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June 9, 2006
Guess Who Wanted To Fly In New Zealand?

New Zealand authorities found out that an eager young student pilot might have more on his mind that just cruising through South Pacific clouds. The country deported Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, an undeservedly obscure cast member from the 9/11 plot who told the Kiwis that his dream was to fly a commercial airliner:

A Saudi Arabian linked to one of the September 11 hijackers spent four months in New Zealand before being expelled as a national security risk. The United States-qualified pilot, Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, was admitted to New Zealand in February on a student visa, saying his dream was to become a commercial airline pilot and that he needed an English language qualification to assist. Today the Weekend Herald reveals that on May 29 police and immigration officials raided Ali's Palmerston North home and deported him. ...

The Government claimed last night that Ali had lived and trained in Phoenix, Arizona, with fellow Saudi Hani Hanjour in the months before Hanjour is believed to have piloted American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon building. ... Police seized Ali's flight logbook from the aero club, where he had flown several times in Cessna aircraft accompanied by instructors. He was sent back to Saudi Arabia under escort.

One has to suspect that Rayed's dream had more to do with flying the airliner rather than actually landing it.

Rayed doesn't get much attention in the final 9/11 Commission report; all references to him are found in the extensive footnotes. He indeed roomed with Hani Hanjour and even got his own pilot's license in 1998 from Arizona Aviation. He also was a leader of an Islamic "cultural center" (mosque) in Phoenix during that period, and was known for his radical speeches. The FBI interviewed Rayed as early as September 15, 2001, and while he obviously did not get detained or charged, the FBI found his testimony "deceptive" and not credible. As late as May 2004, just before the commission wrote the report, the Phoenix office found his connections to Hanjour "suspicious" (page 520).

Most interestingly, for a man who has a dream to become a commercial airline pilot at age 20, he stopped flying and started working as a computer programmer. Only in the summer of 2001 did he resume flight training. In the summer of 2001. He was joined by another Hanjour associate at the same time, but neither man took part in the 9/11 attack, and neither man ever faced charges in the US.

People speculated at the time that al-Qaeda had enough assets in the US to initiate a second wave of airliner attacks, and had been taken off guard by the grounding of the entire commercial industry on 9/11. The re-emergence of Rayed Abdullah Ali demonstrates that AQ has not completely given up on that tactic.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 9, 2006 9:40 PM

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» Any connection? from Fore Left!
But there were other jihadi buddies with Hanjour in Arizona, one of them identified as Mubarak al-Duri, who is apparently still on the lam. Al Duri, al Duri, where have we heard that name before? Shall we assume any connections to the other slight... [Read More]

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» Any connection? from Fore Left!
But there were other jihadi buddies loosely associated with Hanjour and Arizona. One was identified as Mubarak al-Duri, whereabouts unknown. Al Duri, al Duri, where have we heard that name before? Shall we assume any connections to the other sligh... [Read More]

Tracked on June 10, 2006 6:57 PM

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