Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Mohammed Atta

Mohammed Atta (September 1, 1968 - September 11, 2001) (also Mohamed, Mohammad), was one of five men identified by the U.S. Justice Department as hijackers of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. He is now believed to have been the leader of the attacks.

Atta was born September 1, 1968 in Kafr El Sheikh, a city in the Nile Delta in Egypt and also carried a Saudi passport. He grew up in Cairo, Egypt and graduated with a degree in architecture from Cairo University. He then moved to Germany, where he was registered as a student of urban planning at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg in Hamburg from 1993 to 1999.

Initially, Mohammed Atta's identity was confused with that of a native Jordanian, Mahmoud Mahmoud Atta, who bombed a bus in 1986 on the Israel-controlled West Bank, killing one and severely injuring three. Mahmoud Mahmoud Atta, a naturalized US citizen, was subsequently deported from Venezuela to the United States, extradited to Israel, tried and sentenced to life in prison. The Israeli supreme court later invalidated his extradition and set him free; his whereabouts are unknown. He is 14 years older than Mohammed Atta. After the September 11 attacks, a general furor arose over the supposed failure of immigration authorities and the US intelligence community to stop a known terrorist from entering the country under his true name. Eventually, the Boston Globe factually reported details from records at the US Circuit Court of Appeals detailing the detention and subsequent extradition of Mahmoud Mahmoud Atta from the US. test In Germany, the real Mohammed Atta was registered as a citizen of the United Arab Emirates. His German friends describe him as an intelligent man with religious beliefs who grew angry over the Western policy toward the Middle East, including the Oslo Process and the Gulf War. MSNBC in its special "The Making of the Death Pilots" interviewed German friend Ralph Lodenstien who traveled, worked and talked a lot with Mohammed Atta. Ralph said, "He (Atta) was most imbued actually about Israeli politics in the region and about US protection of these Israeli politics in the region. And he was to a degree personally suffering from that."

While in Germany, Mohammed Atta became more and more religious, especially after a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1995, started attending an Islamic prayer group in 1999 at the university and is thought to have recruited for fundamentalist causes there. In late 1999, he reported his passport stolen, possibly to erase travel visas to Afghanistan. In July 2000, Atta enrolled at Huffman Aviation International in Venice, Florida. He was always accompanied by Marwan Alshehhi, a hijacker of United Airlines flight 175; Atta claimed to be of royal Saudi descent and presented Alshehhi as his bodyguard. In December, he went to the Miami area to practice on a Boeing 727 simulator. He returned to Germany and left again in May 2001, first travelling to Spain and then on to Florida.

US investigators claim that Atta sent a package to Mustafa Ahmed in the United Arab Emirates on September 4. Mustafa Ahmed is central to the funding of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror organization.

In the week before the attack, he was seen drinking and playing video games in a Florida sports bar. (Note: Many people question this element of the biography of Atta since it is highly unlikely that a devout, religiously extreme man would violate fundamental rules of his religion as he prepared himself for "martyrdom.") Atta spent the day before the attack with another hijacker, Abdulaziz Alomari, in South Portland and Scarborough, Maine. In the morning of September 11, they drove to the Portland International Jetport (PWM), flew to Logan International Airport in Boston and boarded American Airlines flight 11.

Because the flight from Portland to Boston had been delayed, his bags did not make it onto Flight 11. When later found by US authorities, they contained airline uniforms, flight manuals and a four page document in Arabic, copies of which were also found with the terrorists of the other three planes. It contains a list of instructions, such as "make an oath to die and renew your intentions", "you should feel complete tranquillity, because the time between you and your marriage in heaven is very short", "check your weapon before you leave and long before you leave. You must make your knife sharp and you must not discomfort your animal during the slaughter". The writer of this document is now believed to have been Abdulaziz Alomari.

It is believed that Atta was a ringleader of the terrorist attacks, and probably piloted the plane. In a video released by the US government, Osama bin Laden points to Atta as the leader of the attacks (see videos of bin Laden). Atta's father, a retired lawyer in Egypt, characterized this accusation in an interview as ridiculous, calling his son gentle and shy.

External Links and References