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Ex-official: FBI hunting for 3 men who may have links to 9/11 attacks

From Susan Candiotti, CNN
A recent WikiLeaks online document dump included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable about 9/11.
A recent WikiLeaks online document dump included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable about 9/11.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new WikiLeaks cable details a February 2010 discussion at U.S. Embassy in Qatar
  • Three men from Qatar visited New York and D.C. before 9/11, an ex-official says
  • They then went to Los Angeles; flights, hotel paid for by a convicted terrorist

(CNN) -- The FBI is hunting for three mysterious Qatari men who might have ties to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a former law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation said.

The men's stories and identities -- Meshad al Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid -- were revealed in a recent WikiLeaks online document dump that included a February 8, 2010, U.S. diplomatic cable spelling out discussions from a U.S. meeting in Doha, Qatar. That meeting was led by Mirembe Nantongo, then and now the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. It was held more than eight years after the 2001 attacks for "watchlisting purposes," according to the document, suggesting that those named should be put on terror lists.

There was no immediately available information Wednesday on the three men's current whereabouts, and none has been publicly charged with a crime.

According to the cable, the three flew on British Airways on August 15, 2001, from London to the United States. Over the next nine days, they visited New York (including the World Trade Center and Statue of Liberty) as well as Virginia and Washington, with one stop being the White House.

On August 24, 2001, al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid flew to Los Angeles, where they stayed in a motel.

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The three paid for the room in cash and told the motel staff they did not want housekeeping service, the ex-law enforcement official confirmed. When they checked out, they left behind pilots' uniforms, paperwork containing pilots' names and cardboard boxes that were addressed to Syria, Israel, Afghanistan and Jordan.

Booked on a September 10, 2001, flight from Los Angeles to Washington, their flight, as well as hotel room, was paid for by "a convicted terrorist," according to the WikiLeaks-released cable.

But the three men never showed up for the flight.

Had they, the three would have flown on American Airlines Flight 144 -- the same plane hijacked the next day and flown into the Pentagon in northern Virginia.

Besides the convicted terrorist, who was not named in the cable, the three men were tied in the WikiLeaks cable to Mohamed al Mansoori. The United Arab Emirates native had spent time traveling with al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid during their time in California.

According to the former law enforcement official, al Mansoori was being investigated for possibly funneling money to support the 9/11 hijackers. His visa was revoked, but his name wasn't put on a terror watch list -- something that the WikiLeaks cable's author suggested should change.

The same source said he did not know whether al Alhajri, Abdulla and Alfehaid had any direct or indirect role in the 9/11 attacks, or why they left the United States. Still, investigators remain interested in at least talking to them.

"Primarily, they were looking for the (three men) to collect any intelligence on what they were doing and looking at the money (trail)," the official said.

CNN's Mark Engel contributed to this report.

 
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