A convicted al-Qaeda operative has claimed that members of the terrorist network received extensive financial support from members of the Saudi royal family throughout the late 1990’s and into 2000, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
Zacarias Moussaou, a 46-year-old French native serving life in prison for his role in the 9/11 attacks, said he was instructed by Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan to create a database of all of the donors to the group.
Among those who donated, Moussaou alleges, were the Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal and the longtime Saudi ambassador to the US
Prince Bandar Bin Sultan.
Moussaou also claims that he discussed plans to shoot down Air Force One with a staff member at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
In the wake of Moussaou’s testimony, the Saudi Embassy released a statement calling Moussaou a “deranged criminal” and denying that the Saudi government had ever funded Al Qaeda. Robert Grenier, the CIA’s former counterterrorism chief, has called Mousaoui’s allegations “inconceivable,” and a former top Navy terrorism investigator, Robert McFadden, compared the claims to “a unicorn,” the Guardian reported.
Though Moussaou was diagnosed as mentally ill by a court psychologist, he was deemed competent to stand trial on terrorism charges and was described by the Times as seeming “calm and largely coherent” throughout his 100-page testimony.
“Moussaoui describes meeting in Saudi Arabia with Salman, then the crown prince, and other Saudi royals while delivering them letters from Osama bin Laden,” according to the Times.
Whether or not Saudi Arabia was involved in planning and financing the 9/11 attacks has long been a subject of dispute. The relationship between the 19 hijackers — 15 of them Saudi nationals — and the Saudi government remains unclear.
Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who served as the co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, believes the answer lies in 28 pages of the congressional report on the attacks that explore Saudi Arabia’s connections to the 9/11 plot.
Mr. Graham has said that “the real threat to national security is non-disclosure,” and has called the classification of the documents “a sustained and effective campaign to keep the American public from knowing the truth” — which he says involves the Saudis gave substantial financial assistance to at least two of the hijackers, and possibly all 19, prior to the 9/11 attacks.
In 2013, Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., were given access to the redacted 28 pages. They have since urged President Obama to declassify them.
“I was absolutely shocked by what I read,” Jones told International Business Times. “What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me.”
Earlier this month, former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham joined Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), as well as 9/11 families, in a press conference calling for the complete release of the 2002 report, the Daily Beast reported.
Saudi Arabia has been fending off lawsuits connecting its government to the 9/11 attacks for more than a decade. Families of Sept. 11 victims allege that Saudi Arabia and a government-affiliated charity knowingly provided funding and other material support to al Qaeda that helped it carry out the attacks, Reuters reported.
Initially filed in 2002, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2005 on the grounds that Saudi Arabia enjoyed “sovereign immunity,” but has since been reinstated. Saudi lawyers have insisted that the 9/11 Commission exonerated the Saudi government of all charges, but Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who served on the commission, said that the Saudis’ argument is “fundamentally inaccurate and misleading.”
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