Another Saudi terrorist with a pilot’s license obtained in the US almost slipped through the cracks. Thanks to the good work of the FBI, they were caught.
A Saudi man who attended flight school in Oklahoma was charged on Tuesday with visa fraud for allegedly having lied about attending an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000, the U.S. Justice Department said.
A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Naif Abdulaziz M. Alfallaj, 34 after his fingerprints turned up on documents found by the U.S. military at an al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Court documents show that Alfallaj, of Weatherford, Oklahoma, was issued a private pilot’s certificate in November 2016, but it was revoked last year because federal authorities considered him at risk for air piracy or terrorism.
Here’s a screenshot of a congratulatory message to Naif Abdulaziz M. Alfallaj from the Chickasha Wings flight school where he received his pilot’s license. (Not kidding)
Based on a criminal complaint signed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and unsealed on Tuesday, Alfallaj was taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Feb. 5, the Justice Department said.
According to the complaint, the FBI found 15 of Alfallaj’s fingerprints on an application to a training camp known as al Farooq, which was one of al Qaeda’s key training sites in Afghanistan.
Alfallaj is alleged to have first entered the United States in late 2011 on a nonimmigrant visa based on his wife’s status as a foreign student, the Justice Department said.
According to the complaint, he answered several questions on his visa application falsely, including whether he had ever supported terrorist organizations.
Alfallaj faces up to 10 years in prison on each of two charges of visa fraud and up to eight years for lying about his involvement in international terrorism, the statement said. – Reuters
How easy is it for foreigners who have trained in terror camps overseas to arrive in the U.S. and obtain pilot’s licenses?
CTV News reports that the man who owns the flight school where two of the 9-11 terrorists trained to commit the worst act of terror on American soil explains:
Rudi Dekkers wakes up every morning thinking of Sept. 11, 2001 and wondering if he could have done something to prevent the attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead.
Dekkers owned the flight school in Florida that unwittingly trained the two men who flew airliners into the World Trade Center 11 years ago today.
He interacted with them nearly every day for six months, leading up to the attack, as they took pilot training at his school, Huffman Aviation in Venice, Fla.
“Everybody always asks me, did you see anything, was there something in hindsight? I wish, I wish, I wish that we saw something, because then I would not be infamous, I would be a hero.”
Although he had an immediate dislike for Atta, who was often an inattentive student and was rude to the instructors, particularly the female staff members, Dekkers said he never had reason to suspect the two men.
He recalled the day he first met them in July 2001, while taking a coffee break in the office of his school.
“Atta walked in with al-Shehhi and I never liked Atta,” Dekkers said from Houston, Tx. “I called him from the first minute ‘dead man walking.’ Maybe I should have listened to my own feelings that day but even if you don’t like somebody you don’t know what he’s going to do. I mean, who knew?”
Dekkers said Atta’s rude behavior, arrogant attitude and failure to listen to his instructors forced him to sit him down about two months into the course and warn him that he faced expulsion from the school if he didn’t change his behavior.
“I told him if you don’t behave, I’ll kick you out of the flight school, and he started behaving,” Dekkers said.
Al-Shehhi, on the other hand, left a positive impression on Dekkers.
“Marwan was a nice young fellow, he was 23 years old when he came to my school. He was normal. Well, he was not normal, obviously, but the moment that I knew him he was funny, he had jokes…sometimes dirty jokes, but he was normal.”
It wasn’t until the morning after the 9-11 attacks that Dekkers said he realized al-Shehhi and Atta were involved in the terrorist attacks.
Dekkers said the 11 years since that moment have been difficult. His business collapsed, he says, due to his connection to 9-11, he has received death threats and has struggled to find employment.
There has also been a persistent belief, based on early media reports, that the two men only wanted to learn how to steer planes, not how to take off and land — which some have suggested should have triggered suspicions at the school.
Dekkers dismissed those suggestions, saying the school often had rich students from the Middle East who simply wanted to “play,” and it was the instructors’ job to ensure they learned all aspects of flying.