Published January 13, 2015
A Saudi man wanted for questioning by U.S. officials about his links to two Sept. 11 hijackers said Sunday he is ready to talk, but only in his homeland and in the presence of officials from his government.
In his first interview since his name was raised in a U.S. congressional report that questioned Saudi Arabia's commitment to the war on terror, Omar al-Bayoumi (search) told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television Sunday that he had done nothing wrong.
"I am ready to sit with American investigators, whether from the FBI (search) or the CIA, in the presence of Saudi investigators and on Saudi land," he said.
Al-Bayoumi said he wrote to the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef, telling him he was ready for questioning.
The Saudi government said last week it had authorized FBI and CIA (search) agents in Saudi Arabia to question al-Bayoumi after the congressional report recounted findings that he befriended and helped two of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar (search) and Nawaf al-Hazmi (search), who helped crash an airliner into the Pentagon.
In the interview, al-Bayoumi said claims that he aided the two shortly after they arrived in the United States were "pure fabrication."
"People or forces who have vested interests in trying to tarnish the image of the kingdom" were behind the report, he said.
The report said the three met in Los Angeles and al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi later moved into the same San Diego housing complex where al-Bayoumi lived. Al-Bayoumi studied in the United States on a Saudi government scholarship from 1994 to 2000.
The report said "al-Bayoumi gave them considerable assistance." The FBI, according to the congressional report, found the connection "somewhat suspicious."
Al-Bayoumi, identified by the Americans as a Saudi civil aviation worker, worked with a Saudi government aviation official whose son's picture was found on a computer disk along with pictures of many of the 19 hijackers, most of whom came from Saudi Arabia, the report also said.
In addition, al-Bayoumi indirectly received money from Princess Haifa al-Faisal (search), the wife of the Saudi ambassador in Washington Bandar bin Sultan, according to the report. Al-Bayoumi challenged the U.S. authorities to produce evidence.
Al-Bayoumi left the United States two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackings to study in Britain. Al-Bayoumi said British and U.S. officials investigated him immediately after the terrorist attacks and released him.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), asked Sunday about why the Americans might want to question al-Bayoumi again, said sometimes new information arises that makes it necessary to return to a person not originally considered important.
Usama bin Laden (search), the leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, is accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks. Bin Laden is Saudi by birth, but was excommunicated from his homeland in the mid-1990s for advocating violence against the United States and threatening to overthrow the Saudi royal family for allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil during the 1991 Gulf War.
Secret parts of the congressional report into the Sept. 11 attacks examines interactions between Saudi businessmen and the royal family that may have intentionally or unwittingly aided Al Qaeda or the suicide hijackers.
The Saudi government has urged Washington to publish the classified sections, saying they cannot otherwise respond to the allegations.