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Context of '1996: FBI Fumbles Flight School Investigation; Murad and Eleven Other Al-Qaeda Pilots Trained in US'

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While Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad is being interrogated by Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995), he mentions that he had pilot training in the US and ten other operatives are being trained to fly in the US. The second wave of the Bojinka plot required many suicide pilots. Mendoza will later recall that Murad said, “There is really formal training [going on] of suicide bombers. He said that there were other Middle Eastern pilots training and he discussed with me the names and flight training schools they went to.” Murad also mentioned some of their targets had already been picked and included CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, and an unidentified nuclear facility. [Lance, 2003, pp. 279] The ten other men who met him at US flight schools or were getting similar training came from Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The names of these men have never been publicly released, but apparently none of them match the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers. The Associated Press will later report, “The FBI interviewed people at the flight schools highlighted by Filipino police but did not develop evidence that any of the other Middle Easterners other than Murad were directly plotting terrorism. With no other evidence of a threat, they took no further action…” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] Murad also revealed that between November 1991 and July 1992, he had trained at four different flight schools in the US. His friend Nasir Ali Mubarak and another man named Abdullah Nasser Yousef were roommates with Murad as they trained at the same schools at the same time. Mubarak appears to be one of Murad’s ten pilots, because he had served in the United Arab Emirates air force and the Associated Press mentioned one of the ten was “a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Richard Kaylor, the manager of Richmor Aviation in Albany, New York, later says that FBI agents interviewed him in 1996 about the three men who studied at his school. He says he was told that the FBI was first alerted to his flight school after a Richmor business card was found in the Philippines apartment where Murad, Ramzi Yousef, and KSM had lived. But that is the only time the FBI interviewed him on these matters before 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001] An assistant manager at Richmor will later say of Murad and his roommates, “Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” [Associated Press, 3/5/2002] The FBI investigates Mubarak in 1995 and does not find that he has any ties to terrorism. Mubarak will continue to openly live and work in the US, marrying an American woman. He will claim the FBI never interviewed him until hours after the 9/11 attacks, so apparently the ten named by Murad may not have been interviewed in 1995 after all. He will be deported in 2002, apparently solely because of his association with Murad ten years earlier. Nothing more is publicly known about Abdullah Nasser Yousef. [San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12/2003] Murad will also mention to the FBI a few months later that future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) had a valid US visa and has been thinking about learning to fly in the US. Murad says he had recommended Richmor Aviation to KSM (see April-May 1995). There appears to have been little knowledge of Murad’s ten pilot claim inside US intelligence before 9/11; for instance FBI agent Ken Williams will not mention it in his July 2001 memo about suspected militants training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Abdullah Nasser Yousef, Richmor Aviation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Rodolfo Mendoza, Abdul Hakim Murad, Nasir Ali Mubarak

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Richmor Aviation logo.Richmor Aviation logo. [Source: Richmor Aviation]The FBI interrogates Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad and learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has been in the US and is planning to return for flight training. Murad had already been interrogated in the Philippines by Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza (see February-Early May 1995). The Associated Press will say that KSM “had traveled to Israel and the United States, according to [Mendoza’s] report.” Further, Murad met KSM several times in Pakistan in 1993, and “their conversations focused mainly on aircraft because of Mohammed’s intense interest in pilot training, Mendoza quoted Murad as saying.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] After Murad is handed over to the FBI around April, along with Mendoza’s report on him, he repeats much the same information to the FBI and adds more details about a man he calls Abdul Majid (which Mendoza had already learned was one of KSM’s many aliases). [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] An FBI account of his April 1995 interrogation dated May 11, 1995, states, “Murad also advised that Majid had a United States visa and was planning to travel to the US sometime in the near future. Murad stated that he thought that Majid might go to the Richmor Flying School in Albany, New York, because Majid seemed interested in obtaining his pilots license and Murad suggested the Richmor Flying School.” [Associated Press, 6/25/2002; Lance, 2006, pp. 501-502] Despite this warning, apparently KSM will still be able to travel to the US, because in the summer of 2001 an al-Qaeda operative will reveal that KSM visited the US at least through the summer of 1998 (see Summer 1998).

