September 15, 2001
F.B.I. Documents Detail the Movements of 19 Men Believed to Be Hijackers
By DAVID FIRESTONE and DANA CANEDY
ELRAY BEACH, Fla., Sept. 14 — The men believed to have hijacked the planes used to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon employed many conveniences available to ordinary business travelers, booking reservations on the doomed flights through Internet Web sites, using their frequent-flier numbers and paperless electronic tickets and, in some cases, relaxing in first- or business-class seats before they commandeered the planes.
Several also took advantage of private mailbox stores in South Florida beach towns to conceal addresses.
Information sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to German police officials — obtained by the German magazine Der Spiegel and provided to The New York Times — reveals a variety of details about the hijackers' planning and methods. Among other things, several of the men apparently paid the airlines well to crash their planes. Two of those on the flight that hit the south tower of the World Trade Center paid United Airlines $4,500 each for one- way first-class seats. Three other hijackers on that flight paid $1,600 and $1,760 for business-class seats, according to the F.B.I. document, which is based on airline records.
All the hijackers bought their tickets between Aug. 25 and Aug. 28, some over the Internet and some in person at airports. According to another F.B.I. document, several made reservations by renting a computer at a Kinko's copy shop in Florida.
As the F.B.I. released names of 19 hijackers, a fuller picture of the suspected terrorist organization emerged, and the group's ties to South Florida became more pronounced. Twelve members of the group lived in Florida at one time in the last two years, many studying at some of the state's many flight schools. But several men identified by the F.B.I. have no record of studying at a flight school, raising the possibility that they were recruited by the trainee pilots to help in the attack when the others were studying jet flight.
The documents also say that the F.B.I. found a suicide note in a bag brought to Logan International Airport in Boston by Mohammed Atta, a student pilot on board the American Airlines flight that hit the north tower. Although the contents of the note have not been disclosed, its presence suggests that Mr. Atta never intended for the bag — which has provided valuable clues for investigators — to be taken aboard the doomed plane.
The F.B.I. documents and interviews in Florida and elsewhere also provide details of the movements of some of the suspected terrorists, particularly in the past few months. While a few had taken up long-term residence with their families in some neighborhoods, others lived in houses and apartments for which the owners and operators offered short-term leases and did not require lengthy applications. Several lived near one another in transient neighborhoods.
They often stayed in areas that had one or more Mail Boxes Etc. stores where they obtained boxes and used them as permanent addresses to obtain driver's licenses and admission to flight schools.
It is also likely that at least some of the men overlapped in Daytona Beach in the mid- to late-1990's. A manager at the Anatole apartments near Daytona Beach International Airport said Ahmed al-Ghamdi, who was on United Airlines Flight 175, lived in the complex in 1995, while Waleed al-Shehri lived there from May through December 1997, while he attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (School officials say they have no record of Mr. Ghamdi attending the school.) Records also indicate that a man whose name matched Mohammed Atta's lived at a different address in Daytona Beach during the mid- to late 1990's.
The details in the F.B.I. documents and interviews in Florida and elsewhere provide the following portraits of the hijacker crews aboard each of the four planes.
Flight 11, North Tower
Mr. Atta, who used addresses in Coral Springs and Hollywood, Fla., ordered his ticket on Aug. 28 at the American Airlines Web site, using a frequent-flier number required by the site that he had established three days before. He paid for his ticket on Flight 11 with a Visa card and sat in Seat 8D. Satam al-Suqami, who paid cash and sat in 10B, and Waleed al- Shehri and Wail al-Shehri, in 2B and 2A, used the same Hollywood post- office box as their address.
Last year, Waleed al-Shehri rented a house on Orrin Street in Vienna, Va., a tidy lane with small, one-story brick and frame houses that today proudly display American flags. He made his neighbors nervous.
"There were always people coming and going," said Diane Albritton, who lives across the street. "Arabic people. Some of them never uttered a word; I don't know if they spoke English. But they looked very focused. We thought they might be dealing drugs, or illegal immigrants."
Federal Aviation Administration records show that Mr. Shehri had a pilot's license. Real estate records show that he lived in Daytona Beach in the mid-1990's and moved to Virginia in 1999. It is not clear when he moved out of the house.
Lisa Ledewitz, a spokeswoman for Embry-Riddle, said Mr. Alshehri graduated in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in
aeronautical science. She said it was a four-year program, so he presumably enrolled in 1993. He took all required courses for the airline pilot area of concentration, she said.
This past May, Mr. Shehri stayed at the Bimini Motel Apartments, on Ocean Drive in Hollywood, for a month. Joanne Solic, the manager of the low-cost motel, said Mr. Shehri stayed with another man, whose name she could not remember, and paid $650 cash for both. They got a one-bed room with an extra pull-out bed.
Although the men were from the Middle East, Ms. Solic said they spoke German. Two days before the men arrived, another German- speaking Middle Eastern man came in and said he had two friends coming to town and they needed a place for a month. "He spoke German and wanted to see the rooms," Ms. Solic said, adding that her husband spoke German and could talk with them.
"They rang the bell and gave me the key before they left," she said. "I said, `Thank you,' and asked them, `Are you going back to Saudi Arabia?' They said: `No. We're going up north.' Who would have thought?"
Abdulaziz al-Omari booked his flight at the same time as Mr. Atta, using the same frequent-flier profile, and traveled with Mr. Atta from Portland, Me., to Boston, according to the F.B.I. documents.
