London: A group of Qatari men, suspected of supporting the plotters of the serial attacks of 9/11, may have been preparing for a fifth suicide strike in Washington, according to the secret US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks.
The disclosure, in US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, has raised suspicions that the three men were preparing to be a fifth suicide squad, but aborted their plan at the last minute and instead of boarding a domestic flight to the US capital they returned to Doha, via London, the Telegraph reported here.
The US intelligence has been hunting for the Qatari men - named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid - who have been accused of conducting surveillance on the targets of 9/11 terror attacks, and providing "support" to the plotters.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the series of airplane attacks by terrorist Sep 11, 2001. Two of the planes hijacked by attackers crashed into the twin tower of the World Trade Centre in New York. A third plane hit Pentagon and the fourth airliner crashed in Pennsylvania.
The diplomatic documents reveal that the men flew from London to New York on a British Airways flight three weeks before the attacks and allegedly carried out surveillance at the World Trade Centre, the White House and in Virginia, the US state where the Pentagon and CIA headquarters are located.
They later flew to Los Angeles, where they stationed themselves in a hotel near the airport which the FBI has now established was paid for by a "convicted terrorist", who also bought their airline tickets.
Hotel staff have told investigators they saw pilot uniforms in their room along with computer print outs detailing pilot names, flight numbers and times and packages addressed to Syria, Afghanistan, Jerusalem and Jordan.
On Sep 10, 2001 they were booked on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, but failed to board. The following day the same Boeing 757 aircraft was hijacked by five terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon.
US investigators are also hunting a fourth man, Mohamed Al Mansoori, who they say supported the alleged terrorist cell while they were in the US.
The fourth man, who is from the UAE, previously lived in Los Angeles. The US officials recommended that he is put on an international terror watch list because he "may pose a threat to aviation in the US and abroad".
The secret documents obtained by the whistleblower website was exchanged between the American embassy in Doha and the Department for Homeland Security in Washington.
The fact that the Qataris flew to and from America via London throws the spotlight back on Britain's role in the 9/11 attacks.
It is not known whether the FBI believe that the men were simply assisting the hijackers or were a fifth cell who pulled out at the final moment, the British daily said. Alternatively, they may have been planning an attack on the West Coast of America or even London which was abandoned or went wrong.
First Published: Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 19:29