Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman, “actively directed” a Saudi charity whose funding was “especially important to al Qaeda acquiring the strike capabilities used to launch attacks in the U.S.,” say court papers filed this week by lawyers representing 9/11 victims and their families.
The Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SHC), which Salman led from its founding in 1993 until it closed in 2011, helped fund “the very al Qaeda camps where the 9/11 hijackers received their training for the attacks, and the safe haven and facilities in Afghanistan where senior officials of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, planned and coordinated the attacks,” the court papers say.
King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud assumed the throne Jan. 23 after the death of King Abdullah, 90, who had ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005.
The lawyers filed approximately 4,000 pages of motions and supporting documents in federal court in Manhattan opposing Saudi Arabia’s renewed efforts to be dismissed as a defendant in the long-running civil lawsuit that arose from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.
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The Saudis and the Saudi High Commission had been dropped from the case years ago over claims of sovereign immunity, but they were reinstated as defendants in December 2013 after an appellate court reversed its earlier decision.
Graham: ‘Direct line’
Among the new filings is a six-page affidavit by former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired Congress’ Joint Inquiry into 9/11. Graham said he’s convinced there was a “direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia” and that “the American public deserves a more robust inquiry.”
One matter he said “deserves further attention and investigation is the relationship between three of the future hijackers and a Saudi family living in Sarasota” prior to 9/11.
FloridaBulldog.org, working with Irish journalist and author Anthony Summers, first reported in 2011 that the family of Abdulaziz al-Hijji and his wife, Anoud, abruptly moved out of their home about two weeks before 9/11 — leaving behind cars, clothing, furniture and food in the kitchen. The departure triggered an FBI investigation that lasted for at least two years, but was never disclosed to either Graham’s committee or the 9/11 Commission.
While FBI officials said publicly that the investigation found no connection to 9/11, FBI documents released later in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by Broward Bulldog Inc., the corporate name of the Florida Bulldog, stated there were “many connections” between the family “and individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”
Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch is currently reviewing 80,000 pages of records about 9/11 from the FBI’s Tampa office for possible release.
The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment via phone and email.
This week’s filings, and related news coverage by The New York Times and other national media, is turning up the heat on the Obama administration to make public 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry’s report concerning “specific sources of foreign support” for the 9/11 hijackers.
Those pages were censored on orders from then-President George W. Bush. Graham has said they are about “the role of Saudi Arabia in funding 9/11.”
The new filings in New York present an information mosaic of the kingdom’s actions leading up to the attacks. They cite primary documentation, including FBI reports, diplomatic cables and even a once-classified “threat matrix,” used to assess enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Also included are statements from witnesses, including Zacarias Moussaoui, who is serving a life sentence in a federal “supermax” prison in Colorado after pleading guilty in 2005 to charges that he helped plan the 9/11 attacks.
The Guantanamo threat matrix lists the Saudi High Commission among a number of “terrorist and terrorist support entities … identified in intelligence reports and U.S. government terrorism lists.”
The Saudi embassy reissued a statement made Tuesday that denounced Moussaoui as “a deranged criminal” without credibility and quoted the 9/11 Commission as saying there is “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda.
King Salman was a prince when he founded the SHC in 1993 with the support of then-King Fahd to aid Muslims in war-ravaged Bosnia-Herzegovina. A 2004 affidavit by Saudi Minister of State Dr. Mutlib bin Abudllah al-Nafissa describes the commission “as an arm of the Saudi Arabian government” and says “decisions regarding causes to support” were within Salman’s discretion.
An affidavit the same year by the commission’s former executive director, Saud bin Mohammad al-Roshood, said the commission spent $448 million on aid between 1993 and 2000.
The 9/11 victims contend the commission was not only a charity, but an Islamic organization “created by the government of the kingdom to propagate a radical strain of Islam throughout the world, commonly referred to as Wahhabism.”
The SHC “served as a primary conduit for the Kingdom’s massive sponsorship of al Qaeda’s jihad in the Balkans,” plaintiff’s court papers say.
To back it up, the pleadings cited both detailed investigative reports from the mid-1990s and interviews with witnesses like Ali Hamad, who helped coordinate al Qaeda’s military operations in Bosnia and was later convicted and jailed for a 1997 car bombing in Herzegovina.
Among other things, Hamad testified that the SHC provided him and other al Qaeda members with false employment papers so they could travel freely in the Balkans.
A United Nations-sponsored investigation determined Salman, the new king, “transferred in excess of $120 million from his personal accounts and SHC accounts under his control to the Third World Relief Agency [TWRA]” from July 1992 to July 1995, the pleading says.
Pipeline for arms
The 9/11 Commission identified Third World Relief as an al Qaeda front and pipeline for illegal arms shipments to al Qaeda fighters in the Balkans.
In October 2001, the U.S. and NATO raided SHC’s office in Sarajevo. On computer hard drives, the pleading says, investigators discovered files on deploying chemical agents with crop dusters, information on how to make fake State Department badges, and photographs and maps of Washington, marking prominent government buildings.
Also found: before and after photographs of the World Trade Center and photographs of other terrorist targets, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole.
Bosnian police soon arrested six al Qaeda members for plotting to conduct terrorist strikes on U.S. targets. Each was on SHC’s payroll and all six were later incarcerated at Guantanamo, the pleading says.
Government investigations also found evidence that the SHC played “a direct role” in arms trafficking for al Qaeda, the pleading says.
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