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Mohd Atta trained in Baghdad: Report

December 14, 2003 15:10 IST

The mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Mohammed Atta, was trained in Baghdad by Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal at the instance of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a media report said on Sunday.

Atta visited Baghdad just weeks before 9/11, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

The details of the visit are in a secret memo written to Hussein by the former head of the Iraqi intelligence service Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, it said.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained by the daily, is dated July 1, 2001, and provides a short resume of a three-day programme Atta had undertaken at Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".

The second part of the memo, which is headed 'Niger Shipment', contains a report about an unspecified shipment -- believed to be uranium -- that was transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-member Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.

"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with Al Qaeda," Allawi told the paper. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with the Al Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."

Although Atta is believed to have been in Florida in the summer of 2001, he is known to have used more than a dozen aliases, and intelligence experts believe he could easily have slipped out of the US to visit Iraq.

Nidal, who tried to kill the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982, was based in Baghdad for more than two decades, the report said.

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