Another possible 20th 9/11 hijacker has been identified: another Saudi. Unlike many of the actual hijackers, this one was actually stopped by an immigration official as he was trying to enter the country. Later, however, he turned up in Afghanistan, which most likely confirms that his intention was indeed jihad. This from AP:
A Saudi man who was prevented from entering the United States a few weeks before the Sept. 11 terror attacks may have been the plot’s intended 20th hijacker, federal officials say.
The man, identified only as al-Qahtani, was turned away by a U.S. immigration agent at Orlando International Airport in late August 2001, according to two senior law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
The agent became suspicious when al-Qahtani provided only vague answers to questions about what he was doing in the United States and could not provide names of people meeting him at the airport or describe where he was staying, one official said.
Al-Qahtani was stopped and questioned at about the same time that Mohamed Atta, a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, was using a pay phone at the Orlando airport, according to surveillance camera tapes. Atta had called a number in the Middle East, the officials said.
So far, investigators have not proven a link between Atta and al-Qahtani. But the FBI has long suspected that one of the planes “” Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a passenger uprising “” was supposed to have a team of five instead of only four hijackers. The other three planes taken over that day had five hijackers.
The FBI has been investigating whether up to a dozen other al-Qaida operatives attempted to enter the United States prior to the attacks. What remains unclear, the officials said, is whether any of these people were supposed to take part in the hijackings or mount other attacks.
After his apprehension, U.S. agents put al-Qahtani on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, the officials said. He later wound up in Afghanistan, where he was captured by U.S. forces and is now being held along with other captives at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The agent who stopped al-Qahtani, Jose Melendez-Perez, is to testify about the matter at a hearing next week before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States, better known as the 9/11 commission.
Give that man a medal.