Mohammed Atta in Prague FAQ

By Richard M. Smith of
Updated June 19, 2002 (Original version June 16, 2002)


The Czech government claims it has evidence that on April 8, 2001, Mohammed Atta, the ring-leader of the 9/11 hijackers, met in Prague with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi government official. Mr. Al-Ani worked in the Iraqi embassy in Prague. This meeting is controversial because the Czech and U.S. governments now disagree if this meeting ever occured or not. This FAQ attempts to look at all sides of this complex issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is Mohammed Atta's alleged visit in the Spring of 2001 to Prague considered so important?

    If this meeting did occur, then it would be a strong indication of possible Iraqi government involvment in the 9/11 attacks, especially considering that Mohammed Atta would have had to make a special trip from the United States to Prague to attend this meeting. [1] This meeting would have also been Mohammed Atta's second visit to Prague in less than a year. [13]

  2. Why is the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Mr. Al-Ani in dispute?

    The meeting is in dispute because the CIA and FBI do not believe that Mohammed Atta ever left the United States during April 2001. [8]

  3. What evidence does the Czech Government have that Mohammed Atta was in Prague on April 8, 2001?

    The Czech government is unwilling to release any details about the information that they have about the disputed meeting other then to say Mr. Al-Ani was being observed by the BIS, the Czech intelligence service, because he was suspected of being a spy. The Czech government position has been made public by Hynek Kmonicek, a former deputy foreign minister, and interior minister Stanislav Gross. [1]

  4. What evidence does the U.S. government have that Mohammed Atta was in the United States on April 8, 2001?

    The US governement has no record of Mohammed Atta leaving and re-entering the US in April 2001. They also were unable to locate a plane ticket that would have been used Mr. Atta to fly between the US and the Czech Republic. Finally, the U.S. Government has tracked Mr. Atta's movements before 9/11 via phone records, cellphone bills, and credit card receipts as part of the investigation of the 9/11 attacks. [8] [3]

  5. How closely have the Czech and U.S. governments worked on the investigation of the disputed meeting?

    Presumably the BIS, CIA, and FBI have shared data on the April 8th meeting and Mohammed Atta's travels during the month of April.

  6. Has The US government officially stated its position publically on the disputed Prague meeting?

    No. The U.S. position has only been "leaked" to major media outlets (Newsweek, Washington Post, New York Times, etc.) by an unnamed source. Presumably this unnamed source is someone from the CIA. However, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secetary of Defense, more or less confirmed these leaks when he said he was no longer sure if Mohammed Atta ever met with Mr. Al-Ani or not when asked by Robert Novak, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist in May 2002. [2]

  7. Why has the dispute Prague meeting become such a political hot potato?

    Various "Iraqi hawks" in the United States want to use the meeting as a pretext for attacking Iraq as part of President Bush's war against terrorism. Some well-known "Iraqi Hawks" include Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense), William Safire (columnist for the New York Times), James Woolsey (former CIA director), and Laurie Mylroie (journalist).

    Skeptics of the Prague meeting point out that the evidence is skimpy at best that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. [2] [3] [8]

  8. How can the controversy over the Prague meeting be clearly up?

    The simplest solution is for both the Czech and U.S. governments come forward with the information that have about the Prague meeting and where Mohammed Atta was during the month of April 2001. For various security and political reasons, neither country is willing to take this step at the present time. Because of possible future military actions against Iraq, the U.S. government in particular wants to keep its options open. [17] On the other side, the Czech government seems reluctant to reveal its surveillance methods which can then be scrutinitized by indepedent investigators as well as foes. [19] Of course, new evidence can be developed by either country which can also end the dispute.

  9. If the meeting really did occur, what did Mohammed Atta and Mr. Al-Ani talked about?

    No one except for Mr. Al-Ani knows for sure. The BIS apparently was not able to listen in on the meeting. [19]

  10. What are some of the rumors that have been reported about Mohammed Atta's Meeting with Mr. Al-Ani?

  11. Why was Mr. Al-Ani expelled from the Czech Republic in April 2001?

    The Czech government expelled Mr. Al-Ani from the Czech Republic on April 22, 2001 because he was "engaging in activities beyond his diplomatic duties". This is diplomatic speak for "spying." The Czech government in particular was concerned that Mr. Al-Ani was involved in a plot to disrupt the operations of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty transmitters in Prague which now regularly broadcast to Iraq. [14]

  12. Was Mr. Al-Ani is expulsion related to his meeting with Mohammed Atta?

    The Czech government says no. [15]

  13. What was Mr. Al-Ani is role at the Iraqi embassy in Prague?

    Mr. Al-Ani was a consul at the Iraqi embassy. His job seemed to be arranging business deals between European and Iraqi companies. He was also known to harass Iraqi citizens living in the Czech Republic to return to Iraq. [7] Given his explusion by the Czech Republic by the Czech government, Mr. Al-Ani job also likely involved spying.

