April 12, 2006

Jury transfixed by tape of 9/11 plane

By Deborah Charles

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - In the last minutes before
United Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field on September
11, a passenger urged others to help storm the cockpit and take
on the hijackers because "if we don't we die," a jury heard on

The cockpit recording of the chaotic final 30 minutes of
the flight and the futile attempt to take back control of the
plane was played for the first time in public to a jury
deciding whether September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui
should be executed.

Moussaoui showed little emotion as the courtroom listened
spellbound to the hijackers who were believed to be aiming the
plane at the U.S. Capitol or the White House in Washington and
the passengers who tried to stop them.

They heard the yelling and the crashing, banging sounds of
the struggle, and a plea from an unidentified crew member:
"Please, please, please don't hurt me. I don't want to die."

Moussaoui sat back in his chair and stared at a screen
which showed a visual depiction of the some key gauges in the
cockpit and their movement as the plane neared the ground.

Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member and only person
charged in the United States in connection with the September
11 attacks, has pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy. The
jury is deciding whether he should spend his life in prison or
be executed.

During the flight some passengers learned via phone calls
that three other planes had crashed into the World Trade Center
in New York and the Pentagon. Believing they were part of a
similar plot, some of them agreed to fight the hijackers.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that the
recording would only be played in court and not publicly
released, though a transcript was made available. Federal
prosecutors, who had requested it be heard, finished presenting
evidence later in the day. The defense will begin on Thursday.


The tape began with a man believed to be Ziad Jarrah, the
hijacker who became the plane's pilot, announcing "Here the
captain, please sit down ... We have a bomb on board, so sit."

After the announcement, the hijackers appeared to be
struggling with pilots, and a female flight attendant.

The hijackers yelled "sit, sit, sit down, sit down" and "In
the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate."

Unidentified crew members shouted "No, no, no, no" and
"Please, please, please don't hurt me. I don't want to die."

Nearly six minutes after the cockpit struggle began, one of
the hijackers said, "Everything is fine. I've finished."

Then the Boeing 757, which was en route to San Francisco
from Newark, New Jersey, with 33 passengers, seven crew and
four hijackers on board was turned around to head east.

The recorded struggle to take back the cockpit began when
the passengers apparently rolled food carts down the aisle to
try to force open the door.

At about 9:58, the hijackers realized that the passengers
were starting to revolt.

In Arabic someone says, "Is there something? A fight?"
Another hijacker responds, "Yeah.

"Roll it," a person outside the cockpit yelled, apparently
referring to the cart. "In the cockpit. If we don't we die," a
voice said.

The hijacker pilot began rocking the plane violently from
side to side, while a hijacker chanted in Arabic "Allah is

Crashing and banging noises could be heard, interspersed
with "ugh" sounds and the sound of breaking glass or dishes.

"They want to get in there," a hijacker said. "Hold, hold
from the inside, hold from the inside."

The hijackers conferred about whether it was time to crash
the plane then said "Allah is the greatest" several times
before the plane plowed into the field around 10:03 a.m.

The tape was played in 2002 for families of the victims
aboard the doomed plane, but the families were ordered not to
reveal the contents.