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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hijackers Leave Chilling Letter

WASHINGTON -- An impassioned letter left by hijackers on three of the four doomed Sept. 11 flights offers "a disturbing and shocking view into the mind-set of these terrorists,'' U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday.

The four-page, handwritten letter, released by the FBI in its original Arabic, lays out instructions to the hijackers on how to prepare for a terrorist attack. It includes numerous Islamic prayers and motivational references to the Koran.

Ashcroft said investigators found three copies of the note: one in a suitcase belonging to suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta, which did not make it onto his flight out of Boston's Logan Airport; another in a car abandoned at Dulles International Airport in Washington that is registered to one of the men suspected of hijacking the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; and a third at the site in rural Pennsylvania where a fourth hijacked plane crashed.

Although the copy found in Pennsylvania was burned and badly damaged, it was legible enough for investigators to determine that it was the same as those found in Boston and Washington.

Ashcroft called the letter "clear evidence linking the hijackers on three separate flights on Sept. 11.''

The letter is undated and unsigned, and investigators are unsure who wrote it or when it was written. It contains little in the way of specific references to the Sept. 11 hijacking plot.

The note includes instructions on how to prepare in the days and hours preceding a terrorist attack. Readers are told to avoid detection, to make a checklist of paperwork, knives, baggage and other items, and to stay focused on the mission at hand.

"When you board the plane, remember that this is a battle in the sake of Allah, which is worth the whole world and all that is in it,'' the letter states.

"Don't manifest any hesitation and control yourself and be joyful with ease, because you are embarking upon a mission that Allah is pleased with. And you will be rewarded by living with the inhabitants of heaven,'' it said.

Despite the letter's dominant religious overtones, Ashcroft said he did "not believe it to be representative of Moslems or the Islamic faith.''

The Moslem faith, Ashcroft said, "is peaceful and in no way condones these acts of violence. And I remind all Americans that law-abiding Moslem Americans are patriotic citizens who deserve dignity and respect.''

His comments were the Bush administration's latest effort to quell a wave of apparent retaliation in the United States against those of Middle Eastern descent since the attacks. The FBI is investigating 90 possible hate crimes against Arabs and Sikhs, including assaults, arsons and several killings.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Southern California chapter, said the letter's religious context could fuel more attacks.

Ayloush said that the excerpts from the letter enraged him because they included many of the same Islamic prayers that he teaches to his two children.

"It's mind-boggling to me to see the fanaticism that would lead somebody to misinterpret the same verses from Islam, verses of compassion and forgiveness,'' he said.

The letter's reference to using terrorism as a way to achieve "paradise'' and "everlasting life'' was particularly upsetting, Ayloush said.

"There's a famous saying of the prophet Mohammed: 'Whoever unjustly harms a Christian or a Jew will not even smell paradise,''' he said.