Terrorism: May 14, 2002


After the 9/11 attacks, Czech intelligence reported that Mohamed Atta, leader of the suicide bombers, had been in Prague in April 2001 and had met with Ahmed al-Ani, the head spy at the Iraqi embassy. Recently, a flood of media reports (none of them naming sources) has described the evidence of this meeting variously as slim, hard to prove, unconfirmed, or even "disproven". The Czechs, however, continue to insist that the meeting took place and Atta's reported travel schedule does put him in Prague at that time (although other sources insist this cannot be confirmed). It would appear that someone, presumably in the US government, is trying to remove the main point of public support for a war with Iraq. Those who insist that this meeting provides the US with a "casus belli" against Iraq denounce the recent denials as misinformation that the CIA has planted with friendly reporters. The real point, however, is that even if the meeting happened (and it is very likely that it did) that does not mean that the Iraqi government knew about the 9/11 attacks a year in advance, or supported them, let alone that it ordered them. The Iraqis might have made an offer to or request of Atta, or he of them, which could have been completely unrelated to 9/11. Nobody knows for sure, and it's doubtful we ever will (or would believe the Iraqis if they told us), but it is not, in and of itself, a cause of war against Iraq.--Stephen V Cole


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