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How a Saudi town bred five hijackers
The Age (Melbourne) ^ | October 04 2002 | Paul McGeough in Abha and Khamis Mushayt.

Posted on 10/03/2002 8:46:16 AM PDT by aculeus

High in the misty mountains of the Saudi Arabian province of Asir, no man could escape the rant of Sheik Ahmed Al Hawashi, the "evil father" of a mosque in the conservative town of Khamis Mushayt.

At night, the squat mosque was illuminated by white fluorescent strips. Powerful amplifiers broadcast the imam's message across the town.

This is the corner of Saudi Arabia from which five of the September 11 hijackers were recruited. According to Ali Al Mosa, an academic and campaigner for reform, the mosque of Sheik Ahmed Al Hawashi was a vital link in the al Qaeda recruitment drive.

"Sheik Al Hawashi was the evil father of the whole thing," said Dr Al Mosa, citing intelligence sources for his information.

"He was the one behind it all and he is still there - he knew five of the kids and he was praying with them."

Five sons of the Asir province were involved in the 2001 hijackings, which claimed over 3000 lives.

Fayez Ahmad (Marwan) Al Shehri and Fayez Banihammad were aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Centre.

Ahmad Abdullah Alnami, 23, was on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. The brothers Wael Alshehri and Waleed M. Alshehri were aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the plane that hit the World Trade Centre's North Tower.

It seemed remarkable that a suspect sheik could still be in charge of a mosque more than a year after the attacks. However, Dr Al Mosa said: "He has been here for 25 years and he's very popular. I think that Saudi and US intelligence are still working up solid proof that he knew the kids."

More remarkable still was the determination of Saudi Information Ministry officials to block The Age's attempts to interview Sheik Al Hawashi or anyone else in the region about why its men volunteered in such numbers for Osama bin Laden's missions.

Just to get permission to travel to the region required an undertaking not to approach the hijackers' families. Once in the area we were banned from approaching local academics or sheiks or taking photographs.

At one point, this reporter was informed by a ministry minder that he was a "prisoner" and permission was denied even to take a taxi to the airport. When The Age insisted on departing by taxi, three minders followed in a black Ford sedan for the 30-kilometre drive.

An arrangement was made with the taxi driver to detour past the Khamis Mushayt mosque, buried amid the dusty commercial hoardings of the town: Pepsi, Gulf Paints, Ryad Bank. As the taxi pulled in, the sheik was in full flight, but with the information ministry close behind, The Age continued to the airport.

The Saudi royal family draws its legitimacy from a power-sharing arrangement with the religious establishment, which gives the likes of Sheik Al Hawashi inordinate control over the nation's education and legal system.

To many of Saudi Arabia's domestic and foreign critics, this is the root of the many economic, social and security problems that beset the oil-rich kingdom today.

In the wake of September 11, the royal family pleaded with the more outspoken clerics to condemn terrorism and to curb their anti-American rhetoric. It reportedly offered some of them a bribe in the form of a pension.

Dr Al Mosa said some lesser-known, hard-line clerics had been quietly removed from their state-paid positions. He said proposed new rules stipulated that only those aged over 40 would be given charge of a mosque.

But such was the power of the sheiks, he said, that these attempts to restrain them had not been publicly announced. Other observers have concluded that the regime has balked at any concrete steps that would seriously wind back their power.

In an earlier interview in the lobby of a hotel in Abha, the capital of the province, Dr Al Mosa told how two mosques at Khamis Mushayt, about 15 kilometres east of Abha, had been used to draw the young men to terrorism.

"There are a lot of suspect sheiks working in this area. They are intense and they are a part of a radical movement. The universities are the same. We have become more wahabist," he said, referring to the radical reading of Islam by which most Saudis are obliged to live.

"Our political system does not contradict the needs of modern society. But the religious system has dominated and it means we will be even more radicalised.

"It has corrupted the whole education system. Unless you are religious you will not get a place in university and these people are so well entrenched that they are installing new layers of fellow thinkers beneath them. And we need to change the curriculum - primary, secondary and university - so that our students actually learn something."

Saudi Arabia grants only limited numbers of press visas. A senior official at the Information Ministry said the government was protecting the families of the hijackers, after complaints of media harassment. He took great pride in the near total failure of the international media to get substantive interviews with any of the families linked to September 11 - including the bin Laden family.

What he didn't say was that the government also seems happy to shelter the sheiks who are accused of facilitating the terrorists.

