Last words to hijackers: Wear clean clothes and seek God's forgiveness

This is what the hijackers who attacked New York and Washington were apparently told in their final hours:

This is what the hijackers who attacked New York and Washington were apparently told in their final hours:

Make sure your body is clean and your socks pulled straight inside your shoes. Check you have your identity papers, your ticket and your weapon. Make sure nobody is following you. Then, "when the time of truth comes and zero hour arrives, straighten out your clothes, open your chest and welcome death for the sake of Allah".

Such was the chilling message contained in two separate instruction manuals inadvertently left behind by the hijackers, which have now been recovered by investigators. The documents, both handwritten in Arabic, provide a unique insight into the psychological state of the 19 men who took over the doomed aircraft on 11 September, showing how meticulous logistical preparation for the attacks was underscored at every turn by spiritual exhortations and the promise of paradise everlasting.

"Keep a very open mind, keep a very open heart of what you are to face," reads one of the documents. "You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest life, everlasting life ...

"Check all of your items – your bag, your clothes, knives, your will, your IDs, your passport, all your papers. Check your safety before you leave ... Make sure that nobody is following you ... Make sure that you are clean, your clothes are clean, including your shoes."

These words were never intended for a wide audience. If all had gone according to plan, the documents would have been burnt up in the devastation unleashed by the impact of the hijacked planes on their targets. One, however, was recovered from the wreckage of United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. And the other was found in a bag that should have been transferred at Boston airport on to American Airlines flight 11 – which ploughed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre – but never made the connection.

The bag belonged to Mohamed Atta, who has emerged as a crucial figure in the conspiracy and the only one of the 19 named suspects known to have had contact with all four hijacking crews. It is not known what else investigators have found in the bag, which was checked in at Portland, Maine, early on 11 September where Atta and one fellow hijacker, named as Abdulaziz Alomari, had spent the previous night.

It is also not known whether the five-page document found in the bag was written by Atta himself or by someone else. Nevertheless, it makes for compelling reading, explicitly addressing such issues as the hijackers' fear of death and what they should do to get through what they knew to be their last night on earth.

"Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has gone. The time of judgement has arrived. Hence we need to utilise those few hours to ask God for forgiveness," said the document, extracts of which were published in yesterday's Washington Post. "You have to be convinced that those few hours left you in your life are very few. From there you will begin to live the happy life, the infinite paradise. Be optimistic. The prophet was always optimistic."

The document urged the hijackers to pray, fast and recite the Koran so that fear of death would recede: "Everybody hates death, fears death. But only those, the believers who know the life after death and the reward after death, would be the ones who will be seeking death." Such rituals were to be followed in the morning, too: "Try to pray the morning prayer with an open heart. Don't leave but when you have washed for the prayer."

The last page of Atta's document was written on different paper and included a doodle of a small sword with circles and serpentine swirls drawn around its shaft, according to The Washington Post. This page listed prayers to be said on the plane itself. When the hijackers stepped on board, they were to say: "Oh God, open all doors for me. Oh God who answers prayers and answers those who ask you, I am asking you for your help. I am asking you for forgiveness. I am asking you to lighten my way. I am asking you to lift the burden I feel."

The last prayer concluded: "There is no God but God, I being a sinner. We are of God, and to God we return." The document recovered from the crash site in Pennsylvania bore many similarities, with some additional details. It exhorted the hijackers to shave their body hair the night before.

"Purify your head," it said. "Cleanse it from dross ... Be cheerful, for you have only moments between you and your eternity, after which a happy and satisfying life begins."

The message included a similar checklist, but also suggested that clothes should be worn tight: "This is the custom of the good predecessors. Allah blessed them, for they tightened their clothes before battle. Tighten your shoes well and wear tight socks so they will not come out of the shoes."

Hijackers should say a prayer before embarking, it went on. "Remember: it is a raid for the sake of Allah. Recite the prayer. As you take the seat, recite the prayer. Mention Allah a lot." When the hijacking begins, "Shout Allah is great because this shout strikes terrors in the hearts of the infidels," the document said.

And the moment of death should be accompanied by the basic statement of belief recited by all Muslims at the call to prayer: "Seconds before the target, your last words should be, there is no god but Allah. Mohammed is his messenger."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map