Skip to comments.How They Did It - 9/11 Hijackers' strategy/tactics
Posted on 12/17/2002 10:51:54 AM PST by SonOfDakota
How They Did It
An 'Evil One' Confesses, And Boasts
By Joel Mowbray
Sitting on the floor of his Karachi apartment, Ramzi bin al-Shibh laid out in stunning detail the anatomy of the 9/11 attacks. As one of the masterminds of September 11, he had a lot to share. Talking this June with a reporter from al-Jazeera -- the Arab-language network of choice for Qaeda terrorists -- bin al-Shibh discussed everything from the "conquests and heroism of Islam" to America's support for Israel, in addition, of course, to the particulars of 9/11. What he did not know at this point was that his days in freedom were numbered.
Shortly after al-Jazeera announced the existence of the audiotaped interview and its broadcast date of September 12, 2002, a Pakistani SWAT team -- on the anniversary of 9/11 -- stormed bin al-Shibh's apartment, arresting him after a violent struggle. National Review has obtained a translation of the interview, courtesy of 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, the group suing, among others, the Saudi royal family.
In recent months, bin al-Shibh has emerged as a central figure in the September 11 plot. Most of the press attention has focused on how he was going to lead a fifth hijacking -- likely targeting the White House -- but could not secure a visa. (He applied for a visa in both Germany and his native Yemen, but not, unfortunately for him, in Saudi Arabia.) The ever-expanding dossier on him includes logistical and financial support for the 9/11 terrorists, and he is a major figure in several American and European trials of Qaeda operatives.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh was extremely close to Mohamed Atta, believed to be the ringleader of the 19 hijackers, and the "pilot" of the plane that was crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. In 1998 and 1999, bin al-Shibh roomed with Atta in an apartment in Hamburg, where both also belonged to a Qaeda cell that included two of the other 9/11 "pilots," Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad al-Jarrah. Bin al-Shibh later served as Atta's point of contact in the months leading up to September 11. At that time, and in the year afterward, bin al-Shibh also worked closely with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is thought to be the new operational leader of al-Qaeda and the man who dreamed up 9/11. (He was in the room with bin al-Shibh and the Jazeera reporter on that day in June.) Bin al-Shibh reverted to a managerial role only after spending many months preparing to be the "fifth pilot" on September 11.
The interview with Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda -- who was blindfolded and made to switch cars repeatedly before reaching bin al-Shibh's apartment -- has been only cursorily covered in the American press. It deserves greater attention for what it reveals.
Once Atta, al-Shehhi, and al-Jarrah arrived in the United States (Hani Hanjour, believed to have piloted the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon, had been in the United States on and off since 1991), each was responsible for adopting a "cover" that would allow him to blend in. As Ramzi bin al-Shibh says, "Every brother would look at what suited him best in terms of cover, according to his age and educational standard, his physiognomy and the like, and he would consult with his brothers and exchange views with them, and the operation of adopting a security cover is in essence a process aimed at deceiving the security services generally and mystifying the people around him."
After the assumption of an American identity "came the phase of looking for aviation schools." Bin al-Shibh says that schools in the United States were chosen because "the prices in America were convenient and the weather was ideal, allowing for more flying hours, especially in the coastal states such as Florida, and besides, the term of study is not long." Bin al-Shibh, who paid a $ 2,200 deposit to a flight school in August 2000, would have joined his confreres -- if only he could have gotten a visa.
Upon completing flight school, "all the brother pilots . . . increase[d] the flight hours and master[ed] the art of flying in the simulators of big jumbo jets, such as [the] Boeing 747 and Boeing 767." The next step was to "study the security arrangements that are adopted at all the airports, and establish a comprehensive picture about the procedures at all the airports, such as the JFK Airport for instance, and also unravel the security loopholes that exist at these airports, find out the trips that depart and arrive at these airports, and the level of security at these airports." To learn the security protocols on the ground and in the air, several of the terrorists took flights from the East Coast to California. Bin al-Shibh claims that al-Shehhi (pilot of the flight that was crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center) and al-Jarrah (pilot of Flight 93, which was crashed in Pennsylvania) were tailed by "American intelligence officers" as they were making these dry runs. If true, that would mean that two other 9/11 terrorists -- besides Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who were both on the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon -- were under the FBI's watchful eye before September.
