LONDON – The United States is conducting a manhunt for a previously unknown group believed to be involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks, according to a US cable published in Wednesday’s Telegraph newspaper.
In the memo, leaked by the WikiLeaks website, a US official in Qatar told the Department for Homeland Security in Washington that three Qatari men were under suspicion of conducting surveillance operations on the attack sites.
The team, who flew from the US to London a day before the attacks, aroused suspicion after refusing to allow cleaners into their Los Angeles hotel room which staff earlier noted contained several “pilot type uniforms.”
According to the cable sent by Mirembe Nantongo, the deputy chief of mission in Doha, the men “visited the World Trade Centre, the Statue of Liberty, the White House and various areas in Virginia,” weeks before the attacks.
The group had tickets to fly on an American Airlines Boeing 757 jet from Los Angeles to Washington DC on September 10 but failed to board, and flew to London instead. A day later, the 757 plane was flown into the Pentagon, killing 184 people.
The cable, sent in February 2010, revealed the concerns of hotel staff during the group’s stay in Los Angeles.
“Hotel cleaning staff grew suspicious of the men because they noticed pilot type uniforms, several laptops and several cardboard boxes addressed to Syria, Jerusalem, Afghanistan and Jordan in the room,” the memo stated.
“The men had… a cellular phone attached by wire to a computer,” it added. “The room also contained pin feed computer paper print outs with headers listing pilot names, airlines, flight numbers, and flight times.”
A subsequent FBI investigation found that the men’s flight tickets and hotel were paid for by a “convicted terrorist,” according to the memo.
According to the cable, the three men, named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid, were helped by a fourth man, Mohamed Al Mansoori, while in the US.
Mansoori, who has never been publicly named in connection with the 9/11 attacks, is suspected of “aiding people who entered the US before the attacks to conduct surveillance… and providing other support to the hijackers.”
Mansoori is under FBI investigation and had his visa revoked after the information came to light but “his name was not watchlisted in the class system,” implying he may have left the US.
The three Qatari suspects were mentioned in a leaked list of 300 people that the FBI wanted to question over the attacks, which killed over 3,000 people.
The 9/11 Commission report, released in 2004, confirmed that at least two of the hijackers had a “brief stay in Los Angeles about which we know little.”