ABU DHABI — Al Qaida has identified the 20th suicide hijacker in the strikes against New York and Washington in 2001.
Al Qaida said a Saudi national had been selected by Osama Bin Laden to be the 20th suicide hijacker in the operation to commandeer four U.S. passenger jets and crash them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and White House. But Al Qaida said the operation, led by Mohammed Atta, was launched earlier than planned and the Saudi did not arrive in the United States in time.
“Turki Bin Fheid Al Muteiri — Fawaz Al Nashmi — may God accept him as a martyr, was the one chosen by Sheik Osama Bin Laden to be the martyrdom-seeker number 20 in the raid on Sept. 11, 2001,” Al Qaida said in a statement on Tuesday. “The operation was brought forward for some circumstances that brother Mohammed Atta explained to the general leadership.”
[On Tuesday, Britain warned of impending Al Qaida strikes in Saudi Arabia. The British embassy in Riyad said Islamic insurgents could strike Western aircraft bound for the Arab kingdom.]
Al Muteiri was killed in a clash with Saudi security forces in 2004. At the time, he was regarded as a leading member of the Al Qaida network in Saudi Arabia.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the Al Qaida operation in the United States in 2001 were Saudi nationals. Atta was an Egyptian.
The United States asserted that Zacarias Moussaoui, sentenced to life in prison by an American court, was the 20th Al Qaida hijacker. But in May, Bin Laden said Moussaoui, who in 2005 pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the Al Qaida suicide strikes, was not part of the 2001 plot.
Al Muteiri was said to have played a major role in the attack on a foreign housing compound in Khobar in 2004. For more than a day, Al Qaida fighters, posing as security guards, controlled the compound and executed 22 people. Later, Al Muteiri was killed in a shootout with Saudi forces in Riyad.