Ahmed al Nami

Ahmed al Nami 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, Nami 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, because of 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.

Ahmed al Nami was from Abha, Saudi Arabia, a town in the Saudi Arabia’s impoverished Asir province.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 43, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf;
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.
Little is known about his early life, but according to a CIA report, Nami was the eldest of ten children. He served as an imam at his local mosque and studied at the King Khaled University Islamic law school in Abha, but dropped out in spring 2000 and did not receive a degree. Nami left Saudi Arabia after dropping out of university, reportedly telling his family that he was going to Mecca to complete the Hajj and look for work.“The Plot and the Plotters,” National Security Archive, June 1, 2003, 25, 45, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/368989/2003-06-01-11-september-the-plot-and-the.pdf. Records show that Nami departed the Saudi Arabia for the United Arab Emirates on April 24, 2000.“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 2, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

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.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 Boston Globe article reports that this was the case for Nami, who reportedly pledged to engage in violent jihad at a local mosque in the spring of 2000.Charles M. Sennott, “Before oath to jihad, drifting and boredom,” Boston Globe, March 3, 2002, http://www.webcitation.org/5bTYljW3A?url=http://www.boston.com/news/packages/underattack/news/driving_a_wedge/part1_side.shtml. According to the 9/11 Commission, some of the hijackers may have initially 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. However, travel to Chechnya was challenging, and many 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. While working in security at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Nami met an al-Qaeda member named Abu Basir al Yemeni, who educated him on al-Qaeda doctrine and convinced him to participate in a suicide operation. Yemeni even took Nami to meet bin Laden and instructed him on how to present himself so that bin Laden would accept him as a suicide operative.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, 526, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. After Nami was chosen for the attack, he underwent basic training in weaponry at al-Faruq, an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar.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.

In October of 2000, Nami met 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who instructed him to return to Saudi Arabia and acquire a new passport and U.S. visa.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, 526, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Nami received a U.S. visa in Saudi Arabia on October 28, 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.): 525, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. At this point, another would-be hijacker decided to drop out of the process, although Nami reportedly tried to persuade him to continue, reminding him of their commitment to bin Laden and the operation.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.): 526-7, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. For an unspecified reason, Nami received a second U.S. visa on April 23, 2001, using a new passport to apply. As al-Qaeda was known to doctor passports,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.): 563-4, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. the 9/11 Commission suggests that his original passport may have been damaged in the process, prompting him to obtain a second passport.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.

Nami was part of a group that traveled from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and Iran in November of 2000. While the purpose of this trip is unknown, the 9/11 Commission suggests that they may have met with and sought support from Hezbollah officials.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 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.

Nami arrived in the United States on May 28, 2001. He flew from Dubai to Miami through London alongside two other future 9/11 muscle hijackers: Hamza al Ghamdi and Mohand al Shehri.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. The hijackers stayed at a variety of motels and apartments in southern Florida in the subsequent months.“9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 54, 87, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/.

On September 5, fellow muscle hijacker Saeed al Ghamdi called United Airlines and purchased two airline tickets on United Airlines Flight 93, bound from Newark to San Francisco, for himself and Nami. Two days later, on September 7, Nami and Ghamdi flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark via Atlanta,“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 261, 264, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. where Nami stayed until the morning of September 11.“9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed July 7, 2017, 270, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ahmed al Nami and the three other hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 checked in at Newark International Airport between 7:03 and 7:39 a.m. They each passed through security without issue, all boarding the plane by 7:48 a.m. for the flight bound for San Francisco. Nami sat in seat 3C, 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 another 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. Passengers making calls were able to learn about the other hijackings, and 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. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 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.): 14, 33, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. killing all 44 people on board.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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Gregory Hood, American Renaissance blog post Mar. 19, 2021
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