Ahmed al Ghamdi

Ahmed al Ghamdi was one of the so-called “muscle hijackers” of United Airlines Flight 175, flown into the World Trade Center’s south tower as the second 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.): 4; 435, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. As a muscle hijacker, Ghamdi helped to storm the cockpit and keep passengers under control so that the hijacker-pilot, Marwan al Shehhi, could take control of the plane. The flight’s five hijackers reportedly used pepper spray, knives, and the threat of a bomb to carry out the hijacking, during which they killed the aircraft’s two pilots and stabbed 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.): 7, 227, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Ahmed al Ghamdi was from Alamarassa, Saudi Arabia,National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 41, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. a town in the country’s underdeveloped Al Bahah province. Little is known about Ghamdi’s early life, but he shared the same tribal affiliation as the other three future 9/11 muscle hijackers from the region: Saeed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghamdi, and Ahmad al Haznawi. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, they 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. Ghamdi was reportedly a devout Muslim, attending prayer services regularly.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. According to a CIA report, he had completed high school and professional school, graduating as a nurse.National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 41, 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 had developed their ties to extremism in Saudi Arabia itself, often at local mosques. Many 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.): 232-33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. A CIA report alleges that Ghamdi left his home in 1998 or 1999 to travel to Chechnya,National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 41, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. and the 9/11 Commission confirms that Ghamdi was one of only two 9/11 muscle hijackers who actually had documentation suggesting that he may have 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.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Many of the 9/11 hijackers 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.): 233, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. This was likely the case for Ghamdi, who was reportedly recruited by Saeed al Ghamdi, a friend from Saudi Arabia and another 9/11 hijacker. 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,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. Ghamdi returned to Saudi Arabia, where he received a new passport on August 21, 2000,“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 84, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. and a U.S. visa on September 3.“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 87, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. He reportedly then left Saudi Arabia for the last time later that month.National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 41, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. In November 2000, he flew to Beirut, Lebanon, on the same flight as a senior Hezbollah operative. The 9/11 Commission suggests that the purpose of this trip may have been to seek support from Hezbollah, but also notes that it may have simply been a coincidence.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.): 240, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

The so-called “muscle hijackers” then 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.): 235-6, 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 point 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 Ahmed al Ghamdi was released in September of 2008.“Al-Qaeda Video Commemorates 7th Anniversary of 9/11,” SITE Intel Group, October 2010, http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/about-us/21-jihad/55-commemorate.

Ghamdi arrived in the United States at the Washington Dulles airport on May 2, 2001. He flew from Dubai to Washington, D.C., via London, alongside another 9/11 muscle hijacker, Majed Moqed. Although upon their arrival, they listed the Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., as their intended destination, they moved into an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, that two other hijackers, Hani Hanjour and Nawaf al Hazmi, had already rented.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.): 528, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. On May 8, Ahmed al Ghamdi traveled from Virginia to Fairfield, Connecticut, with Hanjour, Hazmi, and Moqed, the three of whom were future 9/11 hijackers of a different flight, American Airlines Flight 77. According to the 9/11 Commission, they drove with a Jordanian man, Eyad al Rababah, that Hanjour and Hazmi had previously met at a New Jersey mosque and who had offered to take them to Connecticut to look for a place to live. Rababah then drove the four to Paterson, New Jersey, and then back to Connecticut, after which point he claims to have never seen them again.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, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf;
“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 132, 141, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

The four hijackers returned to New Jersey and began renting an apartment in Paterson on May 21,“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 144, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. where Ghamdi remained until he traveled with American Airlines Flight 11 hijacker Abdul Aziz al Omari from Newark to Miami on August 9.“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 144, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. A CIA report notes that Ghamdi spent time in New Jersey with hijackers of a different flight after his arrival, rather than in Florida, where the other United Airlines Flight 175 hijackers were.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 41, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. However, the 9/11 Commission Report suggests that the four hijacking teams were likely not assigned to their respective flights until August, when Ghamdi and Omari flew to Miami.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;
“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 132, 141, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

On August 30, Ahmed al Ghamdi purchased his plane ticket for United Airlines Flight 175, bound from Boston to Los Angeles.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 244, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. Fellow muscle hijacker Hamza al Ghamdi had reserved it for him a day earlier.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 243, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. On September 7, Hamza al Ghamdi and Ahmed al Ghamdi flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston via Atlanta.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 261, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. They stayed in motels in Cambridge and Boston until the morning of September 11.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 10, 2017, 261, 268, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ahmed al Ghamdi and the four other hijackers of United Airlines Flight 175 checked in for the flight, scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m., at Boston Logan International Airport. Some of the flight’s hijackers could not understand the standard security questions asked by the ticket agent and had to go over them slowly until they were able to give what the 9/11 Commission called “routine, reassuring answers.” They ultimately passed through airport security and are believed to have boarded the flight sometime between 7:23 and 7:28 a.m. without issue. Ahmed al Ghamdi sat in seat 9D, next to Hamza al Ghamdi in seat 9C.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. United Airlines Flight 175 departed from the ground at 8:14 a.m., just as hijackers began their assault on American Airlines Flight 11.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.

The plane hijacking on United Airlines Flight 175 began sometime between 8:42 and 8:46 a.m. According to reports from passengers and flight attendants who made calls before the plane crashed, the hijackers used pepper spray, knives, and the threat of a bomb to carry out the hijacking. They killed the plane’s two pilots, stabbed members of the flight crew, and forced the passengers to move to the back of the plane so that the hijacker-pilot, Marwan al-Shehhi, could enter the cockpit and take 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.): 7, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center, instantly 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.): 8, 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.

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