9/11 Hijackings | Declassified

Hi I'm Robin and welcome to this first part of a series of videos on the facts behind the 9/11 attacks On September 11th 2001, the biggest ever terrorist attack on US soil took place

But just how did a group of 19 terrorists manage to kill almost 3,000 people? This is the 9/11 Hijackings: Declassified American Airlines Flight 11 took off at 759 am from Boston Logan Airport headed to Los Angeles United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for LA, took off 15 minutes later at 814


Around the same time, five hijackers took control of American 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 846 United 175 was hijacked by five terrorists at around 842 and crashed into the South Tower at 903

At Washington’s Dulles Airport, American 77 took off at 809, the hijack began at 851 and at 937 the plane hit the West side of the Pentagon at roughly 530 mph Finally, at New York’s Newark Airport, United 93 took off at 8

42 Four terrorists began the hijacking at 928 but around half an hour later, the passengers revolted United 93 crashed in farmland in Pennsylvania at 1003

Everyone on board all four planes, including the terrorists themselves, were killed instantly upon impact The attacks had been planned for over 5 years The mastermind behind 9/11 was a Kuwaiti called Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or KSM, who was already known to US Law Enforcement KSM decided that an attack like the 1993 World Trade Center bombings was too risky Instead he developed the idea to train pilots to crash into buildings

In 1996, KSM met with Osama Bin Laden, leader of the militant extremist group al Qaeda, to propose the attacks KSM originally envisaged a total of 10 planes, 9 of which would be crashed into targets across America, with himself landing the final plane Early plans also considered hijacking American planes and flying them into US targets in Japan or Korea, but this idea was dropped in 2000 By 1999, Bin Laden had chosen four operatives to lead the operation Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, Abu Bara al Yemeni and Tawfiq bin Attash all attended training camps in Afghanistan in Autumn 1999

Three of the four went for additional training in basic English: reading airline timetables, making travel reservations, renting apartments and using code words In one instance, Attash even tested carrying weapons onto an international flight between Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur The box cutter in his toiletry bag was never discovered by security In addition to the initial four, al Qaeda recruited four men residing in Germany to assist with the plot Unlike the original four, Mohammed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Marwan al Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah were all fluent in English and had experience of living in the West

Known as the Hamburg contingent, they began researching flight schools In January 2000, Hamzi and Mihdhar flew to the US to start flight training and learn English, however their lack of language skills was a severe hindrance Their flying tutors said they were poor students who didn’t focus on landing or takeoffs They were only concerned with controlling the plane in the air By May 2000, both gave up learning to fly

The Hamburg contingent arrived in the US in the Summer of 2000 – however Binalshibh had been unable to obtain a visa and was forced to drop out of the attacks A fourth pilot, Hani Hanjour, who had previously obtained his pilot’s license in Arizona, was recruited By August the remaining three from Hamburg were flying passenger aircraft on simulators In addition to the four pilots, al Qaeda also recruited 15 ‘muscle hijackers’ from Afghanistan They were mixed group, none of whom had any more than a high school education

Some weren’t even devout Muslims and regularly drank alcohol The muscle hijackers weren’t told the full plan in case they were caught before it was carried out In May 2001, one of the Hamburg contingent and another unidentified man were spotted at Boston’s Logan Airport They were seen videotaping and photographing the security checkpoints Despite the federal government warning that al Qaeda often conducted surveillance like this before an attack, no action was taken and the men were allowed to board their flight

Logan Airport also didn’t have security cameras installed at the security checkpoints, so pictures of the men were never taken At least two of the hijackers were being watched by the CIA, and were put on terror watchlists On September 11th, at Logan Airport, 10 hijackers went through security to board American 11 and United 175 – the planes that would hit the twin towers Out of the 10 men, only one – Mohammed Atta – was subjected to a computerised pre-screening process This process just involved holding his luggage off the plane until he was confirmed to be onboard

The 10 hijackers of American 11 and United 175 passed through metal detectors too None of the security staff remember their checks being particularly unusual In Washington, four of the five hijackers on American 77 set off metal detectors Three set if off twice and had to be passed over with a metal detector wand but they were still allowed to board their flight One member of the terrorists, Nawaf al Hazmi, also had his bag swiped by an explosive trace detector

He passed onto the plane despite there being an unidentified object in his back pocket In Newark, the lack of CCTV meant there is no evidence of the terrorists even passing through security Furthermore, all hijackers had to pass their hand luggage through a x-ray machine; none of their bags set off the machines despite the fact that the hijackers were carrying knives and boxcutters It was these weapons and mace that enabled the hijackings to take place On each plane, hijackers forced their way into the cockpit, stabbing anyone in their way

They used mace to force all passengers into the back of the plane Many passengers in coach didn't realise they were being hijacked They just thought it was a medical emergency American 11 Flight Attendants Betty Ong and Madeline Sweeney managed to contact the American Airlines Reservation Office in North Carolina using the on board phone Ong and Sweeney reported that two flight attendants had also been stabbed and that the hijackers claimed they had a bomb on board

On American 11, the terrorists tried to use the onboard radio but mistakenly contacted air traffic control with the message, ‘We have some planes Just stay quiet and you’ll be okay We are returning to the airport’ Crucially, air traffic control misheard the first sentence On United 175, some passengers were also able to make phone calls to loved ones, with some reporting that passengers were considering storming the cockpit

On American 77, several passengers called their families and reported the hijacking including Barbara Olson, who was married to the Solicitor General, Theodore Olson United 93 left Newark Airport 25 minutes late, taking off at 842 It was only at 903 that the Boston flight Centre realised American 11 had reported ‘We have some planes’

At this point that the Federal Aviation Administration understood there were multiple hijackings At 907 the FAA controllers at the Boston Centre requested that the Herndon Command Centre tell all airborne aircraft to increase security in the cockpit There is no evidence that Herndon did this Several FAA senior officers stated that it was not the FAA’s place to tell airlines what to tell their pilots

As a result, American Airlines didn’t warn any of their aircraft about extra cockpit security Unlike the other hijackings, there were only four terrorists on board United 93 Passengers called loved ones during and reported the passengers voting on whether to storm the cockpit The passenger revolt was so strong that the hijackers attempted to roll the plane violently left and right to knock them off balance When the passengers breached the cockpit, the terrorists crashed the plane

We presume they intended to hit the White House or the Capitol Building But thanks to the passengers’ bravery, this didn't happen 9/11 was the most horrific terrorist attack on US soil and the hijackings themselves could have gone very differently were it not for a series of mistakes and missed chances This is just the first of several videos in which we'll look at the different stages of the events surrounding 9/11 So please stay tuned for more

In the meantime, please click right here to watch our 9/11 play list looking at the many conspiracy theories about 9/11 Thanks for watching! See you next time

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