- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday described a four-page handwritten letter found in the baggage of hijacker Mohamed Atta as a "disturbing and shocking view into the mindset of these terrorists."

The letter provides step-by-step instructions to the terrorists, and contains Islamic prayers and a number of religious references. It is the first clear piece of evidence linking the terrorists on three of four airliners hijacked Sept. 11, Mr. Ashcroft said.

"Pledge allegiance to death and renew the intention," said the letter, which was written in Arabic. "Know the plan well from all aspects. expect a reaction or resistance from the enemy. Remind yourself of obedience on that night and that you will be exposed to decisive situations. So discipline yourself, make yourself understand, convince yourself and incite yourself to do that."

Federal law enforcement authorities said the letter also urged the hijackers to smile at their taxicab drivers, check their weapons, to "crave death" and to "make sure no one is following you." One section assures the hijackers that while "Everyone hates death, fears death … only those, the believers who know the life after death and the reward after death, would be the ones who will be seeking death."

"The letter is a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terrorist acts," Mr. Ashcroft said during a briefing at FBI headquarters. "The Muslim faith is peaceful and in no way condones these acts of violence."

Copies of the letter were found in Atta's luggage at Logan International Airport in Boston, which failed to make the American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center; another was located at Dulles International Airport in a vehicle used by Nawaq Alhazmi, one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon; and the third was found at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

Federal authorities said the letter also told the hijackers to pray when they board their aircraft and again when they take their seats, remembering they are on a "raid for Allah."

"When the time of truth comes and zero hour arrives, then straighten out your clothes, open your chest and welcome death for the sake of Allah. Seconds before the target, your last words should be 'There is no God but Allah. Mohammed is his messenger,'" the letter said.

The author of the letter was not identified.

Atta, who has been described as one of the ringleaders, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in the months before the attack, U.S. intelligence officials said. He is suspected of being the pilot aboard the jetliner that slammed into the World Trade Center's north tower.

Last week, German police found what they called "air-related documents" in a suitcase belonging to another of the suspected hijackers, Ziad Jarrahi. Atta and Jarrahi, along with Marwan Al-Shehhi, another hijacker, were associated with an Islamic fundamentalist group that planned attacks on U.S. targets.

Alhamzi was known to have stayed in Virginia, among other places, and in addition to the letter, the FBI also found in his car road maps of Washington and New York; a cashier's check payable to a flight school in Phoenix, a box-cutter utility knife and four drawings of the cockpit of a 757 jetliner the type of plane used in the Pentagon attack.

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