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9/11 Mastermind Tells of Original Plot for Wider Attacks

Reports say Khalid Shaikh Mohammed described plans starting in 1996 that called for more hijackings or two waves of assaults.

September 22, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, has told American interrogators that he first discussed the plot with Osama bin Laden in 1996 and that the original plan called for hijacking five commercial jets on each U.S. coast before it was modified several times, according to interrogation reports reviewed by Associated Press.

Mohammed also divulged that, in its final stages, the hijacking plan called for as many as 22 terrorists and four planes in a first wave, followed by a second wave of suicide hijackings that were to be aided possibly by Al Qaeda allies in southeast Asia, according to the reports.

Over time, Bin Laden scrapped various parts of the Sept. 11 plan, including attacks on both coasts and hijacking or bombing some planes in East Asia, Mohammed is quoted as saying in reports that shed new light on the origins and evolution of the plot of Sept. 11, 2001.

Addressing one of the questions raised by congressional investigators in their Sept. 11 review, Mohammed said he had never heard of a Saudi man named Omar al-Bayoumi who provided some rent money and assistance to two hijackers when they arrived in California.

Congressional investigators have suggested that Al Bayoumi could have aided the hijackers or been a Saudi intelligence agent, charges the Saudi government vehemently denies.

The FBI has also cast doubt on the congressional theory after extensive investigation and several interviews with Al Bayoumi.

In fact, Mohammed claims he did not arrange for anyone on U.S. soil to assist hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi when they arrived in California.

Mohammed said there "were no Al Qaeda operatives or facilitators in the United States to help Almihdhar or Alhazmi settle in the United States," one of the reports state.

Almihdhar and Alhazmi were on the plane that was flown into the Pentagon.

Mohammed portrays those two hijackers as central to the plot, and even more important than Mohamed Atta, initially identified by Americans as the likely hijacking ringleader.

Mohammed said he communicated with Alhazmi and Almihdhar while they were in the United States by using Internet chat software, the reports states.

Mohammed said Alhazmi and Almihdhar were among the four original operatives Bin Laden assigned to him for the plot, a significant revelation because those were the only two hijackers whom U.S. authorities were frantically seeking for terrorist ties in the final days before Sept. 11.

U.S. authorities continue to investigate the many statements that Mohammed has made in interrogations, seeking to eliminate deliberate misinformation. But they have been able to corroborate with other captives and evidence much of his account of the Sept. 11 planning.

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