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Ziad Samir Jarrah (May 11, 1975 - September 11, 2001) (Arabic: زياد سمير جراح), was named by the FBI as one of the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 as part of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He is believed to have taken over as the pilot of the aircraft and made an unsuccessful attempt to crash the plane into either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
There are many variations on his name, including Ziad Samir Al-Jarrah, Zaid Jarrahi, and Ziad Jarrah Jarrat. After a wealthy and secular upbringing, Jarrah became involved in the September 11 conspiracy in college. Unique among the hijackers, he had a girlfriend and was close to his family. There are disputes concerning whether or not Jarrah was actually on Flight 93, although the 9/11 Commission concluded that his was not a case of mistaken identity.
Jarrah was born in Mazraa , Lebanon, to a wealthy family. His parents were nominally Muslim, although they lived a secular lifestyle. Like many children of wealthy Lebanese, Jarrah was sent to a Catholic private school in Beirut. He remained close to his family, and was apparently the only 9/11 hijacker to have close familial ties. In his childhood, he had always wanted to fly planes, but his family discouraged this. "I stopped him from being a pilot," his father said. "I only have one son and I was afraid that he would crash."
In spring of 1996, Jarrah left Lebanon for the first time and went to Greifswald, Germany for college. There, he was more known for attending discos and beach parties than mosques. He met a female dentistry student named Aysel Sengün and the two fell in love. She was Muslim, but also very secular. In 1997, Jarrah switched colleges and majors, and started studying aerospace engineering in Hamburg. In the summer of that year, he worked in a Volkswagen paint shop in Wolfsburg.
Around that time, Jarrah became a little more religious. He grew a beard, studied the Qur'an, and insisted that Sengün dress more modestly. Sengün refused to be more observant in Islam, and the two would often break up and then reconcile. The couple had an unofficial wedding on April 1, 1999. Jarrah is presumed to have become an associate of the Hamburg cell, although he never seems to have lived there, and cannot be confirmed to have visited.
Training in Afghanistan
In late 1999, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Jarrah, Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Said Bahaji, and Ramzi Binalshibh decided to travel to Chechnya to fight against the Russians. They were convinced by Khalid al-Masri and Mohamedou Ould Slahi at the last minute to change their plans, and instead traveled to Afghanistan to meet with Osama bin Laden and train for terrorist attacks. They were told they were on a highly secret mission, and were instructed to return to Germany and enroll in flight school. This account is provided solely from the testimony of captured al-Qaeda member Ramzi Binalshibh.
In early 2000, Jarah shaved his beard and began to act more secular, according to his girlfriend Sengün. Many of the future hijackers attempted to hide their radicalism and blend in with the population. Jarrah then reported his passport stolen in February of 2000 and received a duplicate, just as hijackers Atta and al-Shehhi had done the previous month. This may have been done in order to hide suspicious travels to Afghanistan, or it may have been to allow another person to use his identity.
Jarrah dropped out of college and began looking at flight schools, as instructed in Afghanistan. He claimed that this was to fulfill his childhood dream of being a pilot. After looking in several countries, he decided that none of the flight schools in Europe was sufficient, and at the advice of a childhood friend, he prepared to move to the United States.
In the United States
Jarrah apparently entered the country on seven separate occasions, more than any other hijacker. In June 27, 2000, Jarrah arrived in the U.S. for the first time, and travelled to Florida to attend a flight school. Many of his classmates remember him fondly, describing him as kind and trustworthy, and remember him drinking beers occasionally. He was enrolled for six months, from June 2000 to January 15, 2001. Jarrah was unique among the hijackers in that he did not live with any other hijackers, but rather lived with a German student named Thorsten Biermann. Biermann did not observe Jarrah acting particularly religious or overtly political. Jarrah occasionally flew back to Germany to visit his girlfriend, and called or e-mailed her nearly every day.
Jarrah had obtained his license to fly small planes, and began training to fly large jets late in 2000. He flew to Beirut to visit his family, and then to Germany to visit his girlfriend Sengün. He brought her back to the United States for a ten-day visit, and she even attended a flight school session with him. In mid-January of 2001, he again flew to Beirut to visit his father, who was to have open-heart surgery. He then visited his girlfriend Sengün in Germany, not for the last time, and came back to the United States again. His behavior was markedly different from the other hijackers, who broke off all familial and romantic relations.
On his way back to the U.S., he passed through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was interviewed by the authorities at the request of the CIA, according to UAE and U.S. officials. UAE records show that Jarrah admitted to having been in Afghanistan, the only hijacker to have done so. Oddly, he told of having been in Afghanistan for the previous several months, when there is little doubt he was in Florida in flight school. It is unclear whether this report is in error, or whether it refers to a different Ziad Jarrah who had trained in Afghanistan. The CIA denies they requested Jarrah's questioning at all, and the 9/11 Commission Report does not mention the encounter.
In the summer of 2001, Jarrah made several cross-country trips on the same type of plane he would later hijack on September 11. Other future hijackers made similar trips at this same time period.
Reportedly, Ziad Jarrah and Mohammed Atta had several conflicts during this period. Atta was a strict, severe man who would not even listen to music other than prayer chants, whereas Jarrah was lax, westernized, and had frequent contacts with his family and girlfriend. Their disagreements appear to have been resolved by the day of the attack, however. The 9/11 Commission speculates that Zacarias Moussaoui might have been training as a replacement pilot for Jarrah, if Jarrah had decided to cancel his plans to go through with the attacks.
