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Thursday, February 3, 2011
Mapping Awlaki's 9/11 Social Network
A map of Anwar Awlaki's social network prior to September 11. Click for full-size image.
Following up on yesterday's post looking at Anwar Awlaki's movements relative to newly revealed 9/11 suspects, I wanted to briefly discuss Awlaki's relationship to the previously known 9/11 hijackers. The social network map above may be helpful in understanding these relationships. For a map of Awlaki's current social network, click here.
When the 9/11 Commission Report came out, a lot of attention focused on Omar Al Bayoumi, an apparent Saudi government agent, who met two of the hijackers -- Khalid Al Mihdhar and Nawaf Al Hazmi -- in Los Angeles, then helped them get an apartment. Several of Bayoumi's associates helped with English lessons and logistical needs while they were there.
What I discovered in FBI source documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and in the National Archives collection of internal Commission documents, was that Bayoumi's associates, and Bayoumi himself, were all also connected to Anwar Awlaki and in most cases considered themselves to be his followers.
Furthermore, Eyad Rababah, a follower of Awlaki on the East Coast with no connection to Bayoumi, gave the same kind of assistance to some of the same hijackers, including at least Al Mihdhar and Hani Hanjour.
Beyond these considerations, Bayoumi was not known to be connected to Al Qaeda, and his connection to the Saudi government was nebulous. In contrast, Awalki had contact with a number of Al Qaeda-linked figures and Al Qaeda members.
According to 9/11 documents obtained by INTELWIRE, Awlaki was connected to Ziyad Khalil, an Al Qaeda facilitator who helped purchase satellite phones for Osama bin Laden during the 1990s. Awlaki described Abdul Majid Zindani, a close associate of bin Laden, as one of his mentors. Prior to September 11, Awlaki also worked for a charity founded by Zindani.
Finally, the phone number of Awlaki's Dar Al Hijrah mosque in Virginia was found among the belongings of Ramzi Binalshibh, an Al Qaeda facilitator who helped arrange logistical assistance for some of the hijackers who were not being helped by Awlaki. According to 9/11 documents, Awlaki, Al-Mihdhar and Binalshibh may all have been in Yemen during the same period of summer 2000.
In sum, while the case for Awlaki's role in 9/11 remains frustratingly circumstantial, it is far stronger than the case for Bayoumi.
For more on Awlaki and his possible role in September 11, pre-order J.M. Berger's new book "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam," the first comprehensive look at the phenomenon of American jihadists from the 1970s to the present.
Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.
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