Twenty years on, the 9/11 attacks — and the names and faces of those who planned and perpetrated them — remain fresh in the memories of Americans alive on that infamous day.
But what happened to the key people responsible for plotting and executing the attack that killed nearly 3,000 people? And what about the Taliban leaders who harbored the terrorists?
Two decades on, the fates of those Islamist terrorists turned out to be varied and, in some cases, surprisingly unresolved:
- Osama bin Laden: The leader of terror group al-Qaida, which undertook the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, successfully evaded authorities for years, hiding in various locations in Pakistan before settling in a large, high-walled compound in the urban city of Abbottabad. On May 2, 2011, a team of U.S. Navy SEALS raided the hideout and shot bin Laden dead.
- Mullah Mohammed Omar: The mysterious, one-eyed Taliban leader went into hiding and was rarely heard from again — until it was announced in 2013 that he had died of natural causes. The Wall Street Journal later reported that he had successfully hidden near a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
- Ayman al-Zawahiri: Bin Laden’s No. 2, who took over as al-Qaida chief after the Abbottabad raid, has been reported dead a few times, but there’s been no official confirmation. In 2012, he called on Muslims to kidnap Western tourists in Muslim countries. The last time he popped up was on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, so intelligence analysts are paying close attention to the current commemorations.
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Described as the "principal architect" of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003. He was officially charged with war crimes and murder in 2008 but has continued to await trial as the legality of his confessions are argued, amid a myriad of other delays.
- Walid bin Attash: Captured in 2003 and formally charged with selecting and helping to train several of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks, the Yemeni terrorist still awaits trial and is in extrajudicial detention at Guantanamo Bay. He’s also believed to have helped prep previous al-Qaida plots and served as a bin Laden bodyguard.
- Ramzi bin al-Shibh: Accused of being a "key facilitator" for the 9/11 attacks, wiring money to the hijackers and passing along information from key al-Qaida figures. He was captured on Sept. 11, 2002 and remains incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial.
- Ammar al-Baluchi: This Pakistani citizen — reportedly a key lieutenant of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — is charged with "facilitating the 9/11 attackers, acting as a courier for bin Laden and plotting to crash a plane packed with explosives into the U.S. consulate in Karachi." He is at Guantanamo awaiting trial.
- Mustafa al-Hawsawi: A Saudi Arabian citizen, arrested by Pakistani agents in March 2003, he’s alleged to have been a financial facilitator of the attacks. He remains incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.
Ongoing legal challenges as to what evidence can be used by U.S. prosecutors continues to keep trial dates for the suspects a moving target. That has frustrated the families of 9/11 victims, who, after two decades, have yet to see full justice.
The Biden administration has stated it will close Guantanamo after a review of operations, but details about when that will happen are unavailable. If the facility is shuttered, the remaining suspects would presumably be locked up at a federal prison on the U.S. mainland.
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