Ahmad al Haznawi

Ahmad al Haznawi was one of the so-called “muscle hijackers” of United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but intended to be flown into the Capitol or White House as the fourth 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.): 14; 231; 435, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. As a muscle hijacker, Haznawi helped to storm the cockpit and keep passengers under control so that the hijacker-pilot, Ziad Jarrah, could enter the cockpit and take control of the plane.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.): 227, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. The flight’s four hijackers reportedly used knives and the threat of a bomb to carry out the hijacking, forcing passengers to the back of the aircraft and killing at least two members of the flight crew.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.): 13, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. However, due to a passenger revolt, the hijackers were ultimately unable to crash the plane into their intended target and instead drove it into the ground approximately 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., in an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.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.): 14, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Ahmad al Haznawi was born in Baljorashi, Saudi Arabia, a town in the country’s underdeveloped Al Bahah province.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 47, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. Little is known about Haznawi’s early life, but he shared the same tribal affiliation as the other three future 9/11 muscle hijackers from the region: Hamza al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Ghamdi, and Saeed al Ghamdi. According to the 9/11 Commission, the three may have first met each other by the fall of 1999.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, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. According to a CIA report, Haznawi attended an engineering university, but dropped out and did not receive a degree.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 47, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf.

The 9/11 Commission reports that most of the Saudi muscle hijackers began to break with their families in 1999 or 2000, and 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.): 232-233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. According to a CIA report, Haznawi’s father later reported that Haznawi had expressed a desire to wage jihad in Chechnya.National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 47, 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.): 232-233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. This was likely the case for Haznawi, as he was not one of the hijackers found to actually have documentation suggesting that they traveled to Russia.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.): 232-233, 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 his basic training sometime in 2000, Haznawi returned to Saudi Arabia, where he received a U.S. visa in Jeddah on November 12, 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.): 234-235, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 102, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.
According to the 9/11 Commission, the so-called “muscle hijackers” returned to Afghanistan for special training in late 2000 or early 2001, where they learned to conduct 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.): 235-236, 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. The video featuring Ahmad al Haznawi was released in April of 2002.Julian Borger, “Chilling, defiant: the video suicide message of a September 11 killer,” Guardian (London), April 15, 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/16/september11.usa2.

In the two years before his arrival in the United States, Haznawi traveled to various places in addition to Afghanistan, including Kuwait, Pakistan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates, according to a CIA report.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 46, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. The purpose of these travels is unknown, although records show that Haznawi purchased traveler’s checks in the United Arab Emirates,“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 185, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. where he visitied on June 1, 2001.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 151, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. The 9/11 Commission also reports that Haznawi was the last hijacker to cease communications with his family, calling his aunt for updates about his sick mother in the months leading up to the attack.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.): 524, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Haznawi flew from Dubai to Miami via London alongside another 9/11 muscle hijacker, Wail al Shehri, arriving on June 8, 2001.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 155, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. The hijackers stayed at a variety of motels and apartments in southern Florida in the subsequent months.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.): 241, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Records show that Haznawi opened a bank account“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 183, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. and obtained a Florida state driver’s license.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 261, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. On August 29, Haznawi purchased an airline ticket for United Airlines Flight 93, bound from Newark to San Francisco.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 242, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. On September 8, 2001, Haznawi flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 266, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ahmad al Haznawi and the three other hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 checked in at Newark International Airport between 7:03 and 7:39 a.m. Haznawi was selected by a computerized prescreening system at Newark International Airport, but was ultimately able to clear the security checkpoint without issue. All of the flight’s hijackers boarded the plane by 7:48 a.m. for the flight bound for California. Haznawi sat in seat 6B, in the first-class cabin.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, 10, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. United Airlines Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m., but did not take off until 8:42 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.): 10, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. At this point, American Airlines Flight 11 had already been hijacked, but the pilots of United Flight 93 did not receive a warning about the possibility of a cockpit intrusion until 9:24 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.): 10-11, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

The plane hijacking on United Airlines Flight 93 began at 9:28 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.): 12, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. According to reports from passengers and crew members who made calls before the plane crashed, the hijackers wore red bandanas and used knives and the threat of a bomb to carry out the hijacking. They killed at least two members of the flight crew and forced the passengers to move to the back of the plane so that the hijacker-pilot, Ziad Jarrah, could take control of the aircraft. However, passengers making calls were able to learn about the other hijackings, and accordingly decided to stage a revolt. At 9:57 a.m., they launched a sustained assault on the cockpit in an attempt to retake the plane from the terrorists.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.): 13, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. The struggle in the cockpit could be heard over radio transmissions. At 10:02 a.m., likely judging that the passengers would soon overtake them, the hijackers in the cockpit decided to crash the plane short of their intended target of either the Capitol or the White House.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.): 14, 33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m., killing all 44 people on board.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.): 14, 33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
Sara Rimer, “A NATION CHALLENGED: THE PENNSYLVANIA CRASH; 44 Victims Are Remembered, and Lauded,” New York Times, September 18, 2001, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/18/us/a-nation-challenged-the-pennsylvania-crash-44-victims-are-remembered-and-lauded.html.
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.

Also Known As

Extremist entity
Al-Qaeda
Type(s) of Organization:
Non-state actor, religious, terrorist, transnational, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Jihadist, pan-Islamist, Qutbist, Salafist, Sunni, takfiri
Position(s):
United Airlines Flight 93 muscle hijacker

Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks was the deadliest ever on American soil, killing nearly 3,000 people. Since the fall of the Taliban, al-Qaeda has established operations worldwide, including in Syria, the Gulf, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.

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