is a numeric metaphor
concerning a possible
in the September 11, 2001 attacks
was not able to participate.
The term is somewhat misleading, as there is no evidence that
ever planned to have exactly 20
hijackers. There were many variations of the 9/11 plot, with the
number of terrorists fluctuating with available resources and
changing circumstances. In the end, there were 19 hijackers: three
of the planes were taken over by five members each and the fourth
was hijacked by only four people. One plane, United Airlines
Flight 93, had fewer hijackers than the rest and was also
less successful in its mission—instead of hitting any of the
obvious targets in Washington, D.C., it hit a hillside in
Pennsylvania, due to resistance from regular passengers.
Thus the idea of a 20th hijacker came to be widely discussed.
The 9/11 Commission
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
intended to have as many as 25 or 26 hijackers for the plot. It was
also reported that 14 members of al-Qaeda, in addition to the 19
known hijackers, had attempted to enter the United States to
participate in the attacks.
allegedly meant to
take part in the attacks, but he was repeatedly denied a visa
for entry into the U.S.
Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi Arabian citizen, may also have been planning to join the
hijackers, but Jose
Melendez-Perez, a U.S.
International Airport refused his entry into the U.S. in August
2001. He was later captured in Afghanistan and imprisoned at the U.S. military prison known as
Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo
January 2009, Susan J. Crawford
admitted that Kahtani had been
tortured at Camp X-Ray
as a replacement for Ziad Jarrah
, who at
one point threatened to withdraw from the scheme because of
tensions amongst the plotters. Plans to include Moussaoui were
never finalized, as the al-Qaeda hierarchy had doubts about his
reliability. Ultimately, Moussaoui did not play a role in the
hijacking scheme. He was arrested about four weeks before the
The other al-Qaeda members who allegedly attempted, but were not
able, to take part in the attacks were Saeed al-Ghamdi (not to be
confused with the successful hijacker of the same name), Tawfiq bin Attash
, Ali Abdul Aziz
, Mushabib al-Hamlan
, Saeed Ahmad
al-Zahrani, Ali Abd
al-Ghamdi, Saeed al-Baluchi, Qutaybah
al-Najdi, Zuhair al-Thubaiti, and Saud al-Rashi. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
, the attack's
alleged mastermind, had wanted to remove at least one
operation, but he was overruled by Osama
According to the BBC, Fawaz
claimed to have been the "20th hijacker". An
Al-Qaeda video has been released from a US intelligence
organization, showing al-Nashimi justifying attacks on the west.
The U.S dismissed al-Nashimi's claims as propaganda. He was also
known as Turki bin Fuheid al-Muteiry and took part in a May 29, 2004 attack
facilities in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. He was killed in a June 2004
shootout with Saudi Arabian security forces.