Hamza al Ghamdi

Hamza 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 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, 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, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf.

Hamza al Ghamdi was from Ajandam, Saudi Arabia,National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 42, 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, Ahmed al Ghamdi, and Ahmad al Haznawi. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, they may have first met with 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 had applied but had not been accepted to attend university.National Security Archive, “The Plot and the Plotters,” Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Report, June 1, 2003, 42, 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. However, travel to Chechnya was challenging, and 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 may have been the case for Ghamdi, who 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 at al-Faruq, an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar. 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.

Although most of the so-called “muscle hijackers” obtained new passports in the second half of 2000 after completing their basic training in 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.): 235, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. records show that Hamza al Ghamdi received his in Saudi Arabia on January 22, 2000.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 53, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. He did return to Saudi Arabia, however, later that year to receive his U.S. visa issued on October 17.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 10, 2017, 96, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. That month, he took a flight from Iran to Kuwait with another 9/11 muscle hijacker, Mohand al Shehri, in a trip whose purpose may have been to seek support from Hezbollah officials, according to the 9/11 Commission.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. On November 16, 2000, records also show that Ghamdi took a flight from Bahrain to Pakistan.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 104, 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.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. The video featuring Hamza al Ghamdi was released in September of 2006.Michael Slackman, “Al Jazeera Shows Tape of bin Laden and Planers of 9/11,” New York Times, September 8, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/world/middleeast/08tape.html.

Hamza al Ghamdi arrived in the United States on May 28, 2001. He flew from Dubai to Miami, Florida, via London, alongside two other 9/11 muscle hijackers: Mohand al Shehri and Ahmed al Nami.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.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 01 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 54, 87, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-01-of-02/. Although Ghamdi could not speak English very well,Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 151, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. records show that he opened a bank account,Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 151, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. obtained a Florida state driver’s license,Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 174, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/. and even purchased a gym membership.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” accessed July 7, 2017, 188, https://vault.fbi.gov/9-11%20Commission%20Report/9-11-chronology-part-02-of-02/.

On August 29, Hamza al Ghamdi purchased his plane ticket online for United Airlines Flight 175, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, and reserved an additional one for fellow muscle hijacker Ahmed al Ghamdi. Hamza al Ghamdi also purchased a plane ticket for himself for a second flight on September 11: United Airlines Flight 7950, bound from Los Angeles to San Francisco, although that ticket would remain unused.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” 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.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” 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.Federal Bureau of Investigation, “9/11 Chronology Part 02 of 02,” 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, Hamza 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 the “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. Hamza al Ghamdi sat in seat 9C, next to fellow hijacker Ahmed al Ghamdi in seat 9D.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 the 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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