Entity Tags: Rodolfo Mendoza, Richmor Aviation, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Thomas Donlon.Thomas Donlon. [Source: Thomas Donlon]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the aborted Bojinka plot, gives FBI agents details of Bojinka and other terrorist plots against the United States while he is being flown to America from the Philippines, and one possible future attack he mentions is a second bombing of the World Trade Center. [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] Philippine authorities hand Murad over to the FBI at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on April 12. During the long flight to the US, he is interviewed by Special Agents Frank Pellegrino and Thomas Donlon for about five hours. He is read his Miranda rights twice. He then agrees to talk to Pellegrino and Thomas on the plane in English, without an interpreter. He says he wants to cooperate with the US government and agrees to give a statement. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 pdf file; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] He then provides the two FBI agents with minute details of the Bojinka plot and describes other plots against the US. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182]
Murad Describes His Role in Bojinka - Murad says his planned role in Bojinka was to board a flight in Singapore and plant a bomb on it before it made its first stop, in Hong Kong. After the plane landed in Hong Kong, he was to take a different flight back to Singapore and plant a bomb on this plane too. He says he’d expected the explosion when the bomb went off would tear a hole in the aircraft and cause it to crash in the Pacific Ocean. He says he believes other conspirators were going to bomb other flights. He says Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, told him the bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight in December 1994 was a test run to ensure that the chemicals and timing devices in the bombs the Bojinka perpetrators would use worked properly (see December 12, 1994). [New York Times, 8/6/1996; United States v. Yousef et al., 5/3/2002 pdf file]
Murad Describes Possible Future Attacks - Murad also describes some plans for future terrorist attacks. He says he discussed with Yousef the possibility of blowing up a nuclear plant in the US and the two men talked about conducting additional attacks on American airline carriers, such as United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. He says the aim of these attacks would be “to make the American people and the American government suffer for their support of Israel.” [New York Times, 8/6/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 510] One chilling piece of information he provides is that Yousef intends to return to the US to bomb the WTC a second time. This is because Yousef “felt that he should have been able to bring it down the first time, but lack of money had left him unable to build a bomb of sufficient size,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will later write. [Lance, 2003, pp. 280; Graff, 2011, pp. 182] During the interview, Murad is “cooperative” and “a gentleman,” Pellegrino will state. He “answered all the questions without hesitation,” Pellegrino will say. [New York Times, 8/6/1996] The flight with Murad on board arrives in New York on April 13. [United States v. Yousef, 5/29/1996]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Thomas Donlon, Frank Pellegrino, Abdul Hakim Murad, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Abdul Hakim Murad is in a US prison awaiting trial for his alleged role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Told about the Oklahoma City bombing that took place earlier in the day (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), he immediately takes credit for the bombing on behalf of his associate Ramzi Yousef. However, Yousef, also in US custody at the time, makes no such claim (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). An FBI report detailing Murad’s claim will be submitted to FBI headquarters the next day. [Lance, 2006, pp. 163-164] A Philippine undercover operative will later claim that Terry Nichols, who will be convicted for a major role in the Oklahoma City bombing, met with Murad, Yousef, and others in the Philippines in 1994, and discussed blowing up a building in Oklahoma and several other locations (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later comment: “Could [Yousef] have been introduced to [Nichols]? We do not know, despite some FBI investigation. We do know that Nichols’s bombs did not work before his Philippine stay and were deadly when he returned.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Mike Johnston, a lawyer representing the Oklahoma City bombing victims’ families, will later comment: “Why should Murad be believed? For one thing, Murad made his ‘confession’ voluntarily and spontaneously. Most important, Murad tied Ramzi Yousef to the Oklahoma City bombing long before Terry Nichols was publicly identified as a suspect.” [Insight, 6/22/2002] Also on this day, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, an associate of Yousef and Murad who is being held in the US, is moved from a low security prison to a maximum security prison. [Lance, 2006, pp. 164] But despite these potential links to Muslim militants, only five days after the Oklahoma City bombing the New York Times will report, “Federal officials said today that there was no evidence linking people of the Muslim faith or of Arab descent to the bombing here.” [New York Times, 4/24/1995] Murad’s claim apparently will not be reported in any newspaper until two years later [Rocky Mountain News, 6/17/1995] , when lawyers for Nichols’s bombing partner, Timothy McVeigh, tell reporters that their defense strategy will be to claim that the bombing was the work of “foreign terrorists” led by “a Middle Eastern bombing engineer.” The lawyers will claim that the bombing was “contracted out” through an Iraqi intelligence base in the Philippines, and it is “possible that those who carried out the bombing were unaware of the true sponsor.” The lawyers also say it is possible, though less likely, that the bombing was carried out by right-wing white supremacists, perhaps from the Elohim City compound (see 1973 and After, 1983, 1992 - 1995, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, February 1995, and April 5, 1995). [New York Times, 3/26/1997] The claims of foreign involvement will be discredited (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Richard A. Clarke, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Elohim City, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mike Johnston, Abdul Hakim Murad, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US Domestic Terrorism

Finding a business card for a US flight school in the possession of Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, the FBI investigates the US flight schools Murad attended. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] He had trained at about six flight schools off and on, starting in 1990. Apparently, the FBI closes the investigation when they fail to find any other potential suspects. [Insight, 5/27/2002] However, Murad had already confessed to Philippine authorities the names of about ten other associates learning to fly in the US, and the Philippine authorities had asserted that they provided this information to the US. Murad detailed how he and a Pakistani friend crisscrossed the US, attending flight schools in New York, Texas, California and North Carolina. The Associated Press reports, “He also identified to Filipino police approximately 10 other Middle Eastern men who met him at the flight schools or were getting similar training. One was a Middle Eastern flight instructor who came to the United States for more training; another a former soldier in the United Arab Emirates. Others came from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. None of the pilots match the names of the 19 hijackers from Sept. 11.” An assistant manager at a Schenectady, New York, flight school where Murad trained later recalls, “There were several [Middle Eastern pilot students] here. At one point three or four were here. Supposedly they didn’t know each other before, they just happened to show up here at the same time. But they all obviously knew each other.” However, US investigators somehow fail to detect any of these suspects before 9/11, despite being given their names. [Associated Press, 3/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Abdul Hakim Murad, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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