Masterminds of 9/11 Reveal Terror Secrets

by Nick Fielding
The Sunday Times
September 8, 2002


Two of Osama Bin Laden's closest aides have revealed for the first time how they masterminded the September 11 attacks on America, boasting that they want "a thousand operations like these".

The two ringleaders, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 38, and Ramzi Binalshibh, 30, are among the FBI's most wanted terrorists. They have evaded capture despite the $ 25m bounties on their heads.

Khalid, the head of Al-Qaeda's military committee, devised the idea of targeting "prominent" buildings in America. Binalshibh co-ordinated the operation from his base in Germany, where he shared an apartment in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker.

In an exclusive interview, they spoke of their pride in the devastation and slaughter inflicted on what they refer to as "Holy Tuesday".

"The attacks were designed to cause as many deaths as possible and to be a big slap for America on American soil," said Khalid.

Speaking at a hideout in Pakistan, they gave a chilling account of how they organised and executed the death flights with the approval of Bin Laden. One of their agents also claimed that Bin Laden was "alive and well", although he provided no evidence.

The two terrorist plotters reveal:

The fourth target of the hijackers was Capitol Hill and not the White House. United Airlines flight 93 was heading for Congress when the passengers overpowered the terrorists and the plane crashed into the Pennsylvanian countryside.

The initial plan was to crash the hijacked jets into nuclear power plants. They decided against it for fear "it would go out of control". But future nuclear targets have not been ruled out.

The decision to launch a massive suicide attack on the United States was taken by the Al-Qaeda military committee in early 1999. They called it "a martyrdom operation inside America".

Atta, the operational commander, was called to a council of war with key hijackers in the summer of 1999 in Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. He had been an Al-Qaeda sleeper in Germany since 1992.

At least four reconnaissance units were sent to America before Atta and the would-be hijack pilots crossed the Atlantic for their training at flying schools in the summer of 2000.

Atta communicated with Binalshibh in German through the internet. He posed as a student in America contact- ing his girlfriend "Jenny" in Germany.

They referred to the targets as university departments. The twin towers were the "faculty of town planning", Atta's academic speciality. Capitol Hill was the "faculty of law" and the Pentagon was "the faculty of fine arts".

They recruited the "muscle" for the hijacks from Al-Qaeda's so-called Department of Martyrs - which, they claim, is still active and "never short of potential martyrs".

Binalshibh wanted to be the 20th hijacker but was refused entry to the United States.

In hiding, he still has a suitcase full of planning materials used to plot the attacks - which he dubs his "souvenirs". They include flying manuals, flight simulator CD-Roms, airline guides, handwritten notes and illustrations of "how to perform sudden manoeuvres" and an air navigation map of America's eastern seaboard.

Binalshibh has written a 112-page justification of the attacks based on Al Qaeda's heretical interpretation of Islam. He said that he wanted it translated into English and lodged in the Library of Congress in Washington.

His document states that the thousands of deaths and injuries do not "blow out the fire in the hearts of Muslims against America. We therefore need a thousand operations like these". He hopes the attacks will be the "beginning of the end of America".

The statement and interview are the first full admission by senior figures from Bin Laden's network that they carried out the September 11 attacks.

The interview with the two terrorists was conducted in June by Yosri Fouda, the chief investigative reporter for the Gulf-based Al-Jazeera Television channel, which has previously screened Bin Laden videos. It will be shown on Thursday night.

He was invited by a go- between to Karachi, where - after a series of complex journeys with several handlers - he was blindfolded and driven to a six-room apartment where Khalid and Binalshibh were hiding out. He was with them for 48 hours.

Khalid did most of the talking. Binalshibh, sitting on the floor surrounded by laptops and mobile phones, appeared to be more passive; Fouda concluded that he had the ability to be "the next Bin Laden".

Binalshibh, a Yemeni, is suspected of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden in October 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

Khalid is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence for the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. While Yousef was on the run he and his uncle devised a plot to attack 12 prominent American landmarks. This was aborted after being uncovered by intelligence agencies but was resurrected and perfected for September 11.

At the end of his two days with Khalid and Binalshibh, Fouda was instructed to leave his videotapes of the interviews behind so their faces could be blanked out. He was promised they would be returned within two weeks, but the tapes have never turned up - a puzzling move since the entire exercise had been conducted at the behest of Al-Qaeda.

Fouda sees it as evidence of "some sort of disruption" in the Al-Qaeda leadership, possibly an indication that Bin Laden is dead. He did, however, eventually receive voice tapes of the interviews.

 

Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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