Survivors of 9/11 attack urge Theresa May to release Saudi Arabia terror report she suppressed

Exclusive: Relatives and survivors say British Premier has chance to pour ‘sunlight’ onto funding of extremism

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Tuesday 18 July 2017 17:36 BST
Ms May met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia last year in Bahrain
Ms May met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia last year in Bahrain

Survivors of the 9/11 attacks have written to Prime Minister Theresa May – urging her to make public a British government report into the extent of Saudi Arabia’s funding of Islamist extremism in the UK.

The report into the significance of the financing of Islamic extremists in Britain by Saudi Arabia and other nations was commissioned by Ms May’s predecessor, David Cameron, as part of a deal to obtain political support for a parliamentary vote on UK airstrikes on Syria.

Last week, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the report was not being published “because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons”. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas suggested the refusal to make public the report was linked to a reluctance to criticise the kingdom, with which Britain has long had close strategic and economic ties.

Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks

Now, a group representing US survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the relatives of some of the almost 3,000 people who died, has urged Ms May to seize the chance to release the report, even if it is not fully complete.

“The UK now has the unique historic opportunity to stop the killing spree of Wahhabism-inspired terrorists by releasing the UK government’s report on terrorism financing in the UK which, according to media reports, places Saudi Arabia at its centre of culpability,” says the letter, signed by 15 people.

“The longer Saudi Arabia’s complicity is hidden from sunlight, the longer terrorism will continue. They must be stopped; but who will stop them? We submit that you are uniquely situated to shine the cleansing light of public consciousness.”

It adds: “We respectfully urge you to release the report now, finished or unfinished. We ask you to consider all the victims of state-sponsored, Saudi-financed terrorism, their families and their survivors in the UK and all over the world.”

Sharon Premoli, one of the authors of the letter, was on the 80th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre when the first Al-Qaeda plane struck and rushed to safety. She is among those who have been pursuing legal action against Saudi Arabia and is adamant the attacks could not have happened without its support.

Ms Premoli, from Vermont, told The Independent that in the 16 years since the attacks were carried out, she and others have pursued the “money trail”. “We are always led to the source - Saudi Arabia,” she said.

US Congress overrides Obama's veto on 9/11 bill

She added: “This has been a long time coming. If you think, we’re 16 years on from the murder of 3,000 people and the injuring of another 6,000 and the deaths and illnesses of countless others.”

Others who have signed the letter are Brett and Gail Eagleson, the son and widow of John Eagleton, who died on the 17th floor of the Second Tower, Ellen Saracini, the widow of Victor Saracini, a pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, which was hijacked as it made its way from Boston to Los Angeles and flown into the South Tower, and Kathy Owens, whose husband, Peter, perished on the 104th Floor of the North Tower.

Copies of the letter have been sent to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Ms Rudd, and Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s Ambassador to Washington.

Ms Premoli, the author of a memoir Autumn: On the Way Back from 9/11, said the US government was actively involved in a cover-up of Saudi Arabia’s role. In addition, she said the US and Britain were promoting closer ties with Riyadh, and the sale of arms and weapons.

She said the weapons were now being used to devastating effect in Yemen, where the Saudis have been attacking Shia Houthi rebels, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths.

Though 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the attacks on New York and Washington were from Saudi Arabia, the government has always denied having any role. The bi-partisan 9/11 Commission Report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organisation”.

Last year, a long-classified section comprising 28 pages that detailed potential Saudi government ties to the attack but which had not been verified, were finally made public.

Earlier this spring, a lawsuit was filed in New York on behalf of the families of 850 individuals who were killed and 1,500 who were injured.

The suit, which was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York and will be heard US District Judge George Daniels, seeks unspecified monetary damages and says Saudi supported Al-Qaeda in four critical ways – supporting government-linked charities that ran training camps, directly funding Osama Bin Laden’s terror group, supporting the hijackers by providing them with passports and, finally, offering on-the-ground support to the hijackers in the 18 months leading up to the attacks.

“9/11 could not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s support for al-Qaeda,” said lead lawyer Jim Kreindler.

Ground Zero in New York City

Many believe Britain and the US share a long history of promoting and using Islamist extremists when it has benefited their strategic, economic or military goals. Mark Curtis, the historian and author of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, wrote recently that Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting Wahhabism had been known for decades.

“The British elite is perfectly aware of the insidious role that Saudi Arabia plays in fomenting terrorism,” he said. “In October 2014, General Jonathan Shaw, a former Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff, told the Telegraph that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were primarily responsible for the rise of the extremist Islam that inspires Isis terrorists.”

This is not the first time that a British government has sought to protect strategic ties with Saudi Arabia by covering up embarrassing or damaging information.

In 2006, Tony Blair halted a major criminal investigation into alleged corruption by the arms company BAE Systems and payments to Saudi officials involved in the Al-Yamamah arms deal, after it was decided continuing the probe would endanger Britain’s security - the same excuse cited by Ms Rudd.

Downing Street directed enquiries to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office did not immediately respond. The Saudi Arabia Embassy in Washington also did respond to questions.

The attacks of 2001 killed people from around the world. In addition to the more than 2,600 US victims, 372 foreign nationals from 61 countries lost their lives. The second largest number, 67, were British.

Ms Lucas, the MP Brighton Pavilion said she supported the efforts of the survivors.

“I fully support these 9/11 survivors in their appeal to Theresa May to release this report. The Government’s refusal to publish it, and their recent vague statement on the issue, are completely unacceptable,” she said in a statement.

“The Government accepts that foreign funding is a significant source of income for some extremist groups here in Britain – but they won’t say in public where that money is coming from. This group of 9/11 survivors are right to demand answers... and I hope Theresa May takes heed of their calls.”

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