A newly released FBI document shows that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, usually referred to as KSM (timeline), travelled to South Africa in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks. There he received a wire transfer from Saeed Alghamdi, one of the presumed hijackers of Flight 93 on September 11.
The document is an FBI summary of Alghamdi’s activities. It was recently made available to researchers by the US National Archives, where it was found by History Commons contributor paxvector. It can be downloaded here.
The document says that on April 26, 2001 Alghamdi wired US$ 1,365 from the Injaz Foreign Exchange in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to an individual identifying himself as Abdullah Abdalrahman Alghamdi, who collected the money at the Index Western Union, 102 Medical News, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Variants of Abdullah Abdalrahman Alghamdi are a known alias for KSM. The 9/11 Commission reported that he used this alias at least twice in the summer of 2001.
According to the commission’s Terrorist Travel Monograph, on July 23 a person acting for KSM used the name variant “Abdulrahman al Ghamdi”—the name on a Saudi passport KSM had—to submit an application for a US visa for him through the Visa Express program in Saudi Arabia. Although the visa application used an alias, a photograph identified as KSM was later found in State Department files. The application was not submitted in person, but through a travel agent, Minhal Travel. This was the same travel agent used by Alghamdi to obtain his US visa the previous month.
Another version of the Alghamdi alias—this time “Abdulrahman Abdula Alghamdi”–was used to obtain a supplementary credit card, according to the recently released document. The card, issued on August 25, was linked to an account held by Mustafa Ahmed Alhawsawi, an alleged 9/11 facilitator currently being held with KSM in Guantanamo Bay.
Shortly before the attacks, the 9/11 hijackers returned excess money they had accumulated to al-Hawsawi in the United Arab Emirates. Al-Hawsawi then flew to Pakistan, and the card was used to withdraw money from his account on September 13 in Karachi. According to the commission’s Terrorist Travel Monograph, the card was not only issued for KSM using the Alghamdi alias, but was also personally used by KSM.
KSM is known to have travelled widely in the years before 9/11, visiting Southeast Asia, Italy, Brazil and the US. He also travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, in the run-up to the 1998 attacks on two US embassies in East Africa.
The news raises questions about the purpose of KSM’s visit to South Africa. It is possible he was there to meet locally-based al-Qaeda operatives.
The trip also highlights South Africa’s border security. Although KSM achieved global notoriety only after the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry revealed his alleged role in the attacks, by 2001 KSM was already an internationally wanted terrorist with a price of US$ 2 million on his head. In addition to the East African embassy bombings, he was also involved in a 1995 plot known as “Bojinka,” in which about a dozen airliners were to be blown up over the Pacific.
The third issue is information sharing. The FBI document makes clear that the information was discussed by the FBI’s legal attaché in Pretoria and Interpol’s Pretoria office, indicating local authorities must have been aware of the transfer from Alghamdi to KSM’s alias. At the time the FBI document was drafted, April 2002, the bureau does not seem to have connected the alias to KSM. This happened later, some time before the 9/11 Commission report was released in the summer of 2004. The two questions here are: Did the US inform South African authorities KSM travelled to their country in the run-up to 9/11? And, if they did, why did the local authorities not inform the public, who would presumably have liked to know this?