He piloted the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, into
the World Trade Center. Investigators say that he was the ringleader of the
Sept. 11 plot.|
Mohamed Atta was born in Egypt, in a city on the Nile delta named Kafr el
Sheikh. Investigators say Atta listed Sept. 1, 1968, as his birthdate. Atta's
father, an attorney, was a domineering figure and a strict disciplinarian; his
mother doted on him. Atta's siblings, two older sisters, are both successful
and educated: one is a medical doctor and the other is a professor of
zoology. After Atta was born, his family moved from Kafr el Sheikh to Cairo,
where his father still practices law.
Atta's father told The New York Times that his son began praying around
1980, when he was 12 or 13. "He was not ordinary," says the senior Atta. "He
was exceptional. He was a gentle person, very shy, unassuming, and highly
Atta studied architecture in the Engineering Faculty at Cairo University from
1985 to 1990. As he and his generation reached their early 20s, they were
exposed to the angry passions and resentments swirling through Cairo. Egyptians
were angry at a ruling elite that was seen as corrupt and undemocratic -- and
angry at America for supporting such a regime, and for being Israel's strongest
Atta became a member of an "engineering syndicate," a trade or professional
group, after he graduated from Cairo University. The Washington Post
reported that Atta's syndicate was an "unofficial base" for the Muslim
Brotherhood, an Islamic political organization, where it recruited members and
propagated its ideas -- one of which was the demonization of the U.S. for its
support of the Egyptian government.
After graduation, Atta worked at a German company in Cairo until he obtained a
visa to continue his studies in urban planning in Germany. He enrolled at a
technical university near Hamburg in October 1992.
>> See the chronology
for details on Atta's life from 1992-2001.
He flew the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175,
into the World Trade Center.|
Marwan al-Shehhi was born on May 9, 1978, in the United Arab Emirates. Details
about al-Shehhi's life in the UAE are difficult to acquire. According to an
October 2001 article in the New York Times, "If residents of Mr.
Shehhi's hometown had heard of him before now, they were certainly not telling
strangers. Four hours spent in the community yielded no address and no one --
policemen, firemen, pedestrians or local officials -- who did anything more
than shrug at the mention of his name."
Press reports indicate that al-Shehhi's family lives in a village in Ras
al-Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. Al-Shehhi's father,
who is now deceased, reportedly was the muezzin, the person who called the
faithful to prayer at the local mosque. In 1997, al-Shehhi left the UAE after a
family crisis and moved to Germany, where he first studied German at the
University of Bonn before moving to Hamburg, where he enrolled at the same
school as Mohamed Atta.
>> For more about how Hamburg was likely a factor in radicalizing al-Shehhi, Atta, and Jarrah, read the Q&A with
correspondent Hedrick Smith.
He piloted United Flight 93 to its fiery crash in
Ziad Jarrah was born on May 11, 1975, in Al Marj, a town in Lebanon east of the
Bekaa Valley. An only son, Jarrah's father is a civil servant and his mother is
a school teacher. Though Jarrah was a Sunni Muslim, his parents sent him to a
Catholic school in Beirut. In 1996, a year after he graduated, he left Lebanon
for Greifswald, Germany, where he studied German for two semesters before
continuing his studies in aviation engineering at the University of Applied
Science in Hamburg.
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Jarrah's uncle, Jamal
Jarrah, says, "[Jarrah] was the kind of boy that was raised well and was
treated in a very good manner. ... He was a happy boy." When he was young,
Jarrah, according to his uncle, espoused none of the extremist beliefs that
would become synonymous with the Sept. 11 attacks. "He never cared about
politics. ... He was not interested in religion," says Jamal Jarrah.
"Twenty-one years, we know Ziad closely. ... He's the person who loves life."
>> See the chronology for details on Jarrah's life from 1996-2001.
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