A British Muslim trained to be a 9-11 hijacker told an FBI counterterrorism taskforce in 2000 of a plot by terrorists to fly passengers planes into buildings, but the agents did not believe him.
The 29-year-old al-Qaida recruit – interrogated for three weeks in Newark, N.J. – passed a lie detector test, the Times of London reported.
The man, whose name was withheld by the paper because of threats from militants, was a waiter in a curry restaurant in Manchester, England.
He was lured by al-Qaida at a mosque in Oldham, England, and attended a terrorist training school in Pakistan.
The interrogation came after the man had second thoughts about his suicide mission and surrendered to police, the Times said.
He had gambled away thousands of British pounds given to him by al-Qaida, reported the paper.
At that time, 18 months before the 9-11 attack, other hijackers were entering the United States and enrolling at flight schools.
The story arose from inquiries by the U.S. independent 9-11 commission examining the attacks, which has led to a reopening of the case.
The man was brought back to Britain in 2000 by two FBI agents and handed to British security officials at London’s Heathrow airport. He was questioned by Special Branch, the arm of British Police that deals with national security matters.
The FBI, which wants the man to be a witness in its investigation, has criticized British authorities for ignoring a request to find him after Sept. 11, but Special Branch officers claim they went back to him and took “appropriate action,” the Times said.
The man was born in Britain but grew up in Pakistan before returning to Oldham at 16. He ran up huge debts gambling, the Times said, at the time a recruiter approached him at his local mosque, offering money for “a job.”
“If your life has no color and a mullah says you can be a hero by
dying, why not?” he said, according to the Times. “I think there are a lot of frustrated Muslim youths in Britain who feel the same way.”
In Lahore, Pakistan, he was trained in hijacking and became familiar with a Boeing cockpit.
“I knew they wanted me to do some kind of operation in which I would die but my life was such a mess that in my mind I was already dead,” he said, according to the London paper.
“At that time if they had told me to strap a bomb to my body and blow myself up I would have done it as easily as taking a glass of water to drink.”
He returned to Britian, where he was given 5,000 pounds, then was sent to New York where he was to meet an operative at the airport.
In the meantime, however, he married and had a baby.
On the flight to New York, thoughts of his family changed his mind and he decided instead to slip away to Atlantic City, N.J., where he lost his money in casinos then turned himself in.