According to documents released by Wikileaks and obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the FBI is looking for four men thought to have some connection with the September 11 attacks. The documents, which were sent in February 2010 from the American embassy in Qatar to the Department of Homeland Security, describe a group of three Qatari men who allegedly visited the World Trade Center and the White House in August 2001, just weeks before the attacks. They also spent time in California, where they met up with a fourth man, Mohamed Al Mansoori. All four men are now being sought by the FBI. Here's what we know and what's being guessed:
Who Are These People? The three men from Qatar are named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla, and Ali Alfehaid. Their alleged contact in California is Mohamed Al Mansoori, a man from the United Arab Emirates. The current whereabouts of all four men are unknown.
What Did They Do? The Qataris are said to have flown into the U.S. from London on August 15, 2001. According to the leaked documents, they visited "the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and various areas in Virginia." On August 24, they flew to Los Angeles, where they checked into a hotel room and paid with cash. While on the West Coast, the men spent a week with Mansoori "traveling to different destination in California." On September 10, the Qataris were supposed to fly to D.C. on American Airlines, but instead flew back to Qatar by way of London. The next day, the same plane that would have taken the Qataris to D.C. was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.
What About That Hotel Room? The leaked documents state that the hotel was located "near the Los Angeles airport" and that "during the last few days of their stay," the men "requested that the room not be cleaned." The documents report that the hotel reservations were "made by a convicted terrorist," and go on to say:
Hotel cleaning staff grew suspicious of the men because they noticed pilot type uniforms, several laptops, and several cardboard boxes addressed to Syria, Jerusalem, Afghanistan, and Jordan in the room on previous cleaning visits. The men had a smashed cellular phone in the room and a cellular phone attached by wire to a computer. The room also contained pin feed computer paper print outs with headers listing pilot names, airlines, flight numbers, and flight times.
Some Possible Theories "It is not known whether the FBI believe that the men were simply assisting the hijackers or were a fifth cell who pulled out at the final moment," an accompanying article in the Telegraph states. "Alternatively, they may have been planning an attack on the West Coast of America or even London which was abandoned or went wrong." The blogger leveymg at Daily Kos suggests that the group in Los Angeles may have been "an electronically 'noisy' diversion, meant to draw attention away" from the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks. Meanwhile, Gawker's Max Read isn't jumping to any conclusions: "It's not really clear what they were up to."
- Hang On--'There Is No Manhunt' The Washington Post quotes an anonymous U.S. official who says that the Qatari group was never seriously considered a part of the 9/11 attacks. The Post reports that "the three men were 'looked at' within days of the attacks and that investigators concluded they could not be charged." According to the U.S. official, "there is no manhunt... there is no active case. They were looked at, but it washed out." The Post article goes on to raise the possibility that the Qatari group might have been helping to prepare for a "second wave" of terrorist attacks that never materialized.
Bad Press for Qatar, Anyway Matthew Moore at The Daily Telegraph points out that Qatar's "wealthy rulers" have "been at pains to portray the oil-rich emirate as a beacon of stability and moderation in a volatile region." The country has enjoyed strong relations with England and the U.S. in recent years, and when it was chosen as the site of the 2022 World Cup, "it reflected the emirate's increasing international prominence." Yet Moore thinks the country's "moderate reputation" will suffer from the possible 9/11 association.