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9/11 Report: 10-Plane Attack Was Planned

By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Sept. 11 plot mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed originally envisioned an attack involving 10 hijacked planes with himself as the pilot of one in which all male passengers would be killed and he would deliver an anti-American harangue upon landing.

The assertion was among new details about the plot revealed Wednesday in a report by the staff of the independent commission investigating the attacks.

Based on interviews with government officials and documents they reviewed, said Mohammed initially proposed hitting CIA (news - web sites) and FBI (news - web sites) headquarters, unidentified nuclear plants and tall buildings in California and Washington state, in addition to the World Trade Center, Pentagon (news - web sites) and White House or Capitol.

Mohammed, who is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed overseas location, told interrogators that rather than crashing his hijacked plane into a target, he wanted to land and make a political statement. Mohammed proposed killing every male passenger aboard, landing at a U.S. airport and making a "speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East before releasing all the women and children."

That plan was rejected by Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), who ultimately approved a scaled-back mission involving four planes. Training for it began in 1999.

The report said Mohammed wanted more hijackers — up to 26, instead of the 19 who actually participated. The commission also identified at least 10 al-Qaida operatives who were to participate but could not take part for various reasons including visa problems and suspicion by officials at airports in the United States and overseas.

Far from a seamless operation, the report portrays a plot riven by internal dissent, including disagreement over whether to target the White House or the Capitol — a conflict that apparently never was resolved before the attacks. Bin Laden also had to overcome opposition to attacking the United States from Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (news - web sites), who was under pressure from Pakistan to keep al-Qaida confined.

The pilot of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, Ziad Jarrah, nearly quit the plot, leading Mohammed to consider replacing him with Zacarias Moussaoui, who was taking flight training in Minnesota, according to the report. Mohammed, however, has told his interrogators that Moussaoui actually was being considered for a second wave of attacks still in the early planning stages.

Moussaoui is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges. He's the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11 plot.

Ultimately, Jarrah was persuaded to participate by Ramzi Binalshibh, who helped plan and finance the attacks from Germany. He also is in U.S. custody overseas.

Among other new disclosures in the commission report:

_Mohamed Atta, the pilot of one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center and leader of the 19 hijackers, never met with Iraqi agents in Prague, Czech Republic. That purported meeting was cited as evidence of a possible al-Qaida connection to Iraq (news - web sites). "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred," the report said.

_Mohdar Abdullah, an illegal immigrant living in San Diego, provided assistance to two of the hijackers and later made jailhouse claims that he had advance knowledge of the attacks. Abdullah last month was deported to Yemen.

_Bin Laden originally wanted the attacks to occur on May 12, 2001, seven months after the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole (news - web sites) in Yemen that killed 17 sailors. Later, bin Laden sought to have the attacks occur in June or July 2001 because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) was scheduled to visit the White House. In both cases, Mohammed insisted the teams were not ready. Ultimately, Atta picked Sept. 11 because Congress would be in session.

_Bin Laden wanted the fourth plane to strike the White House, but Atta believed the White House was too difficult to hit. Eventually, Atta agreed to the White House but kept the Capitol in reserve. However, based on other exchanges between the hijackers, it remains unclear exactly which was the target on Sept 11.

_Atta said the hijackers planned to crash their planes to the ground if problems arose during the flights. Atta himself planned to crash his into the streets of New York if he couldn't strike the World Trade Center. The fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back against the hijackers.

_The plot cost upwards of $500,000. and no credible evidence has emerged that anyone in the United States provided financial support. There also is no evidence that Saudi Princess Haifa al Faisal, wife of that country's U.S. ambassador, Prince Bandar, provided any money to the conspiracy, directly or indirectly.
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