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Declassified information reveals indirect 9/11 link to Saudi royal Prince Bandar

The alleged link between alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and a company associated

world Updated: Aug 06, 2016 21:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
9-11 attacks,Prince Bandar bin Sultan,Saudi royal family
Family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center visit the South Pool during ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary in New York, September 11, 2011.(Agency file photo)

Newly declassified information from a 2002 congressional report on the 9/11 attacks, dubbed the “28 pages,” reveals an indirect link to a Saudi royal, CNN has reported.

The alleged link between alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and a company associated with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and a key member of the country’s royal family, was previously hidden from the American public.

The connection to Bandar was made through the phone book of Zubaydah, allegedly a recruiter for al Qaeda and a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, who was captured in Pakistan in 2002. In it, the FBI found numbers linked to the US, including an unlisted number for a company that managed Bandar’s estate in Aspen, Colorado. An unlisted number was also found for a bodyguard who worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

“Both of those numbers were unpublished, so they had to have gotten into Zubaydah’s phone book through a personal contact who knew what those numbers were and what they represented,” said former Sen. Bob Graham, co-chair of the congressional commission that compiled the 28 pages.

The CIA and FBI had concluded that there was no evidence anyone from the Saudi royal family knowingly provided support for the 9/11 attacks.

But Graham said the indirect connection to the respected former Saudi ambassador was “one of the most stunning parts of the investigation” and worthy of pursuing further.

Bandar was the Saudi ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005, during the Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush administrations. He later served as secretary general of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council and head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency, the equivalent of the CIA, until last year.

He was known to have the closest relationship with George H W Bush, because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the 1990 Gulf War. Saudi Arabia viewed the Iraqi aggression as a threat and supported the subsequent US military action.

The declassified information detail a web of Saudi nationals living in the US who may have aided the 9/11 hijackers.

The 28 pages also raise questions about another possible link between Bandar and the attacks: the prince’s relationship with a Saudi national named Osama Bassnan, who was living in the US on 9/11 and was investigated to determine if he helped two of the hijackers. The declassified pages reveal previously undisclosed amounts of money that Bandar and his wife sent to the man’s family.

According to a document of the 9/11 commission, Bassnan, a former employee of the Saudi government’s educational mission in Washington, lived across the street from two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego: Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Hazmi and Mihdhar were on the plane that crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

Bassnan admitted to an FBI asset that he met Hazmi and Mihdhar while the hijackers were in San Diego, then denied this in a subsequent conversation.

Neither the FBI nor Saudi embassy commented on the CNN’s story. But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel defended Bandar.

“He had tremendous access to the White House. He had access to the CIA, Department of Justice, the Hill, media,” Riedel said. “I just find it stretches credulity that he would somehow be involved in a plot to attack the United States of America,” he said.

First Published: Aug 06, 2016 15:01 IST