The ‘Second Mohamed’ in Venice

magicattaMore than three years after the 9.11 attack, intrigue continues to swirl concerning knowledge of the terrorist hijackers movements, activities, and associates while in the U.S. preparing the assault.
A mysterious French-Arab man resurfaced last week who authorities had dubbed the ‘5th terrorist pilot’ and a ‘Second’ Mohamed in Venice, FL. In an email, he alleged that a number of eyewitnesses, including the girl who had lived with him, had all mistaken him… for Mohamed Atta.

It was he they'd known in Venice, not the terrorist ringleader, he asserted. And he suggested the confusion might owe something to their common name, "Mohamed."

Before dismissing the claims of this supposed "Second Mohamed," we must first consider a curious story from the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which seems to back him up.

It was while reviewing his allegations that we discovered that crucial early news reports filed in Venice during the week after the attack in the local Sarasota Herald Tribune have been removed from the newspaper database Lexis-Nexis, relied on by journalists and investigators worldwide.

9.11 a dead issue… for Goldbugs

Missing are stories reporting that Mohamed Atta was living across from the Venice Airport at the Sandpiper Apartments during the Spring of 2001, with Amanda Keller, a pink-haired American stripper.

Also at this time, as if the air was not already filled with enough intrigue for several spy novels, two more alleged European associates of Atta chose this precise moment to step forward and deny having associated with the terrorist ringleader, including a German pilot who recently filed a lawsuit against us in Katherine Harris's hometown of Sarasota, Florida.

There's nothing like having a home court advantage.

So…if the September 11th attack is a dead issue, as some allege, why the conspicuous flurry of activity?

Perhaps its a signal that there remains something of major value still hidden and waiting to be found beneath the garbled official account of the chronology and movements of terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta.

The 'Second' Mohamed in Venice?
 magicatta2The series of events which led to the discovery of ‘disappeared’ news about Atta in Venice began with notice that we were being sued—again.

One clear message seems to be that the MadCowMorningNews will need to place the budget line for “Defense attorney” under 're-occurring expenses.” (See related story on how to get our new video free as a premium for a contribution to our free press fund.)

Today the missing stories can only be found in one place we're aware of: the microfiche record kept of the paper-as-printed in the Sarasota Library.

d8What this means is that—unless you already knew about them—these stories effectively no longer exist.

Just to make sure they never go away, we are making them available here. Both contain mostly unremarkable interviews with numerous local eyewitnesses whose paths crossed with those of the terrorists. Their testimony matter-of-factly contradicts the FBI's official account, which states Atta moved to Venice soon after arriving in the U.S., and left for good in December of 2000.

Rare slip by Atta leaves trail of clues

“FBI Links Third Terrorist to Venice” was the headline of the first, on Sept. 16, written by Herald Tribune staff writers Robert Eckhart and Michael Werner, in which law enforcement officials matter-of-factly confirm to reporters that before moving to Venice, Mohamed Atta lived 30 miles to the south in rural Charlotte County.

“Atta lived for several months in rural Charlotte County before moving to Venice, Sheriff Bill Clement said at a news conference Thursday. Clement said the Sheriff’s Office had forwarded several tips to the FBI about Atta, who used an alias in Charlotte County.”

Atta had gone to flight school at the Charlotte Airport, local authorities discovered, when a local business owner took advantage of one of Atta's few slip-ups…The terrorist ringleader had inadvertently forwarded a five-page screed which included the picture of a dead Middle Eastern child to an aviation business at the Charlotte Airport.

The horrified owner immediately passed it on to the County Sheriff. So local law enforcement got it before the FBI. Then the well-meaning Sheriff released it to the media, much to the subsequent displeasure of the FBI.

He must have thought he still lived in a country where there is something called the "people's right to know."

xxxx2This information contradicts the FBI's account. But it also throws into question the entire chronology of the crime, from Atta’s arrival in the U.S. to his subsequent movements, which is disturbing because the FBI's investigation was the sole investigative source relied on by both the Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee inquiry and the later “independent” 9.11 Commission.

Both "investigations" knew only what the FBI told them…a truly chilling prospect.

