Written instructions link hijackers on 3 flights
'You are carrying out an action that God loves'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Investigators have recovered three copies of the same letter belonging to suspected terrorists aboard three of the four airplanes hijacked during the September 11 attacks against the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday.
"These three documents, this letter, is clear evidence linking the hijackers on the three separate flights on September 11," said Ashcroft, who added that the letters provided instructions to be followed before and during the attacks as well as Islamic prayers.
"It is a disturbing and shocking view into the mindset of these terrorists," the attorney general said at a Justice Department briefing.
The four-page letter, handwritten in Arabic, orders the suspected hijackers to bring "knives, your will, your IDs" onto the planes for battle and tells them they are about to "begin to live the happy life, the infinite paradise."
"Purify your heart and clean it from all earthly matters. The time of fun and waste has gone. The time of judgment has arrived," the letter says. "Keep a very open mind, keep a very open heart of what you are to face. You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest life, everlasting life."
The letter goes on to say the hijackers must "know the plan very well in all its aspects. You should expect the reaction and resistance of the ENEMY."
"Train yourself, explain to yourself, convince yourself and urge yourself to carry out the mission," it says. "Check your safety before you depart, make sure you are not being followed."
It is unclear who wrote the letter.
Suspects left copies behind
One of the copies was found inside a suitcase belonging to Mohamed Atta, who investigators said was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first airplane to crash into the World Trade Center. Atta's suitcase did not make it aboard the doomed jetliner and was recovered by FBI investigators in Boston, Massachusetts, Ashcroft said.
Another was found at Dulles International Airport near Washington, in a vehicle belonging to Nawaf Alhazmi, one of the suspected hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
The third was discovered in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93. That jet crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania after what investigators believe may have been an attack on the hijackers by the passengers on board the plane.
"Let me make clear that, while this letter contains a number of religious references, I do not believe it to be representative of Muslims or the Islamic faith," Ashcroft noted. "The letter is a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terrorist acts."
The letter tells the hijackers to remember the battle of the "prophet against the infidels."
When the hijackers entered the planes, they were implored to say, "Oh God, open all doors for me. Oh God who answers prayers and answers those who ask you, I am asking you for your help. ... There is no God, but God."
It adds, "When the plane moves and it's on its way ... and you come to the moment of close combat, then strike like heroes who do not want to come back to Earth, say ALLAHU AKBAR (God is great), because you will instill terror in the infidel."
'Pray and wash before you leave'
The letter also details to the men how they should handle their last night on Earth.
"Remind yourself that in this night you will face many challenges. But you have to face them and understand it 100 percent," it said.
The letter also tells them to "pray and wash before you leave the apartment."
"When you have washed for prayer, angels will ask God to forgive you and angels will pray for you," it says. "You should not appear confused and nervous but joyful, happy, relaxed, tranquil, because you are carrying out an action that God loves."
-- CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.
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