Said al-Ghamdi Alive
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The story...

Said al-Ghamdi is alive, according to a story published by the BBC.

Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi.

Our take...

The Telegraph expanded on this story in a report published on the 23rd of September:

The Saudi Airlines pilot, Saeed Al-Ghamdi, 25, and Abdulaziz Al-Omari, an engineer from Riyadh, are furious that the hijackers' "personal details" - including name, place, date of birth and occupation - matched their own.

Mr Al-Ghamdi was named as a terrorist on the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania - a plane said by some experts to have been heading for the White House.

He first knew that he was on the FBI's list when he was told by a colleague. Speaking from Tunisia, he said: "I was completely shocked. For the past 10 months I have been based in Tunis with 22 other pilots learning to fly an Airbus 320. The FBI provided no evidence of my presumed involvement in the attacks.

"You cannot imagine what it is like to be described as a terrorist - and a dead man - when you are innocent and alive." The airline was angry too. Officials brought Mr Al-Ghamdi back to Saudi Arabia last week for a 10-day holiday to avoid arrest or interrogation.

An official said: "We are consulting lawyers about what action to take to protect the reputation of our pilots." Mr Al-Ghamdi faced further embarrassment when CNN, the American television network, flashed a photograph of him around the world, naming him as a hijack suspect.

The FBI had published his personal details but with a photograph of somebody else, presumably a hijacker who had "stolen" his identity. CNN, however, showed a picture of the real Mr Al-Ghamdi.

He said that CNN had probably got the picture from the Flight Safety flying school he attended in Florida. CNN has since broadcast a clarification saying that the photograph may not be that of the accused.

This seems to be a substantial claim, in that “name, place, date of birth and occupation” are all claimed to match. Of course a report of someone saying this doesn’t make it true, and there’s at least one reason to doubt the claim: the 14th September FBI hijackers list entry for Al-Ghamdi.

1) Saeed Alghamdi - Possible residence: Delray Beach, Florida.

Even by the 27th FBI list, with photographs (and after the "still alive" Al Ghamdi came forward) this had only expanded to:

Saeed Alghamdi

-Possible residence: Delray Beach, Florida

-Alias: Abdul Rahman Saed Alghamdi; Ali S Alghamdi; Al- Gamdi; Saad M.S. Al Ghamdi; Sadda Al Ghamdi; Saheed Al-Ghamdi; Seed Al Ghamdi

But note there's no mention of nationality (unlike others on the list), when or where he was born, or his occupation. If these were published by the US authorities prior to the 23rd, then why aren’t they included here? If he read details that came from some other source, then we don’t know that they were correct. The idea that his details matched those of the hijacker isn’t in any way substantiated here.

Another complication is that this Alghamdi says he’s been based in Tunis for the last 10 months. During this period the Alghamdi referred to by the FBI had been leaving a paper trail for the US, including a driving licence application that was taken on the 10th of July, 2001 ( -- another indication that we’re talking about two different people. There’s confirmation within the Telegraph story in the talk of the FBI Alghamdi photograph, which the “still alive” Alghamdi says is of “somebody else”. 

A later story in the Boston Globe certainly seems to have no problem linking Alghamdi to the other hijackers, and suggesting they were all involved:

The Seqeley mosque was built as a gift to the town by a branch of the prominent and respected Alshehri tribe known as the Seqeley family, construction firm owners who worked closely with the late building magnate Mohammed bin Laden on the winding highway that cuts through the middle of Hamis Mushayt.

It was in this mosque that four young Saudi men - two brothers from the Seqeley family known as Wael and Walid Alshehri and their friends Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi from nearby Abha - are believed by several friends and a local cleric to have taken a solemn oath to go and carry out ''jihad.''

Friends who knew them say they gathered in the mosque in the spring of 2000 to pray and meditate in an informal ceremony that bound them to jihad and, if necessary, to die in the defense of Islam. In the months that lay ahead, they began secretly slipping away from their families.

Eventually, they were swept into Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network, and US investigators say they were among the Saudis who hijacked four jetliners on Sept. 11.

Of course the lack of a source for these claims makes it weak as evidence, and perhaps you don’t trust the US media on these issues, anyway. In which case, how about Germany’s Der Spiegel? They investigated the Alghamdi “still alive” claims, and reported they were nothing more than mistaken identity. This is the relevant section.

Take the BBC, for example, which did in fact report, on September 23, 2001, that some of the alleged terrorists were alive and healthy and had protested their being named as assassins.

But there is one wrinkle. The BBC journalist responsible for the story only recalls this supposed sensation after having been told the date on which the story aired. "No, we did not have any videotape or photographs of the individuals in question at that time," he says, and tells us that the report was based on articles in Arab newspapers, such as the Arab News, an English-language Saudi newspaper.

The operator at the call center has the number for the Arab News on speed dial. We make a call to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A few seconds later, Managing Editor John Bradley is on the line. When we tell Bradley our story, he snorts and says: "That's ridiculous! People here stopped talking about that a long time ago."

Bradley tells us that at the time his reporters did not speak directly with the so-called "survivors," but instead combined reports from other Arab papers. These reports, says Bradley, appeared at a time when the only public information about the attackers was a list of names that had been published by the FBI on September 14th. The FBI did not release photographs until four days after the cited reports, on September 27th.

The photographs quickly resolved the nonsense about surviving terrorists. According to Bradley, "all of this is attributable to the chaos that prevailed during the first few days following the attack. What we're dealing with are coincidentally identical names." In Saudi Arabia, says Bradley, the names of two of the allegedly surviving attackers, Said al-Ghamdi and Walid al-Shari, are "as common as John Smith in the United States or Great Britain."

The final explanation is provided by the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, one of the sources of Arab News, which in turn serves as a source to the BBC. Mohammed Samman is the name of the reporter who interviewed a man named Said al-Ghamdi in Tunis, only to find that al-Ghamdi was quite horrified to discover his name on the FBI list of assassins.

Samman remembers his big story well. "That was a wonderful story," he says. And that's all it was. It had nothing to do with the version made up of Bröckers' and Bülow's combined fantasies.

"The problem," says Samman, "was that after the first FBI list had been published, CNN released a photo of the pilot Said al-Ghamdi that had been obtained from the files of those Saudi pilots who had at some point received official flight training in the United States."

After Samman's story was reported by the news agencies, he was contacted by CNN. "I gave them Ghamdi's telephone number. The CNN people talked to the pilot and apologized profusely. The whole thing was quite obviously a mix-up. The Ghamdi family is one of the largest families in Saudi Arabia, and there are thousands of men named Said al-Ghamdi."

When we ask Samman to take another look at the FBI's list of photographs, he is more than happy to oblige, and tells us: "The Ghamdi on the photo is not the pilot with whom I spoke.",1518,265160-2,00.html

A CNN clip confirms that their picture was not of the alleged hijacker (click it to view the video, in XviD AVI format, 1.5 MB):


A German 9/11 site confirms this with a better resolution image (source):


It seems the pilot al-Ghamdi is a different individual to the alleged hijacker, then, and the “still alive” claim is mostly likely just a case of mistaken identity.

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