Vantage point

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The 9/11 Commission Report

Just went through the 9/11 commission report. I was shocked to find that it did not even mention the hijacking of the IC814 Indian Airlines flight in 1999. The report already details how the Americans ignored a lot of hints which could have prevented 9/11 from happening. By omitting mention of the 1999 hijacking, they are ignoring another big clue.

On December 24 1999 5 terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines plane, and took it first to Pakistan(one of the three countries that officially recognized Taliban), then UAE(one of the three countries that officially recognized Taliban) and then to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Kandahar is where Bin Laden was at that time.

The hijackers initially used box-cutters and small knives to gain control of the aircraft. The hijackers of 9/11 also used box-cutters.

The Taliban was not only unhelpful to India, but it was actually helping the hijackers. Passengers and crew members talk of hijackers brandishing new guns after the plan landed in Kandahar.

The Indian government gave in and released 3 terrorists in exchange for the passengers' safety. One of the three terrorists released, Sheikh Omar Saeed a British born Pakistani, later arranged for money to be sent to the 9/11 hijackers. Sheikh Omar Saeed also later murdered Daniel Pearl when he was doing a story on the Al Qaeda network in Karachi.

The pilot of the IC814 said that the main hijacker kept talking of a "Millenium Gift" for India. It is believed that the hijackers planned to blow up the plane on 31st December, but they later changed their minds after their demands were met. The 9/11 commission report talks of a Millenium Plan which was foiled or cancelled.

There are way too many connections. The released terrorists all went to Pakistan immediately.

The IC814 hijacking was important and connected enough to Al Qaeda and extended organisations. The US intelligence agencies could have learnt from it. At the very least, they should have seen how any plane can be hijacked the way IC814 was, using box-cutter and barging into the cockpit. The plane was hijacked by Pakistanis. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11 is also a Pakistani. Ramzi Yousef, the man who bombed the WTC in 1993 was a Pakistani.

I have always believed that by not giving IC814 due importance, the Americans neglected learning a very important lesson for improving their airline security as well as working on the intelligence inputs. So I was astounded to see that the 9/11 commission report does not even mention the hijacking which has so many common links with 9/11.

Very disappointing. And if there is another terror attack on American soil, it will certainly be due to this inability to fit all the relevant pieces of information into a larger picture.