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The FBI has launched a hunt for a team of men suspected of being part of the 9/11 attacks, according to a newly released US diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks.
The FBI has launched a hunt for a team of men suspected of being part of the 9/11 attacks, according to a newly released U.S. diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks.
The disclosure has raised suspicions that the three men, from the Middle East emirate of Qatar, were preparing to be a fifth suicide team, but aborted their attack at the last minute. Instead of boarding a domestic flight to the U.S. capital they instead returned to Doha, via London.
According to the year-old cable, which is viewable at WikiLeaks.ch, the men entered the U.S. on Aug. 15, 2001, and visited "the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and various areas in Virginia," where the Pentagon and CIA headquarters are.
Ten days later, they flew to Los Angeles and stayed in a hotel near the airport, which the FBI has established was paid for by a ''convicted terrorist," who had also paid for their airline tickets.
Hotel staff told investigators they saw pilot uniforms in their room, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report on the cable. On Sept. 10, 2011, they were booked on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington but did not board. The next day five terrorists hijacked the same aircraft and crashed it into the Pentagon.
Instead of boarding their flight to Washington, the Qatari suspects — named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid — flew back to London on a British Airways flight then on to Qatar.
Investigators are also hunting a fourth man, Mohamed Ali Mohamed Al Mansoori, who they say supported the alleged terrorists while they were in the United States.
The secret U.S. government cable was first published by British newspaper The Telegraph. The document was reportedly sent between the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar, and the Department for Homeland Security in Washington on Feb. 11, 2010.
It states: ''Mr Al Mansoori is currently under investigation by the FBI for his possible involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks. He is suspected of aiding people who entered the US before the attacks to conduct surveillance of possible targets and providing other support to the hijackers.''
But U.S. officials, while acknowledging the existence of the three-man team, have downplayed the Telegraph report: An unnamed U.S. official told The Washington Post that investigators already concluded that the men could not be charged. "There is no manhunt," said the official. "There is no active case. They were looked at, but it washed out."