Exclusive: Cleric may have booked pre-9/11 flights for hijackers, FBI documents show

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The FBI suspected within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that  the American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may have purchased tickets for some  of the hijackers for air travel in advance of the attacks, according to newly  released documents reviewed exclusively by Fox News.

The purpose of these flights remains unclear, but the 9/11 Commission report  later noted that the hijackers had used flights in the lead-up to the attacks to  test security and surveillance.

The heavily redacted records – obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom  of information Act request – suggest the FBI held evidence tying the  American-born cleric to the hijackers just 16 days after the attack that killed  nearly 3,000 Americans.

“We have FBI documents showing that the FBI knew that al-Awlaki had bought  three tickets for three of the hijackers to fly into Florida and into Las Vegas,  including the lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial  Watch, told Fox News.

He added that the records show the cleric, killed in September 2011 by a U.S.  drone strike in Yemen, “was a central focus of the FBI’s investigation of 9/11.  They show he wasn’t cooperative. And they show that he was under  surveillance.”

One FBI investigative report known as a 302 summarizes the bureau’s investigation  of Al-Awlaki’s Visa transactions. While heavily redacted, the document  indicates a credit transaction for “Atta, Mohammed — American West Airlines,  08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami,” the document says.

The mid-August flight, according to the Joint Congressional Inquiry into  9/11, which first investigated the attacks, was one of Atta’s numerous and  crucial surveillance flights.

“On August 13, Atta flew a second time across country from Washington to Las  Vegas on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class) returning on August 14 to Fort  Lauderdale,” the 9/11 report reads.

The FBI documents also show a credit card record for a “Suqami, S. —-Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando.” Satam al-Suqami  was one of the muscle hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, which slammed  into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

The third individual, identified in the records is a “W. al-Sheri — National  Airlines, 08/01/2001, San Francisco to Las Vegas to Miami.”  This appears  to be either Waleed al-Shehri or Wail al-Shehri. The two brothers were also  muscle hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report.

As part of its ongoing investigation of the cleric, Fox News was first to  report in the special “Fox  News Reporting – The Secrets of 9/11,” broadcast in September 2011, that the  cleric was an overlooked key player in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

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