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/10/03/1033538723923.html


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 10/03/2002 8:46:16 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus
We have become more wahabist," he said, referring to the radical reading of Islam by which most Saudis are obliged to live.

That says it all.

2 posted on 10/03/2002 8:48:49 AM PDT by Aquinasfan
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Hunt them, find them, kill them.
3 posted on 10/03/2002 8:53:38 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus
"...At night, the squat mosque was illuminated by white fluorescent strips. Powerful amplifiers broadcast the imam's message across the town..."

Can you imagine living in a stone age arab shit-village where some loony mohamma-rama-dingo-dog 'imam' screeches his allah-crap on loudspeakers at night?

No wonder those sand goblin mammer-jammers had no problem with cashing in their chips!

4 posted on 10/03/2002 9:08:48 AM PDT by DWSUWF
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To: DWSUWF
I hope the people who target our nukes know about this place. The fit is going to hit the shan soon, and the fur will soon fly from the Wahhabist vermin... or should I say fry?
5 posted on 10/03/2002 9:39:13 AM PDT by Bon mots
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To: Bon mots
"...I hope the people who target our nukes know about this place..."

I have a mental image of a John Goodman-esque general, sitting at a console deep in a mountain command center, pecking away at a keyboard and saying (in that world-weary voice) "So many mosques... So little time..."

6 posted on 10/03/2002 9:45:30 AM PDT by DWSUWF
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To: aculeus
A stone age blood cult.
7 posted on 10/03/2002 9:47:38 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: aculeus
"Nuke them from orbit, it's the only way to be sure"
8 posted on 10/03/2002 9:52:26 AM PDT by Dead Dog
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To: Dead Dog
Our friends the Saudis? If they don’t even let us in their country, or near their terrorist recruiters? At least Saddam let us in, and is more open-minded to allow Christians to practice their faith openly in Iraq. There was ZERO Iraqis among the Sept 11 terrorists! We should defer the attack on Saddam, and plan on attacking Saudi Arabia, and Iran first!
9 posted on 10/03/2002 10:31:54 AM PDT by philosofy123
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To: philosofy123
Go to hell, you shill for appeasement.
10 posted on 10/03/2002 10:46:05 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
...that worships a moon god. This little town needs a daisy cutter.
11 posted on 10/03/2002 11:22:18 AM PDT by KC_Conspirator
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12 posted on 10/03/2002 11:22:42 AM PDT by Mo1
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To: wideawake
Go to hell, you shill for appeasement

As I posted a few points of reasoning about our real enemy the terrorists, and you posted simple insults; it is apparent that you are simply "a simple minded person"! There are thinkers, and there are followers; you know who you are?

13 posted on 10/04/2002 6:00:41 AM PDT by philosofy123
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To: philosofy123
Actually, we should effect a regime change for both of them. Saudi money and Imans are sreading terrorism throughout the western world.
14 posted on 10/04/2002 6:07:41 AM PDT by Truth29
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To: aculeus
Seems to me that we've found another target.
15 posted on 10/04/2002 6:11:06 AM PDT by NotJustAnotherPrettyFace
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To: Truth29
Actually, we should effect a regime change for both of them. Saudi money and Imans are sreading terrorism throughout the western world.

Our government appears to be indifferent to the Saudi funding of terrorism throughout the world. The arrogant Saudi regime refuses to allow our investigators in their country.

How is it acceptable to any American to think that we are the strongest nation on earth, the only superpower on earth, and being dictated to by a small raghead desert dictatorship! Our outrage should be directed to Saudi Arabia, and not to Saddam. Saddam is a dictator like all other Arab leaders. However, he should not be our first priority.

If Japan places high taxes on our products, we all object to its unfair trade practice. Similarly, the Saudi Islamic missionaries are all over the west building mosques and refusing to allow Christians and Jews similar rights. Now who is the dominant dog in this relationship?

16 posted on 10/04/2002 7:46:41 AM PDT by philosofy123
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To: philosofy123
Unfortunately, I agree with you. We need to bring about a new gov in Iraq, but Saudi Arabia is actually more dangerous to the continental US and we absolutely refuse to deal with that reality.
17 posted on 10/04/2002 11:47:10 AM PDT by Truth29
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To: aculeus
See also:

Garden of evil ( "Well, the Americans deserved it, didn't they?")


18 posted on 10/04/2002 11:51:12 AM PDT by dead
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To: aculeus
bump
19 posted on 10/04/2002 11:59:58 AM PDT by VOA
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