Saudis cast doubt over FBI list of hijackers
by Sami Aboudi, Reuters, 19 Sept 2001
DUBAI, Sept 19 (Reuters) -- Saudi officials and media have cast doubt on the credibility of a list of 19 suspects named by U.S. investigators as suicide hijackers, saying some of them are alive and innocent.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week identified 19 men as hijackers, including seven trained pilots, who it said commandeered the four passenger jets used in the attacks that left nearly 6,000 were dead and missing.
Although the FBI list did not provide the nationalities of the suspects, Gulf officials and analysts said the family names appeared to indicate that many of them were Saudi nationals.
"The haste in publishing the names of suspects in the attacks has made the media fall into the error of involving innocent people, especially Saudis, who later proved that they were innocent," said Prince Mit'eb bin Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, deputy commander of the Saudi National Guards.
The apparent errors over the names have strengthened a belief in the Gulf that the real attackers used false or stolen passports and documents.
A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday authorities in the kingdom had doubts about the list, just before Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal flew to Washington to help U.S. efforts to hunt the perpetrators of the attacks.
"We have our own doubts because many of those implicated have turned out to be alive here or elsewhere," he said.
Saudi newspapers have published interviews and pictures of at least five of those who appeared on the FBI list since it was released on Friday.
Many Saudis share the same name, reflecting their common memnbership of large tribes.
But some who share the same name as the suspects were alarmed to see their own faces staring back at them from newspapers and television networks which published photographs and personal details of the alleged perpetrators.
"The name (reported by the FBI) is my name and the birth date is the same as mine, but I am not the one who bombed the World Trade Center in New York," Abdulaziz Alomari, one of the suspects on the list, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
Born on December 24, 1972, Alomari was interviewed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It quoted him as saying that he left the United States in April 2000 and that he was at his Riyadh office at the time of the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The pan-Arab newspaper, which published a picture of Alomari on its website (www.alsharqalawsat.com), said the U.S.-educated engineer lost his passport when his apartment in Denver, Colorado was burgled in 1995 and had reported the loss to police at that time.
Saudi journalists who had investigated the FBI list said at least five people on the list had been contacted by journalists or had come forward to deny involvement in the attacks.
Ahmed Alshehri, a diplomat at the foreign ministry, told the al-Eqtisadiah newspaper that details given by the FBI of one of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, which destroyed the north tower of the World Trade Center, matched those of his son, Waleed, though the name was slightly different.
Alshehri said his son, a pilot with Saudi Arabian Airlines, was now alive and well in Morocco. He said his son had graduated four years ago from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Another Saudi Arabian Airlines pilot, Said Hussein al-Ghamdi, whose picture was broadcast by U.S. television network CNN, was currently in Tunis, al-Eqtisadiah said.
"Every day we have someone whose personal details appear to be similar to those being published by either U.S. authorities or in U.S. media coming forward to deny involvement," a Riyadh-based journalist told Reuters by telephone.
"The picture is still very cloudy, but it seems that some of the conclusions reached by the FBI have been hasty," he said.
© 2001 Reuters
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.