Starting in April 2001, the remaining 14 hijackers -- al-Hazmi was already in the country, having flunked out of flight school -- came to the United States two at a time, the last pair arriving in late June. Since the four hijacking crews operated as four distinct cells -- Atta did not have any contact, according to bin al-Shibh, with al-Hazmi or Hanjour until near the end of the planning stages -- communication had to be facilitated not just with Qaeda leaders overseas, but also between the different hijacking crews. Bin al-Shibh, who was in Germany, served as Atta's intermediary, passing information on to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who as in Afghanistan. Bin al-Shibh says that communications were "constant and continuous until a few hours before the night of the execution." He explains, "Each phase has a language of communication that differs from the following one; and before each phase, a meeting takes place and an agreement is reached over this language. If the meeting could not be convened and something unexpected occurred, we rely on a new means of communication, which is used only once and for this unexpected manner only, then we would not resort to it again." To avoid detection, "Your messages or your speech must not contain any controversy."
Bin al-Shibh views communications as "the dangerous security gap through which the enemy could infiltrate and attempt to foil any operation. Therefore it is imperative to determine the most secure means of communication and determine an alternative means in case this becomes necessary." He continues, "It is imperative to have simplicity in the language of communication and sophistication in the method of communication."
In one Internet chat-room exchange, where bin al-Shibh posed as Atta's girlfriend "Jenny," Atta wrote, "The first semester starts in three weeks. Nothing has changed. Everything is fine. There are good signs and encouraging ideas. Two high schools and two universities. Everything is going according to plan. This summer will surely be hot. I would like to talk to you about a few details. Nineteen certificates for private study and four exams. Regards to the professor. Goodbye."
Boasting about conducting such communications without attracting attention from the FBI or the CIA, bin al-Shibh says that al-Qaeda has placed "the enemy in an awkward position and between a hammer and a nail; either he monitors all the electronic communications and all telephone calls in the world, or he reverts back to the era before the telephone and the Internet. Something which is very difficult, very difficult for him."
Illustrating the decentralized nature of al-Qaeda, the date of September 11 was chosen not by Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, but by Atta and al-Hazmi -- something they did roughly two weeks before the attacks. Word of the imminent attacks soon spread to Qaeda operatives throughout the world. Says bin al-Shibh, "So [Allah] ordered the brothers to increase their invocations and their supplications to Allah the Almighty during their prayers, for the sake of their brothers, to protect them and to grant them victory over the Americans, and then there was a general alert in all the camps, and all the residential areas were evacuated, and the brothers were dispersed." However, "they were not initially aware of the magnitude of this operation, nor of its location."
Contradicting some news reports, bin al-Shibh claims that "all those [19 September 11] brothers were aware of the fact that they were going to carry out martyrdom operations . . . and they were not too bothered about the details." Bin al-Shibh himself bothered about the details. Separate plans were drawn up by each of the four cells, concerning where each terrorist would sit, and who would do what. Key to the planning was the ability to book tickets over the Internet, which bin al-Shibh notes "allows you to choose the seat that suits you onboard the aircraft, [and allowed] all the brothers to memorize totally the shapes of the aircraft, the seats, and the numbers according to the fact that they had explored them beforehand, therefore it was necessary for these reserved seats to allow the brother the freedom of movement and rapid maneuver." The terrorists within each group were "distributed inside the aircraft by specific seats, in the first class and business class. The brother, the pilot, would be in the first class so that he may head first towards the cockpit, and with him the two other brothers who would assist him in storming the cockpit when its door is opened."
"The work was divided inside the aircraft. A group was assigned the task of storming the cockpit and the other group's task was to support the first group and provide it with protection from the back, and prevent any attempt at foiling the process of storming the cockpit. Obviously the group storming the cockpit is formed of two persons. It would be the nearest group to the cockpit, in order to seize the opportunity when the door is opened and enter into it swiftly, take it over and slaughter all of those inside and then the brother pilot comes very quickly to assume the rest of the mission and guide the aircraft." Each of the two-man "groups" had its own violent "mission": "The storming group's mission is to seize the cockpit in a record time and get rid of all those inside it at the same time. Meanwhile, the mission of the protection team is to protect the back of the executing brothers, impede the security men and deal with them swiftly by slitting their throats and getting rid of them, while the pilot goes quickly to the cockpit to take control of the aircraft."
