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Saudi government may have funded 9/11 'dry run,' attorneys say: Report

New evidence submitted in lawsuit on behalf of families of 1,400 victims who died in attacks 16 years ago
New York's World Trade Center under attack in 2001 (AFP/file photo)

New evidence submitted in a lawsuit against the Saudi Arabian government shows that its embassy in Washington may have funded a 9/11 "dry run" by two Saudis, possibly reinforcing the claim that employees and agents of the kingdom directed and aided the 9/11 hijackers, the New York Post reported on Saturday.

Two years before the airliner attacks, the Saudi embassy paid for two nationals living in the US as students to fly from Phoenix to Washington "in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks," alleges the amended complaint filed on behalf of the families of some 1,400 victims who died in the attacks 16 years ago, the Post said.

The court filing provides new details that paint "a pattern of both financial and operational support" for the 9/11 conspiracy from official Saudi sources, lawyers for the plaintiffs say. They add that the Saudi government may have been involved in underwriting the attacks from the earliest stages, including testing cockpit security.

Motion to dismiss

"We've long asserted that there were longstanding and close relationships between al-Qaeda and the religious components of the Saudi government," said Sean Carter, the lead attorney for the 9/11 plaintiffs. "This is further evidence of that."

Lawyers representing Saudi Arabia last month filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which may finally be headed towards trial now that Congress has cleared diplomatic-immunity hurdles, the Post said. A Manhattan federal judge has asked the 9/11 plaintiffs, represented by lead law firm Cozen O'Connor, to respond to the motion by November.

Saudi Arabia had called on the United States last year to "correct" the bill that allows 9/11 victims' families to sue Saudi Arabia in US courts to avoid its "dangerous" consequences.

An unidentified Saudi foreign ministry official told Saudi news agency SPA at the time that he hoped wisdom would prevail in Congress to amend the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

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Congress voted overwhelmingly last September to override a presidential veto of the bill by then-president Barack Obama.

Families of 9/11 victims campaigned for the law, alleging that the Saudi government had a hand in the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, but no link to the government has been proven. The Saudi government denies any links to the plotters.

Declassified documents showed US intelligence had multiple suspicions about links between the Saudi government and the attackers.

Riyadh lobbied

"While in the United States, some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government," a finding read.

Behind the scenes, Riyadh has lobbied furiously for the bill to be scrapped.

A senior Saudi prince reportedly threatened to pull billions of dollars out of US assets if it became law, but Saudi officials later distanced themselves from that.

In a diplomatic protest note obtained by AFP, the European Union warned the rules would be "in conflict with fundamental principles of international law".

"State immunity is a central pillar of the international legal order," the demarche noted, adding that other countries may take "reciprocal action".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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