non-pilot to attend the various pilot meetings in Las Vegas, for example). He also functioned, I suspect, as a kind of political commissar for the Flight 77 team, which was burdened with Hanjour, the weakest pilot of the four and apparently the least fanatical Muslim among the 19. Alhazmi is confirmed in multiple places in the USA in early 2001, so it's not him.
That leaves Khalid Almidhar, who spent much of 1999 and 2000 with Alhazmi in San Diego, and the "13 grunts" from Saudi Arabia (actually 12 from Saudi and one from the UAE). All of these 14 arrived in the USA between April and July from parts unknown after obtaining visas from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (several through travel agents in the now-infamous "Visa Express" program).
The best I can do based on this information is to narrow it down to two of those fourteen. If the above story is true, it would seem that Fiji functioned as a way station between the training camps in Afghanistan and their destination in the USA.