  14. Has the Czech government ever changed its story about the disputed meeting?

    Yes. The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told CNN in October, 2001 that the Mohammed Atta and Mr. Al-Ani were planning to destroy the headquarters of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty which now broadcasts to Iraq. [12]

  15. Has the U.S. government ever changed its story about the disputed meeting?

    Yes. During the fall of 2001, U.S. government officials supported the Czech government view that the Prague meeting had taken place. They even indicated that Mohammed Atta had left the U.S. right before April 8th and return to the U.S. right after April 8th. [14]

  16. When did the Czech government alert the US government about their information about the Mohammed Atta's meeting with Mr. Al-Ani?

    According to press reports, not until after the 9/11 attacks when someone at the BIS recognized either Mohammed Atta's name or picture. [11]

  17. Why didn't the Czech government alert the US government about the meeting in the April 2001?

    Before 9/11, the Czech government did not consider the meeting important enough to notify the U.S. government. [11]

  18. What has Iraq said about the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and Mr. Al-Ani in April 2001?

    The Iraqi government said that the meeting never occurred. [18]

  19. Where is Mr. Al-Ani today?

    The Prague Post reported that Mr. Al-Ani now works for the Foreign Ministry in Baghdad. [7]

  20. Did Mohammed Atta ever make any other visits to Prague?

    Yes. Before coming to the United States in June 2000, he spent approximately 24 hours in Prague. He travel to Prague by bus from Hamburg, Germany where he was a college student. From Prague he flew to Newark, New Jersey. This trip has been well documented. [13]

  21. What did Mohammed Atta do on his June 2000 visit in Prague?

    No one has any idea. Even the Czech government says they don't know what Mohammed Atta did on the his June 2000 trip. Some people have speculated that he could have met with Iraqi government officials, but no evidence has been provided for such a meeting. This trip to Prague does look suspicous because Mohammed Atta seemed to a make big effort to go to Prague before coming to the U.S. for the first time. [13]

  22. Did any other meetings occur between the 9/11 hijackers and members of the Iraqi government?

    No other meetings have been publically reported.

  23. Did any of the 9/11 hijackers make any overseas trips between when they arrived in the United States and the 9/11 attacks?

    Yes, the following trips have been documented by U.S. government investigators: [20] [21]

    Mohammed Atta  1/4/2001  Madrid, Spain
    Mohammed Atta7/7/2001  Zurich, Switzerland
    Alshehhi1/11/2001  Casablanca, Morocco
    Alshehhi4/18/2001  Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Ziad Jarrah7/25/2001  Germany


[1] UN envoy confirms terrorist meeting 
Prague Post, June 5, 2002

[2] On Atta, Prague and Iraq 	
Chicago Sun-Times, May 13, 2002

[3] The Phantom Link to Iraq
Newsweek, April 28, 2002

[4] Atta, Prague, Iraq
Edward Jay Epstein, May 9, 2002

[5] Mr. Atta Goes to Prague
New York Times, May 9, 2002

[6] Protecting Saddam
New York Times, March 18, 2002

[7] Iraqi leads opposition movement from Prague 
Prague Post, April 3, 2002

[8] No Link Between Hijacker, Iraq Found, U.S. Says 
Washington Post, May 1, 2002

[9] New Clue Fails to Explain Iraq Role in Sept. 11 Attack
New York Times, December 16, 2001

[10] Czech PM: Atta considered Prague attack
CNN, November 9, 2001

[11] Czech government didn't tell U.S. about hijacker's Iraqi connection until after attacks 
AP, October 28, 2001 

[12] Czech PM: Atta considered Prague attack
CNN, November 9, 2001

[13] No Evidence Suspect Met Iraqi in Prague
New York Times, October 20, 2001

[14] Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met With Terror Ringleader
New York Times, October 27, 2001

[15] New Clue Fails to Explain Iraq Role in Sept. 11 Attack
New York Times, December 16, 2001

[16] Hijacker 'Given Anthrax Flask by Iraqi Agent'
The Times of London, October 27, 2001 

[17] How Bush Decided That Hussein Must Be Ousted From Atop Iraq
Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2002,,SB1024014383232040120-search,00.html

[18] Gunning for Saddam; Interview with Mohammed Aldouri
Frontline, November 8, 2001

[19] Czechs: Hijacker met with Iraqi spy 
Prague Post, May 8, 2002

[20] The Immigration and Naturalization Service's Contacts With Two September 11 Terrorists
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, May 20, 2002