Man With Links To Hanjour Deported To Kingdom

RIYADH, 11 June 2006 — New Zealand has deported a pilot it believes was directly associated with one of the Sept. 11 hijackers in the United States. Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was deported to Saudi Arabia on May 30, because he posed a security threat to that country and the people, New Zealand Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said yesterday.

Rayed, a Yemeni, is reported to have lived and got training with terrorist Hani Hanjour, who piloted American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. Rayed, an American-qualified pilot, was deported to the Kingdom after immigration officials raided his home in the central North Island town of Palmerston North in New Zealand, where he had joined the local aero club.

The reports, however, were not confirmed by the Saudi officials yesterday. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki told Arab News that “we have not received any information about this man (Rayed) from the Saudi government department concerned so far.” Asked at least to confirm the nationality of the pilot, Al-Turki said: “We have not verified yet (whether he is a Saudi or non-Saudi). All information will be made available to you as early as possible.”

Asked to comment on the reports, New Zealand Ambassador Jim Howell also refused to give any detail, saying: “I cannot comment on this. Please call Wellington to find out the details.”

Reports from Wellington said Rayed had been deported to the Kingdom under escort on the basis of the US government’s September 11 Commission Report.

“He was building up his flying hours flying with an instructor. He’d previously trained as a pilot in the United States,” Cunliffe said.

Rayed had used “a variation of his name in applying for entry to New Zealand” and his real identity had only become known after he arrived in the country, Cunliffe said. He did not say what had led to the discovery of his real name. Rayed entered New Zealand in February, telling immigration officials he was coming to the country to study English, and took up residency in Auckland, where he began taking language classes.

He then moved to Palmerston North, 540 km south of the city, where he joined a pilot training program at the Manawatu Aero Club, Cunliffe said. He said the nature of Rayed’s activities in New Zealand was part of the reason for his deportation. The minister declined to give details.

“What I will say is that we don’t have any evidence of a specific terrorist threat by the gentleman in New Zealand nor are we saying he was undertaking terrorist activities,” Cunliffe told National Radio.

Manawatu district’s Aero Club president Grant Hadfield said Rayed Abdullah had flown light trainer airplanes with an instructor at the club for five or six hours.

He said the man’s background had been checked by the club’s chief instructor, who found no reason to believe he posed any threat. The student had 79 hours of flying time on his US flight log book.

The Sept. 11 Commission report said Rayed entered the United States in late 1997 and obtained his private pilot’s license in December 1998 after training in Arizona. He then went to work as a computer programmer before resuming flight training in mid-2001, it said.

Citing FBI documents and interviews, it said Rayed met Hanjour through a mutual friend. They attended English language classes in Florida before moving to Arizona, where Hanjour also took flight training.

Rayed lived and trained with Hanjour and was a leader at the Islamic Cultural Center in Phoenix, the report said.

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