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Mysterious suspect for possible involvement in 9/11 attacks missed and forgotten


Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali is a Saudi Arabian student pilot, notable for having been deported from New Zealand in 2006 after it was realised that he had lived and trained in the USA with Hani Hanjour, one of the hijacking pilots in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

As Al Jazeera reported in June 10, 2006, "Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali, a United States-qualified pilot, was deported late last month after immigration officials raided his home in Palmerston North, where he had joined the local aero club. David Cunliffe, the immigration minister, said in a statement that Ali was considered a threat to national security because of his activities in New Zealand and because he was 'directly associated with' those responsible for the 2001 attacks on the US."

However, right after his expulsion, it seems that this mysterious person had literally vanished from the face of the earth.

As The New Zealand Herald reported back in June 17, 2006 (important parts highlighted):

Rayed Ali, the Saudi student deported from New Zealand on national security grounds, has disappeared after reaching Saudi Arabia. New Zealand authorities will not say who Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was handed to on arrival in Saudi Arabia but his family have told the Herald they had not heard from him.

His 27-year-old brother, Abdul Mohammed, who lives in the United States, says the family are anxious to know Rayed's whereabouts. He learned of his brother's deportation on the internet, after Herald inquiries last week prompted the Government to admit it expelled Ali on May 30.

Abdul Mohammed said the family knew nothing of Rayed's circumstances. "Someone said he was taken to the Yemeni embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia but they denied it."

[...]

The Government says it used section 72 because of Ali's direct association with those responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US; his activities in the US before then and the nature of his activities in New Zealand. While living in Phoenix, Arizona, he was linked to September 11 suicide pilot Hani Hanjour, who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people. Ali was questioned after September 11 but was not wanted by the FBI. 

[...]

Intelligence expert Paul Buchanan said few of the 9/11 pilots had sought a commercial licence but it was possible Ali was planning an operation. New Zealand might have got wind of a plot to use planes in the Middle East and "rendered him" to the Saudis. "He may not ever appear again."

On the other hand, there was much to suggest his pursuit of his commercial pilot's licence was completely innocent, Mr Buchanan said.

Herald inquiries this week have uncovered nothing about his activities in New Zealand which posed a national security threat - unless having known a hijacker and flying a Cessna are sufficient grounds.

[...]

"Rayed felt he had let Dad down by failing to graduate [in the US]," Abdul Mohammed said. "He just decided he wanted to finish [his pilot training]." He says he spoke to Rayed a few days before he was deported, when he said he was about to renew his visa (which ran out on May 21). His father had since been trying to contact him on his cellphone "but it is off all the time".

A WikiLeaks document (cable from the US embassy in New Zealand) back in June 20, 2006, shows that there was an effort to downplay the whole matter, despite that the Americans still wanted to "keep an eye" on the suspect (important parts highlighted):

                    Some local commentators have accused the Government of overreacting, as Ali had allegedly been extensively interviewed after 9/11 by the FBI in America and was released for lack of evidence. In general, however, public criticism of Ali's deportation has been muted, and nowhere near the levels of concern generated by the Zaoui case. As a practical matter, we would have preferred that Ali remain in New Zealand, where close law enforcement cooperation would have let us keep an eye on him. 

We tried to find additional information about Abdullah Ali, but we couldn't find anything beyond the information circulated after his expulsion back in 2006.

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