The '20th hijacker' and another missed chance
Friday 23 July 2004
It is one of the great unsolved riddles of the plot. Was Zacarias Moussaoui - arrested a month before the 2001 attacks while he was taking flying lessons in Minnesota - the intended "20th hijacker" of 11 September?
The 9/11 Report presents evidence he might have been, and that had news of his arrest reached Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the whole operation might have been called off.
In its 567-page report, the commission says Ramzi Binalshibh - a close friend of the hijackers' ringleader Mohammed Atta captured in Pakistan in 2002 - assumed Moussaoui was a designated pilot for the operation. He believed the French-Moroccan student had been selected and assigned by Bin Laden to replace Ziad Jarrah, a designated pilot who had quarrelled with Atta and threatened to withdraw from the operation.
The information comes from a US intelligence interrogation of Binalshibh on 7 March, 2003. Binalshibh said had Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the main logistical organiser and financier of the hijackers - found out Moussaoui was now in the hands of the US authorities, they might have cancelled, or at least postponed, the attacks.
But they only learnt about his detention after the attacks. Moussaoui was not needed anyway, as Jarrah patched up his dispute with Atta, and was part of the hijacking group for United Airlines Flight 93.
Moussaoui is the only person in the US formally accused of being part of the 9/11 plot. Prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, and are seeking the death penalty. Moussaouidenies involvement in the attacks.
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...
£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...
£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...