Hijack suspects seen in N.J. in summer
PATERSON, New Jersey (CNN) -- At least one of the suspected hijackers who intentionally crashed a passenger jet September 11 purchased his plane ticket from a travel agent in a northern New Jersey town near where the alleged ringleader of the attacks was spotted this summer.
Hani Hanjour paid cash August 31 -- 11 days in advance -- for a one-way ticket on American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles, the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, at ATS Travel in Totowa, New Jersey, according to two employees of the independently owned agency who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.
Totowa is the neighboring town to Paterson where, CNN has previously reported, Hanjour was one of at least four suspected hijackers who shared a one-bedroom apartment for $650 a month, rent paid in cash each month by Hanjour, according to the building's landlord.
Along with Hanjour, suspected hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi lived there part of this year. ATS travel is less than two miles down the road.
Hanjour was accompanied by suspected hijacker Majed Moqed, according to the travel agents, and Moqed did the talking. The pair was clean-shaven, well-dressed, and low-key. Hanjour and Moqed initially asked for two first class seats on a morning flight to Los Angeles, California. The agent told them a ticket cost $2,220 from Newark and $1,842 from Washington Dulles; they went with the Dulles flight. But they changed their mind and bought only one ticket--for Hanjour, requesting a front aisle seat; he got 1B. For identification, Hanjour presented a Virginia driver's license with a Falls Church address.
Four Virginia men are charged with providing Hanjour and three other suspected hijackers illegal Virginia identification cards less than five weeks before the attacks.
When Moqed and Hanjour tried to buy Hanjour's ticket with a VISA card, it was declined. They left and Moqed came back 20 minutes later after withdrawing the exact amount from Hudson United bank down the road. He handed over the cash in a bank teller envelope. Moqed, who also flew on Flight 77 too, bought his ticket at Dulles, the FBI told the travel agents.
Neither Hanjour or Moqed or any of the hijackers had done business at ATS before.
Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the September 11 attacks, also planned some travel in Paterson during a visit there this summer. Atta was seen on Main Street in early July, at one point buying a one-way plane ticket from Miami to Madrid for $550 on Swiss Air, according to Munther Ammar, manager of Apollo Travel.
"He just contacted our office to buy a ticket from Miami to Madrid. He came to the office and you know he bought a ticket and he went," Ammar said. "He paid cash money."
The purchase was only five or six days before the trip, which CNN has previously reported began on July 8. Ammar told Atta, who spoke Arabic and English, that flying from New York to Madrid would be cheaper. But Atta said he wanted to depart from Miami because he already had a return ticket to Miami, from where he had just come. A number of the suspected hijackers lived in South Florida residences.
Atta's flight to Madrid had a stopover in Zurich. Swiss prosecutors have said Atta spent two and a half hours in the airport, using an ATM card four times to withdraw 1,700 Swiss Francs, buying two Swiss Army knives and Swiss chocolate in a duty-free shop.
Atta may have heard about Apollo travel from suspected hijacker Nawah Alhazmi, an occupant of the Paterson apartment. According to Ammar, Alhazmi bought a one-way ticket from New York to Miami for a trip this summer.
Alhazmi and suspected hijacker Khalid Almidhar, who lived together in San Diego in 2000, bought their September 11 tickets for American Airlines Flight 77 via Travelocity.com, according to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. However, Al Comeux, a vice president for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company, would neither confirm nor deny the report.
All you need to purchase plane tickets from Travelocity, Comeux said, is a valid credit card, an e-mail address, and a mail location that accepts Fed Express. The latter criteria would include a Mailboxes, Etc., and as CNN previously reported, Alhazmi had boxes at franchises in Wayne, New Jersey, and Fort Lee, New Jersey.
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