Seven years after the September 11 suicide skyjackings by Muslim terrorists, 1,126 (41%) of the 2,751 victims from the World Trade Center and five individuals from the Pentagon have not been identified. Despite extensive DNA analysis of all the recovered remains, no identifiable part of them has been found.
All four of the terrorists who hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, have been identified by their remains. Two more terrorists from the World Trade Center jets have been identified. Between them all, they amount to only 24 pounds of bone and flesh. The families of the terrorists refused to cooperate in contributing DNA, so it was collected from items in their hotel rooms.
So far none of the hijackers' families have come forward to request the remains. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a law professor at UCLA and an authority on Islamic law, says he would be surprised if they did: "I've heard many times in the Muslim community that to claim and bury a body of one of the hijackers is to admit or accept that it was indeed those hijackers who committed 9/11."
Reached by NEWSWEEK, one relative of Ziad Jarrah, the hijacker believed to have piloted Flight 93 into a Pennsylvania field, expressed just this kind of ambivalence. "Of course we want to get back his remains, but we are not planning to make any contact before things get clarified," said the relative, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. He couldn't bring himself to admit that Jarrah had carried out the atrocities. "Maybe he participated," he says. "Maybe there is something we don't know." But then he paused. Perhaps, he conceded, his relative was indeed involved and he himself was just "engaging in wishful thinking." Admitting it outright, Professor El Fadl says, would run counter to the prevalent belief in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt that the attacks were actually an anti-Arab conspiracy perpetrated by the Bush administration. If he were related to one of the hijackers, he says, "I'd be scared for the harm that might befall the rest of my family by the Saudi or Egyptian government if I showed an interest," he says. "There is an environment of fear in countries like Saudi Arabia; it's hard to describe. The culture of terror is suffocating."
I'd like to see the charred remains displayed as artifacts in the September 11 museum which will surely be built one day, each set bearing the name and country of the terrorist.
Labels: September 11