On September 10, Jarrah sent a letter to his girlfriend, widely interpreted as a suicide note. The note has not been released in full, but contained the phrases "I have done what I had to do" and "You should be very proud, it is an honor, and you will see the result, and everyone will be happy." Because of an error in the address, the letter was returned to the United States where it was discovered. Some have disputed that the letter was a suicide note, since it referred to future meetings and reportedly contained scuba diving instructions.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ziad Jarrah boarded United Airlines Flight 93 without incident, and sat in a first-class seat near the cockpit. Due to the flight's delay, the pilot and crew were notified of the previous hijackings that day, and were told to be on the alert. Within minutes, Flight 93 was hijacked as well. Jarrah is suspected of being the pilot, and a voice heard by ground control telling passengers to remain seated is reported to be Jarrah's. At 9:39 AM, Jarrah announced, "Uh, this is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands [unintelligible]. Please remain quiet." over the radio. (9/11 Commission Report, p. 29.)
Passengers on the plane heard through phone calls the fates of the other hijacked planes. They realized they had to take the cockpit back from the terrorists or their plane too would be used as a missile. A passenger uprising foiled the terrorist's plans, but failed to save the plane. According to the August 8 2003 analysis of the plane's cockpit recordings by the United States investigators, a crowd of passengers tried to break into the cockpit. To try to knock them off balance, Jarrah rolled the plane to the left and right. When this failed, he then pitched the nose forward and back. Nevertheless, the passengers continued their assault on the cockpit door. Finally, Jarrah was told by a fellow hijacker to crash into the Pennsylvania farmland rather than cede control of the plane. In response, he turned the plane upside down and began his descent. United 93 crashed, at 580 miles per hour (933 km/h), into a reclaimed strip mine at the edge of the woods in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03:11, 125 miles (200 km) from Washington, D.C. All aboard died.
After 9/11, Jarrah's girlfriend Sengün filed a missing person report in Bochum. At his Bochum apartment, documents relating to airplanes and airlines were found. (This was not surprising, given that he had been training to be a pilot, and was previously an aeronautic engineering student.)
Possible mistaken identity
In 1995, while Ziad Jarrah was still living in Lebanon, a young man of the same name rented an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The landlords and neighbors claim that he looked identical to the Ziad Jarrah in the FBI photographs, though they could not have been the same person. Neighbors report that the Brooklyn Jarrah carried a camera and acted suspicious. This has led to speculation that perhaps the wrong Jarrah has been identified.
Jarrah's personality, background, and activities were not consistent with the other hijackers. He seemed apolitical and irreligious throughout his life, and he was the only hijacker to maintain close ties to his family. He spoke frequently with his very secular girlfriend, and never mentioned the plot or any of the other hijackers to her. He reportedly seemed calm and friendly in the days before the attacks. A number of investigators have had difficulty reconciling Jarrah's demeanor with his terrorist acts.
There were also inconsistencies with Jarrah's supposed locations. When Jarrah was questioned on January 30, 2001, he admitted to having been to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the Florida flight school where Jarrah had been studying says he was in school there until January 15, 2001. Either one of these reports is inaccurate, or two people claimed to be the same person. The 9/11 Commission Report sheds no light on this discrepancy.
Jarrah's family in Lebanon claims that he was an innocent passenger on the plane or that possibly his is a case of mistaken identity and that he was not even on the plane. Two days before the hijacking, Jarrah called and told his family he would be coming home for a cousin's wedding. "It makes no sense," his uncle claimed. "He said he had even bought a new suit for the occasion." His purchase of a new suit is confirmed by Jarrah's landlady. It is possible that Jarrah had not made up his mind until right before the attacks.
The hijacker that day signed his name as "Zaid Jarrahi", which is very similar but not identical to Ziad Jarrah. His family claims he never spelled his name that way. Further, the passengers on the plane all reported three hijackers, not four; but it is possible that Jarrah slipped into the cockpit unnoticed.
The 9/11 Commission concluded that Jarrah was present and behind the controls of the plane when it crashed. They do not give any credence to the idea that Jarrah was not the pilot. Certainly, Jarrah has not been seen since the attacks.
DNA fingerprinting would settle the controversy, as fragmentary remains of all the hijackers have been found. Jarrah's family has indicated they would be willing to provide DNA samples to US researchers, but the FBI has shown no interest thus far.
- Collins, Susan M. (September, 08 2004). Building an Agile Intelligence Community to Fight Terrorism and Emerging Threats. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Retrieved January 3, 2005.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (September 27, 2001) Hijackers. Retrieved January 3, 2005.
- Krebs, Valdis. (2004). Jarrah's apparent connections to other hijackers. Retrieved October 11, 2004.
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Ben-Veniste, Richard; Fielding, Fred F.; Gorelick, Jamie; Gorton, Slade; Hamilton, Lee H.; Kean, Thomas; Kerrey, Bob; Lehman, John F.; Roemer, Timothy J.; Thompson, James R.) (2004). The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393326713, also available online
- Thompson, Paul. (2002). Evidence of a second Ziad Jarrah. Retrieved October 11, 2004.
- UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA (September 13, 2002). GOVERNMENT’S SUBMISSION REGARDING RELEVANCE OF COCKPIT VOICE RECORDERS. Retrieved January 3, 2004.
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