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May 9, 1978
Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
September 11, 2001 (aged 23)|
World Trade Center
Marwan Yousef Mohamed Rashid Lekrab al-Shehhi ( Marwān Yūsuf ash-Sheḥḥī, also transliterated as Alshehhi) (May 9, 1978 – September 11, 2001) was the hijacker-pilot who crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the second World Trade Center tower on September 11, 2001.
Al-Shehhi was a student from the United Arab Emirates who moved to Hamburg in 1996 and soon became close friends with Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and Ramzi Binalshibh . Together, after pledging their lives to martyrdom, they became the masterminds of the September 11th attacks. He trained at the Huffman Aviation pilot school with Mohamed Atta. At 23 years of age, he was the youngest of the four pilots.
Al-Shehhi was born in Ras al-Khaimah, on May 9, 1978, in the United Arab Emirates, to a Muslim cleric. He was described as a quiet and devout Muslim.
After graduating from high school in 1995, al-Shehhi enlisted in the Emirati military and was soon admitted into a military scholarship program that allowed him to continue his education in Germany. In February, 1996, al-Shehhi enrolled in a language institute in Bonn, Germany. He boarded with a local family. It took two years for him to learn enough German before he enrolled in a university with his military scholarship. According to some reports, he received a Florida driver's license in 1997. He spent several months in 1998 trying to pass a language exam in Hamburg, but returned to Bonn after he failed.
Al-Shehhi moved to Hamburg in 1999, and helped form the Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh. There, his views became more and more radical. They met three or four times a week to discuss anti-American feelings and plot possible attacks. When someone asked why he and Atta never laughed, Al-Shehhi retorted, "How can you laugh when people are dying in Palestine?" Al-Shehhi committed himself to fighting and dying for his beliefs.
In late 1999, al-Shehhi, Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Said Bahaji, and Ramzi Binalshibh decided to travel to Chechnya to fight against the Russians, but were convinced by Khalid al-Masri and Mohamedou Ould Slahi at the last minute to change their plans. They instead traveled to Afghanistan to meet with Osama bin Laden and train for terrorist attacks. Immediately afterwards, Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah reported their passports stolen, possibly to erase travel visas to Afghanistan.
After their training, the hijackers began to attempt to hide their radicalism. Al-Shehhi shaved his beard and seemed to his old friends like he had become less religious. After the attacks, a librarian in Hamburg reported that al-Shehhi boasted to her "There will be thousands of dead. You will think of me ... You will see, in America something is going to happen. There will be many people killed."
Al-Shehhi returned to Germany in March 2000, and began to learn to fly a jet. Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, one of the most important 9/11 financial organizers, bought a Boeing 747 flight simulator program using al-Shehhi's credit card. Eventually they decided that German flight schools would not work for them, and they decided to train in the United States.
The September 11 Attacks
Flight education and preparation
Al-Shehhi was the first of the Hamburg group to leave for the United States. He arrived in Newark airport on May 29, 2000. Mohamed Atta joined him the next month, and the two began to search for flight schools. Al-Shehhi posed as a body guard of a "Saudi Arabian royal family member" (really Atta) while the two of them took flying lessons in Venice, Florida. They also logged hundreds of hours on a Boeing 727 flight simulator. They received their licenses by December 2000. Their expenses were paid for by Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. On either December 26 or 27, Atta and Marwan abandoned a Piper Cherokee that had stalled on the runway of Miami International Airport. On December 29, Atta and Marwan went to the Opa-Locka Airport and practiced on a Boeing 727 simulator.
Al-Shehhi began to take "surveillance flights" in the summer of 2001, watching the operations of flight crews and making final preparations.
Travels in Early 2001
Ziad Jarrah, Mohamed Atta, and Shehhi, having progressed in their training, all took foreign trips during the holiday period of 2000-2001. When Atta returned to Florida, Shehhi left for Morocco, traveling to Casablanca in mid-January 2001. Shehhi's family, concerned about not having heard from him, reported him missing to the UAE government. The USE embassy in turn contacted the Hamburg police and a UAE representative tried to find him in Germany, visiting mosques and Shehhi's last address in Hamburg. After learning that his family was looking for him, Shehhi telephoned them on January 20 and said he was living and studying in Hamburg. The UAE government then told the Hamburg police they could call off the search.
