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Mohammed Atta, the hijacker believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was trained in Baghdad by Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, claims Iraq’s coalition government.
Mohamed el Amir Atta
The leaders say a handwritten secret memo to Saddam Hussein gives details of a visit by Atta to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before the attacks, reports the London Telegraph.
“We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam’s involvement with al-Qaida,” said Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq’s ruling seven-man presidential committee, according to the London paper.
“But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far,” he said. “It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaida, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks.”
The memo, obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, was written by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
Dated July 1, 2001, it outlines a three-day “work program” for Atta at Abu Nidal’s base in Baghdad, the Telegraph said. Abu Nidal, headquartered in Baghdad for more than 20 years, was responsible for the failed assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982.
Habbush, according to the memo, says Atta “displayed extraordinary effort” and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be “responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy,” the Telegraph reported.
The paper said the memo’s second part, titled “Niger Shipment,” has a report on an unspecified shipment believed to be uranium. The memo says it had been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.
Allawi insists the document is genuine, although Iraqi officials refuse to disclose how they obtained it.
The Telegraph noted although Atta is known to have resided in Florida in the summer of 2001, intelligence experts believe he easily could have slipped out of the U.S. because he was known to have used more than a dozen aliases.
Abu Nidal died in August 2002. Arab intelligence sources dispute the official Iraqi version of his death – that he committed suicide after his arrest by Iraqi agents.
The sources said Abu Nidal, or Sabri Al Bana, was killed by Iraqi agents in his Baghdad office several days before his death was reported Aug. 19.
The news about the memo comes after the New York Times reported a former Iraqi intelligence officer has denied claims he met with Atta in Prague.
Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani spoke with interrogators after he was taken into U.S. custody in July.
U.S. officials caution Ani might have lied to interrogators about the meeting, the Times said.
Czech officials initially confirmed reports an Iraqi spy had met with Atta in Prague. But the CIA and FBI have not corroborated them.