The FBI interviewed a Saudi family who abruptly left their Florida home shortly before the 9/11 attacks but found nothing to link them with the terrorists who slammed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a top agent said.
The comments from Tampa’s head FBI agent, Steven Ibison, came a week after The Miami Herald
published a story — days ahead of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 — that explored possible links between the family living in Sarasota and the hijackers.
Ibison said in a statement given Thursday to the St. Petersburg Times
that agents had located and talked to members of the al-Hijji family shortly after the attacks.
“At no time did the FBI develop evidence that connected the family members to any of the 9/11 hijackers, as suggested in the article, and there was no connection to the 9/11 plot,” the statement said.
The Herald report said suspicions were aroused because the al-Hijji family seemed to abandon their luxury home, with a new car in the driveway and a refrigerator filled with food.
According to the Times, the family had plausible explanations for why they left the home, and that a member later returned to arrange a sale.
The Herald said the FBI’s statement conflicts with reports from people who worked at the gated community in Sarasota where the family lived, and comments from a counterterrorism investigator.
These sources told the paper that cars linked to the 9/11 hijackers — including ringleader Mohamed Atta — had shown up at the complex with the drivers looking to see the al-Hijji family.
The FBI statement did not address that allegation.
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