The second account was published two days later with the headline: “Fourth Terrorist Suspect May Have Ties to Venice.”  It too quoted credible witnesses whose testimony is almost laughably at odds with the FBI’s version of events.

Reporter Earle Kimel noted the discrepancies.

“Huffman flight instructors have said they believe Atta left the area shortly after receiving his pilot’s certification,” he reported.

“However, Atta may have been in Venice as recently as April. Charles Grapentine, the manager of Sandpiper Apartments on Airport Avenue in Venice, said he remembers seeing Atta at the complex for about three weeks in April. He said Atta was living in the apartment of Amanda Keller.”

"A funny, sweet smell. And he sniffled a lot."

Here's a taste of what they are trying to hide. If these witnesses testified before cameras in front of something like Sam Erwin's Watergate Committee, we would live in a better world than we are apparently allowed.

For example, the apartment manager’s wife Paula Grapentine, told the Charlotte Sun that Atta had had "a lot of visitors." That could have opened what legendary Sen. William Fulbright used to call, "an endless can of worms."

And the owner of the Sandpiper Apartments, Vicky Keyser, told authorities the students smoked a strange tobacco which smelled like marijuana. This is far from only reference we will hear concerning the terrorist hijackers and drugs.

And here's an interesting find: One week after the attack, Brian Ross of NBC News reported a curious discovery with possible significance to the story of Mohamed Atta’s supposed German associates:

“And yet more evidence of the overseas money trail has been found at a flying school in Punta Gorda. The owner says FBI agents seized records relating to at least 12 foreign students whose tuition was paid with foreign wire transfers.”

"They were very interested in the German transfers, and they were very interested in the Middle Eastern transfers,” Byers told Ross.

But… the FBI says the hijackers received "no outside help." So why were they interested in “the German transfers?”

FBI "Conspiracy Theorists"

Any ordinary mortal who starts talking about things like "A Second Oswald" is labeled a conspiracy theorist. But somehow when the FBI conjures up a 'Second Mohamed' no one even blinked.

The sole surviving report mentioning Atta at the Sandpiper in the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database is a Sept 23, 2001 article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, in which authorities take pains to refute the earlier reports. Ironically this only serves to call attention to the fact that the earlier stories are no longer there.

 Under the headline “FIFTH PILOT TRAINEE VANISHES” on September 23, 2001 the Sarasota Herald-Tribune pair reversed itself, and now reported authorities were saying Amanda Keller had not lived with Mohamed Atta, but with another Mohamed.

“He told the people he lived with in Venice earlier this year that he was moving to Paris,” read the report. “The man, known as Mohammed, stayed at Amanda Keller's unit in the Sandpiper Apartment complex on Airport Avenue in April.”

This “Second Mohamed,” who had until then completely escaped mention, was a man about whom authorities otherwise knew little…

“Investigators have identified a fifth man of Middle Eastern descent who trained to fly in Venice, but they don't know if he was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks because they can't find him.”

"No sniggering allowed."

While they may not have known if he was involved with the 9.11 attack, authorities were completely sure about one thing… The numerous eyewitnesses told police, reporters and the FBI that terrorist ringleader Atta had been living at the Sandpiper Apartments during the Spring of 2001 had not in fact seen the terrorist ringleader…They had seen this man.

He was the ‘second’ Mohamed. No sniggering was apparently allowed.

According to statements the FBI made to Amanda Keller while questioning her, “Mohamed Arajaki” was an alias of Atta’s. And the FBI Terrorist List—mistakenly released to the public a month after the attack by the Finnish Government, to the Bureau’s consternation—also listed “Mohamed Arajaki” as one of Atta’s numerous aliases.

But Amanda Keller was far from alone in identifying Mohamed Atta as the man she had lived with for several months. In the days after the attack every one of the local newspapers in the area—the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Charlotte Sun, and Venice Gondolier—ran eyewitness accounts of Atta at the Sandpiper, across the street from the Venice Airport.

"Charles Grapentine, the manager of Sandpiper Apartments on Airport Avenue in Venice, said he remembers seeing Atta at the complex for about three weeks in April. He said Atta was living in the apartment of Amanda Keller."

