In Sarasota and Venice
Even after 20 years since the Twin Towers in NYC were destroyed by two Saudi piloted airliners, the general public is still learning about a key part of the terrorist cell via the Freedom of Information Act. While many of the documents are redacted, there remains a lot of information that when pieced together with local news reports paint a clear picture what was going on in 2001.
Much of the FBI investigation regarding the Florida terrorist cell was not even disclosed to the 9\11 committee that investigated it afterwards because it was deemed unworthy, although one could see how the dots could be connected through a specific lens.
What Are These Dots?
The three Saudis that flew the airliners on 9\11 were: Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Sheddi, and Ziad Jarrah. The last flew UA flight 93 in Pennsylvania. For Atta and Sheddi, both had some of their flight training in the small Venice airport beginning in July 2000 at Huffman Aviation flight training. Jarrah would train at Sarasota. They were training on Cessna 172 aircraft. After about five months, all suddenly moved elsewhere to train for flying airliners. Atta had moved from Germany and drove a red 1989 Pontiac from Coral Springs, where he had an apartment. Sheddi lived in Nokomis (or North Venice).
The city of Venice is right on the coast, about 20,000. It is mainly a place where snowbirds and retirees settle and in the winter its population expands to 40,000 from outside visitors. It is just 20 minutes south of Sarasota (60,000). Tampa is about one hour north.
Flight schools are not cheap and neither is paying for rent, food, etc. Enter Al- Hijji, a computer engineer with wealthy connections. He was an advisor to a nephew of King Faud. The al-Hijji family had lived at 4224 Escondito in Sarasota. It is a gated community with higher end homes and their home was valued at $530,000 in 2002. It remains a beautiful home. They bought the home around 1995 or so. From the appearance to outsiders, they were just a normal family with kids.
Like so many things, it all went undetected until AFTER 9\11. At first, their neighbors reported that their mail was accumulating in the mailbox and the landscaping needed care. They stopped seeing them come and go. The FBI was alerted and finally raided on April 16, 2002. The raid confirmed what the neighbors suspected. Even though their VW Beetle, Jeep Cherokee, and GMC SUV, were in the driveway, nothing had moved since 9\11. Inside the FBI found nothing unusual but that was what was unusual. It had looked like the family had simply left suddenly leaving their cars, jewels, furniture, closets of clothes.
The FBI found out that al-Hijji had suddenly left the house on August 27, 2001, while his wife and kids had left a few days before 9\11. When he was questioned, at first, he said he had taken a job with Aramco in Saudi Arabia, but then changed it to a job in England. When the FBI checked with the UK employer, this proved to be false. As the FBI continued to investigate al-Hijji, Wissam Hammoud, who was in Federal prison for attempted murder of an agent, told the FBI he knew al-Hijji well, and that they use to work out in the gym together. Hammoud told the FBI that al-Hijji considered Osama bin Laden a hero. He also stated that he was a good friend of Adnan el Shukrijuman, a suspected al Qaeda ring leader in 2000.
As the FBI continued to look into al-Hijji, they were able to check cell phone records and log records of cars\occupants that entered Prestancia, the gated community in Sarasota. It appears that the three soon to be pilots visited the home frequently at 4224 Escondito and there had been numerous calls to al-Hijji before 9\11. Despite all this, the FBI deemed it non-conclusive, so they did not pursue it further. Some of the calls were to other members of the terrorist cell (11 in all).
Then, on October 31st, 2001, the FBI got a tip that an Arab looking man was seen in Bradenton (north of Sarasota) at a storage facility tossing away things in the dumpster. Whoever it was, was a member of the cell because in the trash were Venice flight school manuals, airport maps, and Cessna 172 specifications. No doubt belonging to Atta or al-Sheddi. A month later, the FBI was notified that an Arab man had just opened up a bank account and claimed that he wanted to build a mosque!
This is where the story ends. Who was the man? Was it the cell ring leader? One of the men that enabled the terrorists? Other questions are what did King Faud of Saudi Arabia or his nephew, Prince Fahd bin Salman know?
As for the former owner of Huffman Aviation School, Rudy Dekkar. Before 9\11, his estimated worth was 12 million, today, he sits in Federal prison for drug smuggling of cocaine and Heroin and was convicted in 2012. His life was ruined by 9\11 and as time went on, he was forced to go to the dark side of life to survive.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
perrya (author) on September 15, 2021:
Sorry to hear that, but I agree, there is more to come because it will be another 35 years before other information will be released!
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on September 14, 2021:
One of my best friends died on 9/11. I am pretty sure we have yet to uncover more shocking details about this terror attack.