Saudi Arabia denies reports about financial help to 9/11 hijackers
Saudi Arabia has denied allegations that its government helped finance two of the hijackers involved in last year's 11 September attacks on the United States.
According to the BBC, Nail al-Jubeir, an aide to Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, said reports that the wife of the Saudi ambassador to America sent money to the hijackers were "untrue and irresponsible".
According to US media reports, the two hijackers - Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi - received $3,500 a month from two students in the United States via an account in the name of Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador's wife. Al-Jubeir said the money did not come directly from the princess. "She wants her name cleared," he said.
But al-Jubeir admitted that an internal Saudi investigation had found the princess had been regularly sending charitable contributions to a Saudi woman named Magda Ibrahim Ahmed, and slightly more than half of that money had been forwarded by that lady to either Osama Bassnan or Janet Bassnan or Manal al-Bayoumi, assumed to be Omar al-Bayoumi's wife.
"They don't know who this lady is and how she was able to get on Princess Haifa's recipient list," said al-Jubeir.
He described Princess Haifa as "a very generous woman who cares deeply about the welfare of Saudi citizens, in particular those in need."
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into whether Saudi charitable funds had been funneled to the two Saudi hijackers, US officials said.
"The FBI continues to pursue all investigative leads in its counterterrorism efforts in a thorough and confidential manner," the bureau said in a three-paragraph statement released late Saturday, adding that for "obvious reason" it cannot disclose details of a pending investigation.
Newsweek magazine, which broke the story, said that payments went from the princess's account at Washington's Riggs Bank to the family of Saudi national Omar Al-Bayoumi, who studied in California and befriended al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi.
After al-Bayoumi left the country in mid-2001, payments for approximately the same amount began flowing to Osama Bassnan, another friend of both al-Bayoumi and the future hijackers, according to the magazine.
U.S. sources said on Friday that a congressional inquiry into intelligence failures related to last year's September 11 attacks was investigating a possible funding link between the Saudi government and two of the hijackers.
"While you have an ongoing investigation, it's important not to rush to judgment," said Saturday National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack during a visit by President George W. Bush to Romania.
Some government sources cautioned there was no definitive proof of Saudi government involvement, but that congressional investigators were looking at information that suggested it.
FBI agents found the phone number of the Saudi Embassy in Al-Bayoumi's apartment, The Washington Post reported. Saudi officials told the newspaper that there was no link between Al-Bayoumi and any Saudi government employee.
U.S. and British media have reported that U.S. federal investigators believe Al-Bayoumi helped pay the rent for the two men's San Diego apartment. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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