WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand has deported a Yemeni man identified as having direct links with the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States who was taking pilot training in the country this year, the government said Saturday.
Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was deported to Saudi Arabia on May 30 because his presence in New Zealand posed a security threat, Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said in a statement.
"He was directly associated with persons responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001," Cunliffe said.
The U.S. congressional investigation into the attacks said Rayed Abdullah had lived and trained with Saudi Arabian Hani Hanjour, who piloted the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
Rayed Abdullah was deported one day after he was arrested in the North Island city of Palmerston North where he was undertaking airplane pilot flight training, the minister said.
"He was building up his flying hours flying with an instructor. He'd previously trained as a pilot in the United States," Cunliffe said.
Rayed Abdullah had used "a variation of his name in applying for entry to New Zealand" and his real identity had only become known after he arrived in the country, Cunliffe said. He didn't say when Rayed Abdullah had arrived.
"Once his real identity became known, he was identified as having close connections to people involved with the Sept. 11 2001 attacks in the United States, and had been named in the 9/11 Commission Report," Cunliffe said.
The report identified Rayed Abdullah as a leader at the Islamic Cultural Center in Phoenix, Arizona, who had given extremist speeches at the mosque.
When he arrived in New Zealand, Rayed Abdullah initially had lived in the northern city of Auckland where he had undertaken some English language training, the stated purpose of his visit, Cunliffe said.
He then shifted to Palmerston North where he had undertaken a pilot training program with the Manawatu Aero Club, the minister said.
Cunliffe said the nature of Rayed Abdullah's activities in New Zealand was part of the reason for his deportation. But he declined to give details.
"What I will say is that we don't have any evidence of a specific terrorist threat by the gentleman in New Zealand nor are we saying he was undertaking terrorist activities," Cunliffe told National Radio.