A Saudi militant killed in 2004 was due to have been the 20th suicide plane hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, al-Qaida’s media arm said in a statement on the Internet on Tuesday.
“Turki bin Fheid al-Muteiri -- Fawaz al-Nashmi -- may God accept him as a martyr (was) the one chosen by Sheikh Osama bin Laden to be the martyrdom-seeker number 20 in the raid on September 11, 2001,” the statement said.
“The (Sept. 11) operation was brought forward for some circumstances that brother Mohamed Atta explained to the general leadership,” it said, indicating that Muteiri could not join the other hijackers, led by Atta, in time.
Most of the 19 hijackers, who flew planes into buildings in New York and Washington, were Saudi nationals.
Moussaoui involvement denied
In May, al-Qaida leader bin Laden said Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in a U.S. court for the Sept. 11 attacks, had nothing to do with the al-Qaida raids on the United States.
U.S. officials say Moussaoui was supposed to be the 20th attacker. Moussaoui was sentenced on May 4 to life in prison with no chance of release, ending 4-1/2 years of legal wrangling over his fate.
The 37-year-old French citizen of Moroccan descent pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy in connection with the attacks.
Muteiri, who took part in an attack on foreigners in the Saudi oil city of al-Khobar in 2004, was one of 4 militants killed in an exchange of fire with Saudi forces in Riyadh.
The Khobar attack was one of the bloodiest attacks by al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia. Militants masquerading as security men killed 22 civilians in a shooting and hostage-taking spree.