Monday September 24 2001
Attack Suspect's Father Says Son Hated Bin Laden
By Cynthia Johnston
CAIRO (Reuters) - The father of hijack suspect Mohamed Atta said Monday his soft-spoken son had hated Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and could not possibly be involved in this month's attacks on the United States. ``My son hates bin Laden. That's the only political opinion he expressed in his life,'' 65-year-old lawyer Mohamed al-Amir Atta told reporters.``My son did not do this.''
He said his son -- once a gentle chess-loving boy who shunned military toys -- could not have been on the doomed plane because they had spoken on the telephone after the attacks.
The FBI has said it suspects Atta flew the first of two hijacked passenger planes that slammed into and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11. Washington has named bin Laden as its prime suspect in the attacks, which left more than 6,000 people dead or missing.
The father said his son, 33, has despised the Saudi-born militant since the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, which has been blamed on bin Laden. The elder Atta, his voice quivering as he spoke, said his son was a quiet boy who would never have murdered innocent people. To underline his point, he asked reporters to hold a minute of silence for the victims in the United States, as well as victims of violence in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. ``He was always a quiet, smiling child. He was religious, just like the whole family,'' Atta told reporters at a news conference hosted by the Foreign Press Association in Cairo.
``He had all the noble qualities like forgiveness and kindness, and he would avoid problems...Mohamed didn't like to play with masculine toys like weapons. He had only one hobby, which was playing chess with me.''
Atta described his son as a bright child, born in Kafr al-Sheikh in the Nile Delta in 1968. He said he had encouraged him to study abroad in Germany after he graduated from Cairo University's school of engineering in 1990. Atta said he wanted his son, fluent in Arabic, English and German, to become a professor like his two sisters. He said Mohamed had traveled to Germany in 1992 to study city planning, finished his master's thesis in 1999 and started studying for his doctorate the following year.
But Atta said he no longer knew where his son was, or whether he was still alive. He said his son had called him shortly after the attacks, but he had not heard from him since. ``About 12-36 hours after the incident, my son called me by phone. It was a normal conversation,'' he said, adding he did not have his son's phone number.
Atta said the only published pictures linking Mohamed to the attack -- airport security footage of a man entering a U.S. airport on a flight to Boston on September 11 -- were fake. He reiterated earlier claims that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind the attacks.