Abdul Aziz al Omari

Abdul Aziz al Omari was one of the so-called “muscle hijackers” of American Airlines Flight 11, flown into the World Trade Center’s north tower as the first of the four 9/11 plane hijackings.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 231; 437, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. As a muscle hijacker, Omari helped to storm the cockpit and keep passengers under controlNational Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 227, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. so that the hijacker-pilot, Mohamed Atta, could take control of the plane. The flight’s hijackers used pepper spray and the threat of a bomb to carry out the hijacking, during which they stabbed at least two unarmed flight attendants and one passenger.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 5, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Abdul Aziz al Omari was from Saudi Arabia’s Asir Province, an impoverished region in the country’s southwest. According to the 9/11 Commission, Omari was an accomplished student, having graduated from high school with honors and having obtained a degree from the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University. He was married and had a daughter, and served as an imam at his mosque.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 232, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 2, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.
According to an FBI report, in the summer of 2000, he traveled to al Qassim, a region at the core of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islamic movement in Saudi Arabia where two other 9/11 hijackers may have been radicalized.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 35, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf.
The 9/11 Commission reports that he was a student of a radical Saudi cleric, Sulayman al Alwan, whose mosque, which was located there, has been dubbed a “terrorist factory” by other clerics.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

The 9/11 Commission reports that most of the Saudi muscle hijackers began to break with their families in 1999 or 2000, and that some claimed that they intended to wage violent jihad against Russian forces in Chechnya.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 232-33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Omari reportedly expressed a desire to travel to Chechnya,National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 35, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. but as he was not one of the hijackers found to actually have documentation suggesting that they traveled to Russia, it is likely that this was a pretext for his travels to Afghanistan, where he reportedly spent most of the fall of 2000.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 232-33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 35, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf.
Many of the hijackers reportedly intended to travel to Russia but were instead diverted to Afghanistan, where they volunteered to be suicide attackers after hearing Osama bin Laden’s speeches.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 232-33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Omari reportedly met 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he was working in security at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 233-34, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. The hijackers underwent basic training in weaponry use at al-Faruq, an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar in Afghanistan. All of the hijackers volunteered for suicide missions.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 234, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

After completing their basic training sometime in 2000, the muscle hijackers were instructed to return to their home countries and acquire new passports and U.S. visas before returning to Afghanistan.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 234-5, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. It is unclear if Omari followed this protocol, as records show that he received his passport in Jeddah on June 5, 2000––before his initial travel to Afghanistan––and a U.S. visa from Saudi Arabia the following year, on June 18, 2001––days before he would depart for the United States.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 525, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 68, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.
The 9/11 Commission reports that Omari’s passport was recovered after September 11, 2001.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 525, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. According to his passport stamps, he traveled to Bahrain, Egypt, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates in 2000 and 2001.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 72, 141, 148, 157, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. However, there is reason to doubt that he actually traveled to all of these countries, as the 9/11 Commission reports that Suqami’s passport was found to have been doctored by al-Qaeda.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 525, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. The FBI also reports that Malaysian entry stamps, in particular, were used to “disguise travel to and from Afghanistan.”Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 141, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the so-called “muscle hijackers” returned to Afghanistan for special training in late 2000 or early 2001, where they learned to conduct hijackings. Again, it is unclear if Omari actually departed Afghanistan after he received training there in the fall of 2000.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 235-6, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. All of the muscle hijackers were personally chosen by bin Laden during this time, after which they committed to carrying out a suicide operation and filmed a so-called “martyrdom video.”National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 235, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Abdul Aziz al Omari was part of the last pair of muscle hijackers to arrive in the United States. He flew from the Dubai to New York via Zurich with American Airlines Flight 77 muscle hijacker Salem al Hazmi, arriving at New York’s JFK airport on June 29, 2001. The 9/11 Commission speculates that they were picked up by Salem’s older brother, Nawaf al Hazmi, who took them to an apartment in Paterson, New Jersey, where a group of hijackers were already living.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 230, 528, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Omari remained in Paterson until he traveled with United Airlines Flight 175 hijacker Ahmed al Ghamdi from Newark to Miami on August 9.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 144, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. While living in Paterson, Omari obtained a U.S. photo identification card and opened a bank account.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 173, 182, 195, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. The 9/11 Commission Report suggests that the four hijacking teams were likely not assigned to their respective flights until August, when Omari flew to Florida––where the rest of the Flight 11 hijackers were living.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 248, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 132, 141, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

On August 28, Flight 11 hijacker-pilot Mohammed Atta booked flight reservations for American Airlines Flight 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, for himself and Omari.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 241, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. On September 6, Omari traveled from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston with fellow Flight 11 hijacker Sutam al Suqami.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 258, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. On September 10, Omari and Atta traveled from Boston to Portland, Maine, in the car that Atta had rented two days prior.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 266, 278, 279, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. The 9/11 Commission cannot find a satisfactory explanation for their trip to Portland, as they did not seem to do anything out of the ordinary on the night of September 10.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 253, 451, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. A CIA report suggests that they may have been following al-Qaida guidelines to enter an attack site from different places.National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 15, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf.

On the morning of September 11, Omari and Atta took a 6:00 a.m. flight from Portland to Boston, arriving at Boston Logan International Airport at 6:45.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 1, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. They were able to clear the security checkpoint and board the flight without issue. American Airlines Flight 11 departed at 7:59 a.m.,National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 4, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. scheduled to fly with nonstop service from Boston to Los Angeles. Omari sat in seat 8G in business class, in the same row as Atta.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 2, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

The hijacking is believed to have begun at around 8:14 a.m.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 4, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Based on reports from two flight attendants, the attack began when two hijackers stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants preparing for cabin service. A passenger was also stabbed. The flight’s hijackers claimed that they had a bomb, and sprayed pepper spray in the first-class cabinso that the hijacker-pilot, Atta, could enter the cockpit––possibly accompanied by Omari, according to the 9/11 Commission––and gain control of the aircraft.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 5, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. At 8:46 a.m. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and an unknown number of people in the tower.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 6-7, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. The 9/11 attacks—including attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the thwarted attack headed for the White House or Capitol—left nearly 3,000 people dead in the single deadliest attack in U.S. history.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 7, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

In September 2002, an al-Qaeda video was released in which bin Laden praised the 9/11 attackers. The video featured Omari, who vowed to “humiliate” and “never stop following” the United States and praised Osama bin Laden.“Al-Jazeera: Bin Laden tape praises hijackers,” CNN, September 9, 2002, http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/09/09/binladen.tape/.

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