The Plan Evolves
Bin Ladin reportedly discussed the planes operation with KSM and Atef in a
series of meetings in the spring of 1999 at the al Matar complex near Kanda-
har. KSM's original concept of using one of the hijacked planes to make a media
statement was scrapped, but Bin Ladin considered the basic idea feasible. Bin
Ladin, Atef, and KSM developed an initial list of targets. These included the
White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center.
According to KSM, Bin Ladin wanted to destroy the White House and the Pen-
tagon, KSM wanted to strike the World Trade Center, and all of them wanted
to hit the Capitol. No one else was involved in the initial selection of targets.
Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives:
Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, Khallad, and Abu Bara al Yemeni. During
the al Matar meetings, Bin Ladin told KSM that Mihdhar and Hazmi were so
eager to participate in an operation against the United States that they had
already obtained U.S. visas. KSM states that they had done so on their own after
the suicide of their friend Azzam (Nashiri's cousin) in carrying out the Nairobi
bombing. KSM had not met them. His only guidance from Bin Ladin was that
the two should eventually go to the United States for pilot training.
Hazmi and Mihdhar were Saudi nationals, born in Mecca. Like the others
in this initial group of selectees, they were already experienced mujahideen.
They had traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the
Balkans in 1995. By the time Hazmi and Mihdhar were assigned to the planes
operation in early 1999, they had visited Afghanistan on several occasions.
Khallad was another veteran mujahid, like much of his family. His father had
been expelled from Yemen because of his extremist views. Khallad had grown
up in Saudi Arabia, where his father knew Bin Ladin, Abdullah Azzam, and
Omar Abdel Rahman (the "Blind Sheikh"). Khallad departed for Afghanistan
in 1994 at the age of 15.Three years later, he lost his lower right leg in a bat-
tle with the Northern Alliance, a battle in which one of his brothers died.After
this experience, he pledged allegiance to Bin Ladin--whom he had first met
as a child in Jeddah--and volunteered to become a suicide operative.
When Khallad applied for a U.S. visa, however, his application was denied.
Earlier in 1999, Bin Ladin had sent Khallad to Yemen to help Nashiri obtain
explosives for the planned ship-bombing and to obtain a visa to visit the United
States, so that he could participate in an operation there. Khallad applied under
another name, using the cover story that he would be visiting a medical clinic
to obtain a new prosthesis for his leg. Another al Qaeda operative gave Khal-
lad the name of a person living in the United States whom Khallad could use
as a point of contact on a visa application. Khallad contacted this individual to
help him get an appointment at a U.S. clinic. While Khallad was waiting for
the letter from the clinic confirming the appointment, however, he was
arrested by Yemeni authorities.The arrest resulted from mistaken identity: Khal-
lad was driving the car of another conspirator in the ship-bombing plot who
was wanted by the Yemeni authorities.
AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND
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