Atta and Shehhi both encountered some difficulty reentering the United States, on January 10 and January 19, respectively. Because neither presented a student visa, both of them had to persuade INS inspectors that they should be admitted so that they could continue their flight training. Neither operative had any problem clearing Customs.
After returning to Florida from their trips, Atta and Shehhi visited Georgia, staying briefly in Norcross and Decatur, and renting a single-engine plane to fly with an instructor in Lawrenceville. By February 19, Atta and Shehhi were in Virginia. They had rented a mailbox in Virginia Beach, cashed a check, and then promptly returned to Georgia, staying in Stone Mountain.
In mid-March, Ziad Jarrah was in Georgia as well, staying in Decatur. At the end of the month, Jarrah left the United States again and visited Senguen in Germany for two weeks. In early April, Atta and Shehhi returned to Virginia Beach and closed the mailbox they had opened in February.
Atta and Shehhi returned to Virginia Beach from their travels in Georgia, making their way to a large Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, sometime in early April. They were joined there by 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Hani Hanjour who had moved out of San Diego and Arizona after living in or visiting Abdussattar Shaikh's house, where Khalid Almihdhar also stayed. This mosque had recently in January 2001 hired the same imam Anwar al-Awlaki with whom Hazmi had spent time at the Rabat mosque in San Diego. He remembered Hazmi from San Diego but denied having contact with Hazmi or Hanjour in Virginia.
Atta and Shehhi returned to Florida and moved into an apartment in Coral Springs. Atta stayed in Florida, awaiting the arrival of the first muscle hijackers.
Shehhi, on the other hand, bought a ticket to Cairo and flew there from Miami on April 18. Shehhi did meet with Atta's father, who stated in a post-9/11 interview that Shehhi just wanted to pick up Atta's international driver's license and some money. This story is not credible. Atta already had the license with him and presented it during a traffic stop on April 26 while Shehhi was till abroad. Shehhi spent about two weeks in Egypt, obviously more time than would have been needed just to meet with Atta's father. Shehhi could have traveled elsewhere during this time, but no records indicating additional travel have been discovered.
Shehhi returned to Miami on May 2. That day, Atta and Jarrah were together, about 30 miles to the north, visiting a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, to get Florida driver's licenses.
In mid July 2001, some of the hijackers and members of the Hamburg cell gathered near Salou, Spain, for a period of a few days up to a couple of weeks. Since hotel records are sparse during some of that time, it is thought that they may have spent considerable time in and around safe houses related to the al-Qaeda leader in Spain, Imad Yarkas. After 9/11, Spanish investigators followed the trails backwards, and the events they uncovered were chronicled in the Spanish nationwide newspaper El País. Witnesses told Spanish investigators they saw a man who resembled Al-Shehhi on July 17, 2001 at the Universal Studios Port Aventura theme park next to Salou, Spain. The visitor, who was accompanied by two men, inquired about rides at the customer service counter. Witnesses indicated these companions resembled Ziad Jarrah, the later pilot on United Airlines Flight 93, and Said Bahaji, a then 26-year-old German-Moroccan member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg. Back in Germany, it had been Bahaji's 1999 wedding during which Al-Shehhi was filmed. Other witnesses elsewhere had pointed out Bahaji from photos, as one of the men they saw in Spain. But Bahaji also bore a resemblance in appearance to Mohamed Atta, who was traced to the same areas in Spain through his hotel and travel records.
On August 23, Mossad reportedly gave his name to the CIA as part of a list of 19 names they say are planning an attack in the near future. Only four of the names are known for certain - Nawaf, Atta, Marwan and al-Mihdhar.
On August 26, Marwan signed into the Panther Motel in Deerfield Beach, Florida, paying $500 USD, saying he wanted to stay until September 2, and listing a Mailboxes Etc. as his permanent address. His register entry indicated that he was driving a blue Chevrolet Malibu, assumed to be the one rented by Atta two weeks prior, and manager Richard Surma said that he bent rules to allow Marwan to have another man as an overnight guest. On August 28, Marwan went to the Miami International Airport, accompanied by an unknown man, where he purchased his ticket for Flight 175. On September 9, the motel manager cleaning the room al-Shehhi had vacated found a bag containing a German/English dictionary, a protractor, flight manuals and local airport listings. Another employee later reported finding a box cutter.
