Retired lawyer Mohammed al-Amir Atta has had three years to hone the attacking style he's adopted as a defense against what he maintains are spurious charges his son was the lead September 11 hijacker.
The attacks were a Jewish conspiracy carried out by the Israeli intelligence service, not a plot by Islamic extremists including his son, the elder Atta declared in an interview with The Associated Press. Moreover, he added, the United States deserved the devastating result because of its anti-Arab policies.
Still, Atta is unwilling to answer direct questions about his son, as became apparent when he's asked about a large photograph on his living room wall showing his son relaxed, so unlike the somber passport photo broadcast around the world after September 11, 2001.
'Sons are dear,' is all he will say.
Atta no longer claims his son is still alive, even though he once said his son had called him the day after the attack from an undisclosed destination.
The younger Mohammed Atta was named in FBI and congressional reports as the suicide pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center and the leader of the 19 Arabs who carried out the September 11 attacks.
In a videotape months after the attacks, al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden himself described the 33-year-old Atta as being 'in charge of the group' that struck America.
Today, the elder Atta and many Arabs place the blame for terrorism on what they say are the conditions that fuel militants' anger, not on the militants themselves. 'No nation has done as much evil in the world as America did, and you do not expect God to punish it?' he asked.
'If a Palestinian flies a plane and strikes the White House and kills [US President George W.] Bush, his wife and his daughters, he will go to heaven,' Atta said. 'So will any Muslim who defends his faith.'
Despite his religious rhetoric, Atta smokes and has decorated his apartment with statues of Buddha, actions few devout Muslims would accept."
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