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September 11 Attacks on WTC

1. Introduction

The Al Qaeda attacks against American targets on Sept 11, 2001 were meant to cripple the economic and military power of the US

2. Selection

The head of the Op was Mohammad Atta. He was known for his unwavering commitment. The operation involved Saudis, Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, Moroccans and Arabs from UAE. 19 hijackers participated. 15 were from Saudi.

3. Planning

• The attack was originally planned for Sept 9 but due to unknown circumstances it was postponed.

• Four attack teams were prepared for the four designated targets.

• The hijackers had planned to use knives to gain control of the aircraft. In 1999, Harkat ul Mujahideen had used a knife to stab a passenger to gain control of the aircraft.

• The 9/11 teams carried box cutter knives less than 4 inches long which were permitted by federal authorities

• They also carried pepper sprays.

4. Security

• Throughout the preparations, very tight security was maintained. Al Qaeda’s principals prepared operational cells in Malaysia and Germany.

• None of the Al-Qaeda suicide squads selected for 9/11 had a past terrorist record, to diminish chances of detection.

• The attack teams stayed well away from Arab or muslim neighborhoods.

• Cell members used genuine travel documents to reach their locations.

• Al Qaeda’s German cell applied for and received new passports while in Germany. This was done to hide evidence of their previous trips to Pakistan & Afghanistan.

• On June 3, 2000, their leader Atta arrived in New York on a tourist visa from the Czech Republic. Till then, he only knew of the role of his own cell members.

5. Training

• Al Qaeda trained their operatives for 11⁄2 years for the Sept 11, US attack.

• Only 4 pilots were required for the operation. 18 months prior half a dozen Al Qaeda members were trained in flying schools in the US.

• They also joined fitness clubs and gymnasiums, as well as kickboxing and knife fighting. Al Qaeda anticipated that passengers might attack them during the hijack.

6. Flight Training

From July to Dec 2000 Atta and Al-Shekhi attended the Airman Flight schools in Oklahoma where they attended flight training classes at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida paying 38000 $ as fees. All other members joined flight training schools.

7. Training Simulation

All the cells independently acquired flight deck simulation videos and rehearsed their roles.

8. Rehearsals

Rehearsing was a central concept. All cell members took test rides. They took the same flight over and over again to familiarize themselves with airport security and cockpit access.

9. Police Complications

Only a month before 9/11, a passenger had informed the FBI of suspicious behaviour by passengers of middle east origin. They were travelling in first class and spoke only in whispers.

One hijacker who had joined an Academy for simulator training explained to the instructor that he only wanted to learn how to steer an aircraft not how to take off or land. He was apprehended by FBI & held on immigration violations. He was in possession of 2 knives. However FBI did not examine his computer before Sept 11. This hijacker Moussaoui refused to disclose anything of the plot.

10. Preparation

• Between April 23 – June 29, 2001; 13 of the 19 suicide hijackers met for their final briefings. In July 2000, Atta traveled to debrief his principal agent handler.

• From Aug 25 – 29, all hijackers purchased airline tickets with cash or from web sites.

• Each hijacker bought business class tickets from Boston to Los Angeles costing 4500 $ each, in order to be closer to the cockpit.

11. The Operation

The extraordinary tactic employed was of using an aircraft as an improvised guided missile. The first plane flown by Muhammad Atta, the ops commander crashed into the North tower of the WTC. 3 of the 4 aircrafts reached the target killing all the passengers and crew along with 3000 civilians on the ground. Osama closely followed the progress of the operation from Afghanistan via radio and television news broadcasts.

12. Repercussions

• The 3 targets were World Trade Centre, Pentagon and the White House.

• The repercussions were huge; along with human lives, there were colossal economic losses.

• The damage in New York was equivalent to that caused by the detonation of a small nuclear device.

13. Claim

On Oct 7, 2001 Osama broke Al Qaeda’s tradition and publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.

He praised the 9/11 operation, vowing that the United States would never ‘enjoy security’ till ‘the infidel armies depart from the gulf’.

Osama said “We had calculated in advance the expected number of casualties based on the position of the tower. We estimated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four. I was the most optimistic of them all due to my experiences in this field. I thought that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This was all we hoped for.”