Zacarias Moussaoui, the French citizen of Moroccan descent and former al-Qaida operative convicted of helping to plan the 9/11 attacks against the U.S., told a federal judge that in the late 1990s, senior royals in Saudi Arabia sponsored al-Qaida—the same group that went on to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times reports.
Family members of victims killed in the 9/11 attacks filed a 2002 lawsuit against the Saudi government claiming that it had ties to the Sept. 11 terrorists and should therefore be held responsible. The suit has bounced around several courts and is ongoing. Moussaoui, who is sitting in a Colorado federal prison serving out a life sentence for his accessory role in the attack, volunteered to provide testimony, the New York Times reports. His testimony supports the families’ claims that some Saudi clerics had stronger connections to the 9/11 terrorists than they have let on.
In addition to Moussaoui’s claims that members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family were “major donors to the terrorist network,” the former al-Qaida operative added that he was the middle man between the family and Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s. Moussaoui testified that he would meet with Saudi royals and intelligence officers, delivering them letters from bin Laden, the New York Times reports. Moussaoui also said that he had discussed specific terrorist plots with a staffer in the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., such as wanting to “shoot down Air Force One” with a missile.
Saudi officials released a statement Monday saying that Moussaoui’s claims were not true and that they questioned his mental health. “Moussaoui is a deranged criminal whose own lawyers presented evidence that he was mentally incompetent,” the Saudi statement read. “His words have no credibility.”
The New York Times describes how Moussaoui’s claims come during a “sensitive time in Saudi-American relations” because the nations have not been on the same page about how to manage the region since the Arab uprisings in 2011.
Read more at the New York Times.