Abdulrahman al-Omari, who was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of the suicide hijackers of American Airlines flight 11, the first airliner to crash into the World Trade Center, is alive and living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was astonished to find himself accused of hijacking, as well as being dead. He?s gone to the U.S. consulate in Jeddah to demand an explanation, but so far hasn?t received one.
It is possible that the hijacker adopted Mr al-Omari?s identity but, if he had been using the same false name while training as a pilot in the U.S., this would probably have been discovered. The U.S. described him as a father of four and al-Omari does have four children. According to a Saudi journalist, he ?is one nervous guy.?
Al-Omari claims he was at his desk at the Saudi telecommunications authority in Riyadh when the attacks took place. ?I couldn?t believe it when the FBI put me on their list,? he says. ?They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive. I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing to do with this.?
He says his passport was stolen when his apartment in Denver, Colorado, was burgled in 1995. He had been studying engineering at Denver University since 1993. He was given a new passport in Riyadh on December 31, 1995 and returned to America to resume his studies in January 1996.
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The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt. Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Center. His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world. Now he?s protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco.
He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He admits he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach and is the same Waleed Al Shehri the FBI has named, but he says he left the U.S. in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.
FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged on Thursday that the identity of several of the suicide hijackers is in doubt. An FBI spokesman says, ?The identification process has been complicated by the fact that many Arabic family names are similar. It is also possible that the hijackers used false identities. If we have made mistakes then obviously that would be regrettable but this is a big and complicated investigation.? When the list of hijackers was first published, Robert Mueller, the FBI director, said that he was ?fairly confident? that the names were not aliases.
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Saudi Airlines says it is considering legal action against the FBI for seriously damaging its reputation and that of its pilots. An FBI statement said that 19 of their pilots ?have been identified as hijackers aboard the four airliners.? Photographs and personal details were sent around the world with an appeal for ?information about these individuals, even though they are presumed dead.?
Saudi pilot Saeed Al-Ghamdi, 25, was named as a terrorist on the United Airlines flight headed for the White House that crashed in Pennsylvania. ?You cannot imagine what it is like to be described as a terrorist -- and a dead man -- when you are innocent and alive,? he says. His airline is angry too. They brought Al-Ghamdi back to Saudi Arabia last week for a 10-day holiday to avoid arrest or interrogation.
An airline official says, ?We are consulting lawyers about what action to take to protect the reputation of our pilots.? Al-Ghamdi faced further embarrassment when CNN flashed a photograph of him around the world, naming him as a hijack suspect. The FBI published his personal details but with a photograph of somebody else, probably the hijacker who had ?stolen? his identity. CNN, however, showed a picture of the real Al-Ghamdi.
He says CNN had probably got the picture from the Flight Safety flying school he attended in Florida. CNN has since broadcast a clarification saying that the photograph may not be that of the accused.
He first knew that he was on the FBI?s list when he was told by a colleague. Speaking from Tunisia, he says, ?I was completely shocked. For the past 10 months I have been based in Tunis with 22 other pilots learning to fly an Airbus 320. The FBI provided no evidence of my presumed involvement in the attacks.?
Two other men accused of being terrorists are Salem al-Hamzi and Ahmed al-Nami. Al-Hamzi is 26 and had just returned to work at a petrochemical complex in the industrial eastern city of Yanbou after a holiday in Saudi Arabia when the hijackers struck. He was accused of hijacking the American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon. He says, ?I have never been to the United States and have not been out of Saudi Arabia in the past two years.? The FBI described him as 21 and said that his possible residences were Fort Lee or Wayne, both in New Jersey.
Al-Nami, 33, from Riyadh, an administrative supervisor with Saudi Arabian Airlines, says he was in Riyadh when the terrorists struck. He says, ?I?m still alive, as you can see. I was shocked to see my name mentioned by the American Justice Department. I had never even heard of Pennsylvania where the plane I was supposed to have hijacked.?He had never lost his passport and found it ?very worrying? that his identity appeared to have been ?stolen? and published by the FBI without any checks. The FBI had said his ?possible residence? was Delray Beach in Florida.
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?It was proved that five of the names included in the FBI list had nothing to do with what happened,? Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told the Arabic Press after meeting with President George W. Bush on September 20th. Saudi officials at the embassy were unable to verify the whereabouts of the fifth accused hijacker, Khalid Al-Mihdhar. However, Arab newspapers say he?s still alive.
The transcript of a phone call made by Flight Attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney to Boston air traffic controls on September 11 shows that the flight attendant gave the seat numbers occupied by the hijackers -- seat numbers which were not the seats of the men the FBI claimed were responsible for the hijacking.
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Besides naming living pilots as dead hijackers, the U.S. government has--fantastically--issued visas to 2 of the actual September 11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, so that they can study at the flight school in Venice, Florida where so many of the hijackers learned their flying skills.
This was done not six months ago or a year ago, but on March 11, just two days ago. Ironically, the nation was observing the six-month anniversary of the disaster on the day the Immigration and Naturalization Service made this absurd mistake.
Atta was the notorious terrorist who is suspected of having planned the entire attack.
New York Times reporter David Johnston wrote on Wednesday, March 13 that Huffman Aviation received the notification on Monday, March 11, exactly 6 months after the terrorist attacks.
The I.N.S. is embarrassed. A spokesman for the immigration agency, Russ Bergeron, says, ?We certainly regret [this]. It was our responsibility to notify the contractor that the notifications were not needed in this case.?
Unknowncountry.com Opinion: One mistake after another, for years, leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency are dangerously incompetent, to the point that congress should begin studying not how to reform them, but how to reform the fundamental structures of federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering, perhaps even to replace these dubiously effective organizations. We cannot win our war against terrorism without effective investigative agencies. They are our front-line defense against the hidden, the cunning and the cowardly. Right now, the effectiveness of that defense is, to say the least, questionable.
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