WASHINGTON — In another tragic irony of Sept. 11, three of the five Islamic hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 were seated next to an elite Israeli commando. And it may just have gotten that Jewish passenger killed before all the others.
In fact, his friends and associates are now sure of it, after reading a secret government memo naming Israeli-American Daniel C. Lewin as a gunshot victim on the flight.
“Danny was an officer in a secret unit of the Israeli army called ‘sayeret matkal,’” said Yehuda Schwartzberg, a childhood friend from Jerusalem. “My guess is that he did something in some way to stand up against the hijackers, and was executed because of it.”
Keith Lowery, a business associate of the late Boston high-tech executive who had dual citizenship, says the terrorists may have singled him out because of his “Jewishness” — as they did Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The FAA memo’s summary of the Flight 11 shooting incident, real or not, is the most detailed and specific — not to mention shocking — of the four hijacking summaries. It says Lewin, sitting in seat 9B, was “shot by passenger Satam al-Suqami,” sitting behind him in seat 10B. (Both names match those on the manifest released by the airline.)
“One bullet was reported to have been fired,” the memo states.
What’s more, the report echoes another account of a fatal struggle in that same business-class section of the plane — as revealed by the FBI.
“A hijacker also cut the throat of a business-class passenger, and he appears to be dead,” Amy Sweeney relayed to American flight services manager Michael Woodward on the ground at Logan International Airport.
She also relayed the exact seat numbers of the hijackers in the ninth and 10th rows — the very rows cited in the controversial FAA report.
The FBI’s account of the unrecorded call was leaked to the Los Angeles Times, which ran a story Sept. 20.
The 31-year-old Lewin, an Israeli citizen since a teen, was a captain in the Israel Defense Force and had extensive anti-terrorism training.
“Anyone who knows Danny knows that it was not his nature to go down without a fight,” Schwartzberg said. “Maybe this (memo) shows that he died a hero.”
An FAA special agent agrees.
“With his background in special forces, he would have had more of a fighting instinct click into gear, rather than be herded around” or fooled by their cover, said the agent, who wished to go unnamed. “They probably killed him first because he was fighting
Lewin, a graduate of MIT and Israel’s Technion, lived with his wife, Anne, and two sons, Eitan and Itamar, in Brookline, Mass., where he helped run Akamai Technologies — which he co-founded, nearly becoming a billionaire in the dot-com stock boom. He previously worked for IBM’s research lab in Haifa, Israel. His parents and brothers all live in Israel.
Attempts to reach his family for comment were unsuccessful.