WASHINGTON: The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released a document showing links between influential Saudis and the 9/11 hijackers, but it does not indicate official Saudi involvement.

The 16-page document is the first to be shared with the American public since last week when President Joe Biden ordered a declassification review of 9/11 files. It highlights contacts between the hijackers and some Saudi nationals in the US. Fifteen of the 19 plane hijackers were also Saudi nationals.

The heavily redacted document includes interviews with a source — identified as PII — about contacts between a number of Saudi nationals and two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar.

The hijackers posed as students to enter the US in 2000. The FBI memo claims that they received significant logistical support from another student Omar al-Bayoumi, who was a frequent visitor to the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles. Although a student, Mr Bayoumi had “very high status” at the consulate and his assistance to Hazmi and Midha included translation, travel, lodging and financing,” the memo claims.

The document also shows links between the two hijackers and Fahad al-Thumairy, an imam at the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. The document claims that the imam had “extremist beliefs”.

15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals

Reports published in the US media on Sunday claimed that both Mr Bayoumi and Mr Thumairy left the US weeks before the 9/11 attacks.

One of the reports quoted Jim Kreindler, a lawyer for the relatives of 9/11 victims, as saying that the released document did “validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks”.

A lawsuit filed last month by the relatives of the 9/11 victims forced several former Saudi officials to face under-oath questioning.

The Biden administration’s decision to release 9/11 documents indicates a major policy shift as three previous administrations of George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump had refused to do so.

The interview, carried out in 2015, underlines regular contacts between the hijackers and several Saudi nationals but does not provide any evidence of their link with senior Saudi government officials.

The document was released hours after President Biden marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, with former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush joining him in a show of unity.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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