FBI affidavit: Flight attendant made call to report hijacking
By JERRY HARKAVY
PORTLAND, Maine – An American Airlines employee received a cell phone call from a flight attendant aboard doomed Flight 11 shortly before it crashed into the World Trade Center, according to newly unsealed court documents.
The attendant told the employee that several men of Middle Eastern descent seated in the area of rows 9 and 10 were armed with knives, had wounded other passengers and were hijacking the plane, an FBI affidavit stated.
Mohamed Atta, who piloted the plane, was assigned seat 8D, according to the documents released in U.S. District Court. Another hijacker, Abdulaziz Alomari, was in 8G.
The FBI cited its interview with the American Airlines employee in an affidavit supporting its request for a search warrant for the rented car that Atta left at Portland International Jetport.
The affidavit did not identify the flight attendant or the airport employee. The Los Angeles Times last month quoted an FBI investigative document as saying that attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney contacted a ground manager in Boston, saying one passenger had been killed and two flight attendants had been stabbed.
"I see water and buildings. Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" Sweeney was said to have cried shortly before the crash.
The affidavit and a list of items found in the rented blue 2001 Nissan Altima were among court documents unsealed Thursday at the request of government lawyers.
The property inventory had 31 items, including hair samples taken from the car, seat-belt buckles, vacuum filters, food, a Chips Ahoy cookie package, a toothpick and maps. The affidavit did not say what areas of the country the maps covered.
Investigators said Atta and Alomari checked into the Comfort Inn in South Portland on the eve of the Sept. 11 hijacking and boarded a commuter flight to Boston the next morning.
From there, they boarded American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the north tower of the trade center. Their car was identified and seized late on Sept. 11 at a parking garage at the Portland airport.
Baggage that accompanied Atta and Alomari on the flight from Portland but did not get onto Flight 11 contained a hand-held electronic flight computer; a simulator procedures manual for Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft; two videotapes relating to "air tours" of the Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft; a slide-rule flight calculator; and a copy of the Quran, the affidavit said.
Also recovered from the luggage checked by Atta was a handwritten document in Arabic titled "In the name of God all mighty, Death Certificate." It instructs, "When I die, I want the people who will inherit my possessions to do the following," with detailed instructions, according to the FBI affidavit. The document was dated April 1996.
The documents were unsealed hours after the FBI released surveillance photos and a chronology detailing how Atta and Alomari spent their final hours in Portland and appealed to the public to come forward with any additional information. They stopped at a couple of ATMs and a gas station, and Atta visited a Wal-Mart, the chronology said.
The car was rented by Atta on the evening of Sept. 9 at an Alamo rental office in Boston, the affidavit said. It was due back at the Alamo office in Boston at 6 p.m. on the day of the attacks.
Authorities have said Atta and Alomari might have come to Portland to avoid attracting attention by having so many hijackers arrive at Logan. There were five hijackers on Flight 11 as well as on United Airlines Flight 175, which also left Boston before hitting the trade center's south tower.
On the Net:
Surveillance photos: www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel01/100401picts.htm