FBI releases document on probe into 9/11 attacks

It outlines contacts between hijackers and Saudi associates; found no proof Riyadh was involved

WASHINGTON: The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday released the first document related to its investigation of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and allegations of Saudi government support for the hijackers, following an executive order by President Joe Biden.

The partially redacted 16-page document outlined contacts between the hijackers and their Saudi associates, but no evidence the government in Riyadh was complicit in the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

The memo from April 4, 2016, showed links between Mr Omar Bayoumi, at the time a student but suspected to have been a Saudi intelligence operative, and two Al-Qaeda operatives who took part in the plot to hijack and crash four airliners into targets in New York and Washington.

Based on 2009 and 2015 interviews with a source whose identity is classified, the document details contacts and meetings between Mr Bayoumi and the two hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, after the two arrived in Southern California in 2000 ahead of the attacks.

The document released was still significantly redacted and did not offer a clear direct link between the Saudi government and the hijackers.

Saudi Arabia has long said it had no role in the attacks. In a statement issued on Sept 8, the Saudi embassy said the country has always advocated for transparency around the events of Sept 11, 2001, and welcomes the release by the US of the classified documents.

"As past investigations have revealed, including the 9/11 Commission and the release of the so-called '28 Pages', no evidence has ever emerged to indicate that the Saudi government or its officials had previous knowledge of the terrorist attack or were in any way involved," the statement said.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A US government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded Al-Qaeda, the group given safe haven by the Taliban in Afghanistan at the time. It left open whether individual Saudi officials might have done so.

The families of roughly 2,500 of those killed, more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers have sued Saudi Arabia seeking billions of dollars. - REUTERS, AFP