Flight 175, South Tower
Marwan al-Shehhi, a native of the United Arab Emirates, studied along with Mr. Atta at the SimCenter flight school in Opa-Locka, near Miami, beginning last December. Henry George, an instructor at the school, said the two men spent three hours each in the school's jet airline simulator on Dec. 29 and 30, after telling him that they had completed flight school at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla., and wanted to apply for jobs as commercial pilots in their home countries overseas. He said they mentioned Egypt, but he was not sure if they were from there or had just lived there.
They did not seem to have the skill to pilot real jetliners, he said, although they could turn the planes.
"All they were doing is making themselves both prepared for the task," he said, although he had no idea at the time what that task was.
They were trained by Mr. George in a 727 simulator, and paid him a total of $1,500 for the training time. During the three hours of training, they spent most of their time practicing maneuvers and turns, although they did take off and land as well. It was not a formal training program in jet flight; he described it as "a mini, mini introduction." For what they wanted, it was sufficient, he said.
Ahmed A. al-Ghamdi lived in Pensacola until about August 2000, said a neighbor, Linda Green. Ms. Green said Mr. Ghamdi appeared to be part of a group of Arab men who often gathered at apartments in the complex called the Fountains, near the University of West Florida.
"People would come and knock on the doors," Ms. Green said. "We might see three or four, and they were always men. It was always in the evening. The traffic in and out, although it was sporadic, was constant every evening. They would go and knock, and then it would be a little while and someone would look out the window to see who it was, like they were being very cautious. Not your normal coming to the door and opening it."
On Aug. 29, Mr. Ghamdi bought a $1,760 business-class ticket for Seat 9D on United Airlines Flight 175 through the Internet, and used as his address a post-office box at Mail Boxes Etc. in Delray Beach. Hamza al-Ghamdi, in Seat 9C, also used the box. It is not known whether the two were related, but neither seemed to have attended a flight school.
Ahmed S. Faiez, who did have a pilot's license and was listed as having trained at the Spartan Aeronautics School in Tulsa, Okla., paid $4,500 for Seat 2A. A school spokesman said it had no record of his having attended. He bought the ticket on Aug. 27 and used as his address a different Mail Boxes Etc. store in Delray Beach. The store owner, Jack Leinwohl, said the box was rented in July.
"I guess I must have rented it to him, because I processed the contract," Mr. Leinwohl said. "But I don't remember him at all."
Mohaid al-Shehri, who also paid $4,500 for his seat, used the same address. Records show that he attended the FlightSafety International school in Vero Beach.
Jeff Messer, a spokesman for the Delray Beach Police Department, said his agency was stunned by the announcement that seven of the suspected terrorists used addresses in the Delray Beach area. He said the F.B.I. had not contacted the agency, and if any raids or searches had taken place, the local police did not take part in them.
He said that Delray Beach has a very small Middle Eastern community and that the city has no mosques or Islamic center. He speculated that the men might have chosen Delray Beach because of its location near Interstate 95, halfway between the municipal airports in Boca Raton and Lantana.
"They lived here pretty anonymously would be a pretty good way of putting it," Mr. Messer said.
Flight 77, Pentagon
There is less information on American Airlines Flight 77 than the others. But the F.B.I. document provided to the German police showed that Nawaf al-Hamzi of San Diego booked a ticket with Travelocity, the Internet travel agency, on Aug. 25, using an address on Linwood Plaza in Fort Lee, N.J., and paid for it with a Visa card. Apparently as a backup, he bought a second reservation through Travelocity using a Wayne, N.J., address.
Khalid al-Mihdhar, who used an address in Daytona Beach, booked a reservation on the American Airlines Web site, using his frequent- flier number, which he had established the day before, according to the F.B.I. documents. He picked up the ticket at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Sept. 5, paying cash. His assigned seat was 12B. Majed Moqed ordered his ticket through the same frequent-flier number, also paying for his ticket with cash in Baltimore, and sitting in seat 12A. He listed a nonworking cell phone number in Caldwell, N.J.
Salem al-Hamzi, who apparently lived in San Antonio at one time, booked his ticket through Travelocity using the same Fort Lee address. He has a listing in one electronic database in the Federal Aviation Administration's airman directory, and also used an address in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, at one time. Hani Hanjoor of Hollywood, Fla., who had a pilot's license, was also on the plane.
Flight 93, Pennsylvania
Ziad Samir Jarrah spent a month recently in the Village apartments, a white bungalow-style building in Hollywood, according to an employee of the complex who gave her name only as Myrna. She could not remember the exact date. She said the man had numerous visitors, including men, women and children, none of whom seemed to speak English.
"He was young, he blended in nicely and tried to act like a professional," she said. "What attracted my eye were the children."
Florida state records show that he drove a sporty red Mitsubishi Eclipse, and pilot license records show that he had an expired license in Hamburg, Germany.
Ahmed al-Haznawi, who had a Fort Lauderdale address, according to driver's license records, and entered the country on a Saudi passport, and a man named Ahmed al- Nami, about whom little is known, were on United Airlines Flight 93 with Mr. Jarrah.
Saeed H. al-Ghamdi was listed by the F.B.I. with an address at a dormitory at the FlightSafety school in Vero Beach, possibly having lived there in 1999. Students in the dorm now — who live in ethnic enclaves of Koreans, Africans, Germans and Middle Easterners — for the most part said they had never heard of him, although the Middle Eastern students refused to talk to reporters. Mr. al-Ghamdi, who is listed as a licensed pilot, also had addresses in Jeddah and at 405 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan, the address of the Saudi Mission to the United Nations.