DAY OF INFAMY 2001
Airline denied Atta
paradise wedding suit
At last minute, American turned away luggage containing cologne, gold Koran
Posted: September 11, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Paul Sperry
WASHINGTON – The clothing found in one of hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta's bags wasn't a pilots' uniform, as first reported, but his paradise wedding suit, says an American Airlines employee who was with authorities when they first opened his luggage.
Alongside the navy suit – which was eerily laid out as if Atta were in it, with a sapphire-blue necktie looped under a crisp dress-shirt collar and neatly knotted – was a bottle of cologne. At the foot of the bag, which had been locked, was a fancy leather-bound Koran painted gold.
"It was like opening a casket," the American employee said in an exclusive WorldNetDaily interview.
Because of an American policy instated just before Sept. 11 to curb baggage-related flight delays, Atta's two checked bags – which had been held up from an earlier flight – were left behind in Boston, says the employee, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from the Dallas-based carrier, which continues to gag all employees from talking about the Sept. 11 hijackings. Two of the hijacked flights were American.
As it happens, Atta was the only passenger among the 81 aboard American Flight 11 whose luggage didn't make the flight, American sources confirm. Atta is thought to have piloted the Boeing 767, loaded with some 16,000 gallons of fuel, into the first World Trade Center tower a year ago today.
As a result, the 33-year-old Egyptian native, who was single, was denied his ceremonial outfit with which he apparently expected to enter the Muslim version of Heaven and join in "marriage" the "women of paradise ... dressed in their most beautiful clothing," as a five-page letter found in his other bag envisioned it.
According to the Koran, Muslims' sacred book, the afterworld is more a physical than metaphysical place, filled with sensuous earthly pleasures. Martyrdom, or dying in the cause of Allah, is the shortest path to get there.
In preparation for martrydom, ablution.
"Shave excess hair from the body and wear cologne. Shower," advises the letter, which was handwritten in Arabic and later translated by the FBI (it's still not clear if Atta penned the letter himself). "Do not leave your apartment unless you have performed ablution."
The clothing found in Atta's bag has previously been described as a pilots' uniform.
But there were no markings or any other signs that indicated so, the American employee says.
"It was a suit," he said. "It was not a pilot's uniform."
The bag with the clothing, moreover, included only personal items, whereas the other bag contained utility items, such as navigational tools and even a large serrated knife.
"The personal stuff was by itself," he said. "The suit on the top, and the Koran in the gold leather case, with Arabic writing, at the bottom. And on the side was the cologne. Everything was perfectly placed."
He adds that the suit was neatly folded, and the tie was tied snug to the collar button.
He says as soon as he and others gathered at Logan International Airport saw the suit and other items arranged as they were in the suitcase, it became clear to them that Atta had no plans on coming back to this world.
"All the pieces came together when we saw that suit," he said. "This was his suitcase he thought he was going to get into paradise with."
The other bag, which had also been locked, contained, among other things:
One suitcase had Atta's earthly belongings, including many things he used or wanted to use in his mass-murdering plot, while the other contained his spiritual requirements to enter paradise.
"It was clear to us he did not want to check those bags," the American employee said.
Indeed, Atta intended to carry on all three of the bags he initially brought with him to Portland International Jetport in Maine earlier that morning, sources there say.
But Atta was forced to check his two larger bags, described as soft-sided with roller boards, because the 19-seat commuter plane he flew to Boston allows passengers just one carry-on bag each, says a US Airways Express employee who works at the ticket counter where Atta checked in.
The two bags were tagged for final destination to Los Angeles International Airport, which is where Flight 11 had been bound.
Both Atta and his traveling companion and fellow hijacker, Abdulaziz Alomari, boarded US Airways Express Flight 5930 with one carry-on each.
Their carry-ons also contained papers, says a passenger who was seated two rows in front of Atta on the shuttle flight.
Roger Quirion of Winslow, Maine, says he observed the two, who he says were "joined at the hip," while waiting at the gate.
"They were sitting together, acting very serious. They were going through papers, something from their carry-on," Quirion told WorldNetDaily.
"It struck me as though they were preparing for some type of meeting," he added. "I thought they were business travelers."
When Atta arrived at Logan's Terminal B from Portland, little did he know that US Airways was slow in transferring his bags from the commuter jet to the American baggage dock.
They arrived before takeoff – but after American's just-imposed cut-off time for late baggage. The new rule refused any bags delivered within 10 minutes of the flight's scheduled take-off. Atta's came within several minutes.
"His bags, which were transferred rampside, were transferred late by US Airways Express," the American employee said.
As soon as the bags were dropped off at American's loading dock, a ground-crew worker checked the tag, put them on a cart and drove them out to the 767 getting ready to taxi to the runway.
But he got a "thumbs down" by the crew that loads the bags, the employee said.
"It was about three minutes before departure," he said. "They had it locked up, and it was ready to go."
The bags were brought back and tagged for rerouting to the 11 a.m. flight to LAX, he says.
When it became clear that Flight 11 had been hijacked, the crew chief called the Massachusetts State Police, which dispatched a state trooper to the baggage rerouting area with a bomb-sniffing dog, says the American source, who assisted the trooper and other authorities.
After the dog cleared the bags for explosives, the trooper had the small locks on Atta's bags cut off and the bags opened.
Then the FBI got involved.
Authorities were able to quickly ID the bags as Atta's thanks to information a flight attendant aboard Flight 11 phoned down to an American flight-services manager at Logan. She described the attackers and gave their seat numbers and Atta's name.
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Paul Sperry is Washington bureau chief for WorldNetDaily and author of "Crude Politics."
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