About four days after the terrorists moved into their new apartment, Bayoumi organized a dinner party in their home to introduce them to the community. A former Islamic Center administrator who attended the party and had almost daily contact with Bayoumi said it was the only time Bayoumi threw a party for newcomers.
In a December 2002 interview with an Arab newspaper, Bayoumi denied arranging the February 2000 party; instead, he said it was a traditional Ramadan dinner that Hazmi and Mihdhar arranged. However, Ramadan, a monthlong religious observance, ended on December 28 in 2000. The preceding Ramadan began in December 1999 and ended on January 8, 2000, a week before the terrorists’ arrival in Los Angeles.
Bayoumi hosted another dinner party in spring 2000 at a Kurdish mosque in El Cajon where he introduced the terrorists to about 20 men, including Mohdar Abdullah. Abdullah, a San Diego State student at the time, is another controversial figure whom the FBI speculated may have had advanced knowledge of the attacks.
Abdullah, a Yemeni, denied knowing about the attacks in several interviews but admitted being a close friend of Hazmi. “It was a private introduction. I recall Bayoumi telling me, ‘These guys just came from Los Angeles.’ He told them if they needed any help they could ask me. Being a committed Muslim, it’s kind of a moral obligation to help your brothers who are in need. I reacted very normally. I said sure,” said Abdullah in a 2002 jailhouse interview. He was in the U.S. illegally and deported in 2004.
Bayoumi “indicated he drove [Hazmi and Mihdhar] from Los Angeles to San Diego,” said Abdullah. The 9/11 Commission said the terrorists were “possibly” driven to San Diego by Abdullah, but he has repeatedly denied that.
Bayoumi arrived in the United States in 1994 to study English at San Diego State. He claimed to be a student during the entire time he lived here. He told some that he was living off a stipend from his employer, Dallah/Avco Trans Arabia Co., who he said was paying him to study in the U.S. The business is an aviation services company with ties to the Saudi government. He told an apartment manager that he was receiving money from his family and others that he had a government scholarship. He told the Arab newspaper he was a social worker in San Diego.
Bayoumi first appeared on the FBI’s San Diego radar in 1998, when an apartment manager reported suspicious gatherings of Middle Eastern males in his apartment and a suspicious package mailed to him from overseas. Agents opened an inquiry that was closed the following year without action taken. Hazmi told a Saudi college student from La Mesa he believed Bayoumi was a spy and tailing Mihdhar and him when they crossed paths in the restaurant.
In a fall 2001 interview, the student related Hazmi’s account that Bayoumi walked by their table and pretended to drop a newspaper. He then began talking to Hazmi and Mihdhar in Arabic. The student was interviewed with a lawyer present and asked to remain anonymous.
In an October 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission staff in Saudi Arabia, Bayoumi said that Hazmi’s “description of him as a Saudi spy hurt him very much.” The interview took place in the presence of an agent from the Mabahith, the secret police from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. Bayoumi said that in the restaurant meeting Hazmi and Mihdhar said they wanted to move to San Diego after hearing his description of the local weather.
The La Mesa student said his uncle gave him some advice before he left for the U.S.; advice generated by Saudi paranoia that everyone is a government informant. The man who goes out of his way to help him in San Diego is the one to be wary of, he warned. The student said when he arrived at the Islamic Center in August 2000, asking for help in finding a place to rent, Bayoumi drove him to the house of Abdussattar Shaikh in Lemon Grove, where he lived for one month. Shaikh took in Muslim boarders and was Bayoumi’s friend. Shaikh said he was an educator and preferred to be called Dr. Shaikh. In 2000 he was a member of the San Diego Police Commission and an FBI informant.
Hazmi and Mihdhar rented rooms in Shaikh’s house after moving out of the Parkwood Apartments in May 2000. In an interview with 9/11 Commission staff, Shaikh said Bayoumi told him he had referred the hijackers to Shaikh’s home, but Shaikh disputed that. The FBI did not learn that the terrorists lived with one of the bureau’s informants until after the attacks.
Despite acknowledging his ties to Hazmi and Mihdhar to the 9/11 Commission and in an August 2003 interview with the FBI in Saudi Arabia, Bayoumi told the Arab newspaper he did not know the two terrorists and did not draw a cashier’s check in his name — for which he was reimbursed — to pay for their first month’s rent. He said he did not know where Hazmi and Mihdhar lived after moving from the apartment, despite telling Shaikh that he suggested they rent from him.
The FBI did not learn about Bayoumi’s association with the hijackers until September 13, 2001, when their names and photos were released. Local Muslims who recognized Hazmi and Mihdhar called the FBI and told agents about Bayoumi. A local religious leader interviewed in 2001 said FBI agents showed him a photo lineup on September 15. The only man he recognized was Bayoumi, and it was clear by the questions the FBI was asking that agents did not know where he was, said the imam.
Two days later, attorney Randall Hamud and a client who knew Bayoumi and the hijackers met voluntarily with the FBI and gave them Bayoumi’s address in Birmingham, England, where he had moved. Hamud’s client told agents that he had agreed to have $5000 wired from the United Arab Emirates to his bank account for Hazmi, thinking he was doing a favor for a fellow Muslim. This information also gave the FBI its first lead that directed U.S. authorities to Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, an Al-Qaeda financier who wired money to the hijackers and made their travel arrangements.