According to librarian Kathleen Hensmen, Wail al-Shehri and Waleed al-Shehri used Internet access at Delray Beach Public Library in August, 2001, where they may have been looking at information on crop dusting. They reportedly left the library with a third middle-eastern man, thought to be Marwan al-Shehhi, whom Hensmen claimed asked her for the name of a local restaurant.
Staff at Shuckum's Oyster Bar claimed they recognized both Atta and Marwan as two of the people who had been at the restaurant on either September 7 or 8. While there are varying stories about Atta's activities, all sources indicate that al-Shehhi drank rum and coke while talking to the others.
On September 10, 2001, al-Shehhi was one of four hijackers (Marwan, Banihammad, Mohand, and al-Suqami) sharing a room at the Milner Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, where one of them called around for prostitutes, but eventually nixed the idea, possibly based on finances.
Carrying out the attack
He boarded Flight 175 around 7:25 am. About a half an hour into the flight, the plane was hijacked. Al-Shehhi is believed to have taken control of the plane and directed it to New York City. The plane flew into the south tower of World Trade Center in a coordinated attack that killed 2,974 people.
Timeline in America
Late in 2005, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Congressman Curt Weldon alleged that the Defense Department data mining project Able Danger had kept Marwan, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Mohamed Atta all under surveillance as Al-Qaeda agents.
- May 29, 2000: Al-Shehhi enters the United States.
- June 19, 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta stay at short-term rental in New York City.
- July 2, 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta visit the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma.
- July, 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta move to Venice, Florida and take pilot training classes at Huffman Aviation from July to December.
- December 21, 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta get their pilot licenses.
- December 26 or December 27 , 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta abandon a small plane that stalled on a runway at Miami International Airport.
- December 29–30, 2000: Al-Shehhi and Atta train on a Boeing 727 simulator at Opa-Locka Airport near Miami, Florida.
- January 25, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta in Norcross and Decatur, Georgia.
- February 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta rent a single-engine plane from a Gwinnett County, Georgia flight school.
- February 19, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta rent a mail box in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- April 11, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta lease an apartment in Coral Springs, Florida.
- May 13 - June 13, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta live on Jackson Street in Hollywood, Florida.
- May 24, 2001: Al-Shehhi arrives in Las Vegas on a commercial flight, rents a car, and stays three nights in two hotels.
- Mid-June 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta move into Tarra Gardens condo in Coral Springs, Florida.
- August 15-August 19, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta rent a car in Pompano Beach, Florida and return it with almost 3,000 miles logged.
- September 7, 2001: Al-Shehhi and Atta stay at a Holiday Inn close to Sarasota, Florida.
- September 9, 2001: Al-Shehhi returns a car previously rented by Atta to WARRICK RENT-A-CAR, Pompano Beach, Florida, and asks the charge be removed from Atta's credit card and placed on his.
- Alternate forms of his name include Marwan Yusif Muhammad Rashid Al-Shehi, Marwan Yusif Muhammad Rashid Lakrab Al-Shihhi, and others. He was known to have used the alias Abu Abdullah.
- "Names of hijackers." St. Petersburg Times. September 15, 2001
- The 9/11 Commission Report. pg. 162.
- "Wedding video shows Sept. 11 hijackers, plotters." USA Today. May 5, 2003.
- April-May 2000: Hijacker Tells Librarian About Major Attack in US." The Complete 9/11 Timeline: Cooperative Research.
- Butler, Desmond. " Germans Issue First Indictment in the 9/11 Plot." The New York Times. August 29, 2002.
- Bernstein, Richard. "On Path to the U.S. Skies, Plot Leader Met bin Laden." New York Times. September 10, 2002.
- "August 23, 2001: Mossad Reportedly Gives CIA List of Terrorist Living in US; at Least Four 9/11 Hijackers Named." The Complete 9/11 Timeline: Cooperative Research.
- "Report details US 'intelligence failures'." BBC News. 2 October 2002.
- "Statement for the Record, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry." Federation of American Scientists, FAS.org. September 26, 2002.
- Puit, Glenn. "Terror Trail: Las Vegas visits might remain mystery." Las Vegas Review-Journal. November 02, 2001.
- Thompson, Paul. The Terror Timeline. ReganBooks, 2004. ISBN 0-06-078338-9.
- The 9/11 Commission Report. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32671-3.