"In a telephone interview late Friday, Keller said she met Atta through a friend and let him stay in the apartment with her and her then-boyfriend, Garrett Metts, because she felt sorry for him. She said authorities told her not to say anything at all about Atta," the paper reported.

"I can't really discuss anything," she said. "I'm afraid I'll get in trouble."

Another story just three days after the attack reported: ”FLIGHT SCHOOL MAY HAVE CHARGED SUSPECTED TERRORISTS EXTRA RENT.”  The local Venice Gondolier reported Huffman Aviation rented an apartment for $550 a month at the Sandpiper, and then turned around and sublet it to students at an outrageously high markup. Rudi Dekkers had been gouging the terrorists. We couldn’t muster any indignation over it.

The secret history of 9.11 contains items like the one from the Charlotte Sun, stating Amanda had been introduced in Key West to two men from Germany who said were Mohamed's friends.

“FBI agents seized records from a financially troubled flight school at the Charlotte County Airport, Professional Aviation, that recruited students from Tunisia and went out of business in the spring of 2001, after tipsters said they saw Atta there late last year or early this year,” the Charlotte Sun-Herald reported.

"The FBI in Tampa would neither confirm nor deny that any agents were interviewing people in the North Port area," Charlotte Sun reporter Elaine Allen-Emrich wrote.

"Asked for more information about Atta's wild weekend, an FBI spokesperson identified only as Pam stated “We recommend that you check in with CNN for current information. Any press statements can be found on televised stations like CNN.”

You Should Have "Checked In" with CNN First

Yet 'Mohamed Arajaki's' email naively assumes he has only Amanda Keller to "discredit" to make the story go away.

 “The only common points between Atta and myself are that I am from an Arabic background, I was in Venice at the wrong time at the wrong school… (And) I forgot, my family name starts with an A as well,” the email stated.

“It is true that she met a certain Mohamed but it was not Mohamed Atta, but myself. The only person to blame is Amanda as she knew she was lying. Do a little bit of investigation and you will find things about Mohamed Arakji, because I am the Mohamed she knew not the other one.”

Upset about what he termed “the enormous lies you have been publishing about Amanda and Mohamed Atta,” he wrote, “Unfortunately for you and myself, we had to deal with this serial liar psycho.”

“She took facts and turned them to sell a story. I hope it did not cost you too much to buy nothing but lies.”

In point of fact, we paid Amanda nothing. We'd been puzzled about why her story hadn't already been told in the tabloids… “Terrorist’s Girlfriend Bares All!” would sell a lot of papers in the check-out line.

Amanda Keller never went looking for publicity. We went looking for her. We didn't feel like “checking in with CNN.”

The accusation that Keller was a gold-digger looking for a payday in the deaths of 3000 people is a lie. As if anticipating it might not fly, the email offered a second explanation for how a half dozen ordinary citizens had mistaken him for Mohamed Atta…

“Also you must know that it is very easy to mistake one Arab guy for another.”

We were glad we hadn’t said that.

Every Picture Tells a Story

magicb“Amanda mentions transvestites in Key West, my friend got grabbed by a group of them in the street, as it was funny, I took a picture as well," stated the email.

We dug out Amanda's comments about the trip to Key West: “So we went by Diva’s (in Key West) and it was the first time I ever saw a drag queen,” she told us. “And I was standing there talking to them, so they had their pictures taken with a drag queen.”

“Peter, Mohamed and Stephan were all standing next to the drag queen, who stuffed his hand down all their pants in the pictures, and Peter and Stephan both laughed it off, but Mohamed got really angry,” said Amanda.

Somewhere there are photographs of terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta being groped by a drag queen in Key West. The truth is always stranger than fiction. Still, given the numerous reports of Atta’s un-Islamic proclivities, its not at all unbelievable.

Mr. "Mohamed Arajaki" sent along several photos of himself…

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

We never believed any credible witness would mistake terrorist ringleader Atta for anyone else, and seeing this man’s photo only reinforced the conviction…

Could you mistake this man for Mohamed Atta?

We couldn’t either.

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Daniel Hopsicker

Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative journalist and the author of two books on transnational crime, Welcome to Terrorland and Barry & the Boys.