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Muhammad Atta and 9/11

Netlore Archive: Was World Trade Center attacker Muhammad Atta set free from an Israeli prison years ago due to ill-advised intervention from the Reagan and/or Clinton administrations?

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: September 2001
Status: False


Example #1:
Email contributed by Bob D., Oct. 12, 2001:

Subject: Atta

Terrorist pilot Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him. As part of the Oslo agreement Israel had to agree to release so called "political prisoners". However, they would not release any with "blood on their hands". Some well meaning American President and Secretary of State insisted that all be released.

Thus Mr. Atta was freed and eventually thanked us the US by flying an airplane into tower one of the world trade center. This was reported by many of the networks at the time the terrorists were first identified. It was missing from later reports.

This was Ronald Reagan and George Schultz.


Example #2:
Email contributed by Eric K., Nov. 2001:

In case you didn't know ... Please pass this on.

Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him.

As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called "political prisoners." However, the Israelis would not release any with "blood on their hands." The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, "insisted" that all prisoners be released.

Thus Mr. Atta was freed and eventually "thanked the US" by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center. This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified.

It was censored in the US from all later reports.
The American public must be made aware of this fact.


Analysis: If we're going to play the blame game, let's at least get the identity of the terrorist right. It was not Muhammad Atta — believed to be the mastermind behind the September attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — who was convicted of the 1986 bombing and machine gun attack on a bus in Samaria, sentenced to life imprisonment and later released. It was Mahmoud Abed Atta, a Palestinian associated with the Abu Nidal terror organization. They are not the same person.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Mahmoud Abed Atta fled to Venezuela after the bus attack but was deported to the U.S. and eventually (in 1990) extradited to Israel, where he was tried and sentenced for his crime. His subsequent release from prison, confirmed by the Israeli Justice Ministry, had nothing to do with the Oslo Accord or intervention by either the Reagan or the Clinton administration. It was the result of a finding by the Supreme Court of Israel that Abed Atta's extradition process was flawed. The freed terrorist's whereabouts are now unknown, officials say.

Accounts differ on when WTC terrorist Muhammad Atta became a political activist, but in any case he was only 18 and living with his family in Cairo when the 1986 bus attack occurred. In 1992 he moved to Germany, where he met his future co-conspirators and ultimately began plotting the September 11 attacks.

The Jerusalem Post attributes confusion about the identities of the two terrorists to "rumors circulating on the Internet," but in fact those rumors had their origin in erroneous press reports during the first few days after September 11.


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Sources and further reading:

A Case of Mistaken Identity
Anti-Defamation League, November 2001

Internet Rumors Aside, WTC Attacker Not Held by Israel
Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2001

Clues Emerge to the Making of a Fanatic
Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 2001


Last updated 09/09/10


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