Stressing the importance of timing, bin al-Shibh says, "The first quarter of an hour from takeoff is the golden opportunity to seize the aircraft and take control and steer it toward the targets." The entire process must be completed in "six minutes at the most, because there are other aircraft still in the air as well." Once the hijackings were underway, there was "contact between the aircraft so that the brothers were reassured about one another." Bin al-Shibh gives other details about what happened during the hijackings, e.g., "Amzi, one of the youths, had slaughtered one of the security guards."
In the Qaeda universe, "everyone was crying on the day of the operation and praying for the brothers and pursuing the news via the satellite channels. Some of them were pursuing the news on the Internet." They were beside themselves with glee. "No one had imagined that these towers would collapse and turn into rubble and dust in this manner." Bin al-Shibh seems particularly pleased about the massive media coverage, noting, "No one had known that these operations would be recorded and that they would be filmed and that the world would see it in this manner. So it was a blessing from Allah the Almighty."
Bin al-Shibh crows that the entire U.S. government and the American people were "in a state of hysteria": "President Bush was hiding and no one knew his whereabouts, his deputy [Vice President Cheney] hides underground, and the members of the American Congress scattered all over the place." On hearing this news, Qaeda operatives "wept from joy" and shouted "Allah is greatest!"
Bin al-Shibh fully expected a Qaeda "victory," if for no other reason than that "Muslims" have a successful track record. "The history of the Muslims is full of such conquests and victories." He compares 9/11 to Afghan mujahedeen's defeat of the old Soviet Union: "What is known to the whole world [is] that the mujahedeen, in their first struggle against the Russians, were a direct cause for the annihilation of this superpower at the time, with the grace of Allah the Almighty."
Mocking Bush's contention that Islam is a "religion of peace," bin al-Shibh suggests that violence is inherent in Islam. "And this head of infidelity, Bush, has appointed himself as imam for the Muslims, teaching them that Islam is a religion of peace, and that jihad is terrorism, and that the mujahideen are terrorists, just like that, with utmost boldness and arrogance." He accuses the U.S. of attempting to influence what Muslims learn in Islamic nations. "They spend for the sake of this huge amounts of money in order to modify the educational curricula in the Islamic world, in order to turn them into Islamic educational curricula according to the American way."
Bin al-Shibh also chastises non-violent Muslims, saying that violence is the "tax" that all Muslims "must pay." "This is the tax for gaining authority on earth. It is imperative to pay a price for Heaven, for the commodity of Allah is dear, very dear. It is not acquired through rest, but [rather] blood and torn-off limbs must be the price." He views the "obligation of jihad" as equally important to the duties of prayer and charity. "This is in the hereafter, whereas in this life, the promise is victory and authority; and before all of this, this obligation, the obligation of jihad, is just like the other religious obligations. In terms of prayer and zakat [charity] and the like; this obligation has been forsaken, thus it must be established, and the punishment awaiting those who neglect it is painful and harsh."
Underscoring his contempt for non-violent Muslims, he states, "He who does not grasp this understanding, he does not perceive the nature of this religion."
To say it again: Bin al-Shibh was alive to tell the tale to al-Jazeera's reporter because his role in 9/11 was switched from that of "pilot" to coordinator. He failed to obtain a visa to enter the United States. Had he gotten a visa in any of his four attempts -- two in Germany and two in Yemen -- he would have attempted to pilot a fifth hijacked plane, most likely into the White House. It was hardly coincidental that the 14 September 11 terrorists who came to the United States between April 2001 and June 2001 arrived from the country where the State Department had provided an open door: Saudi Arabia.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh certainly knew the importance of easy visas: "The remaining 14 brothers [from Saudi Arabia] entered without any hindrances or problems, thank Allah."
Inappropriate usage of quotation marks. Whoever is flying the plane is a pilot, regardless of his intentions.
This one should face a firing squad after we have wrenched the last drop of information out of im.
FWIW, I couldn't find the article at the link you provided, so I have no idea which of these, if either, has the right headline.
It REALLY is a good idea to post with the ORIGINAL headline so that you can search, and avoid dupes.
Yeah, but who's hiding now? Who's "scattered all over the place" now?!!!
Payback's a b*tch!
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