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Rendition Circuit: 1-9 March 2003

 

Rendition of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Afghanistan to Poland

 

On 7 March 2003, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was rendered between Afghanistan, where he had been detained and tortured in secret at Bagram Airbase, and Szymany, Poland, where he was held for six months before further transfer to Romania. Szymany was the airport used to move detainees in and out of the CIA prison at Stare Kiejkuty, and the flights into and out of this airport were disguised by the filing of multiple dummy flight plans (listing alternative routes which did not include landing at Szymany).

The timing of this circuit (which correlates with Mohammed's own account after his capture on 1 March 2003), the corresponding flight out of Poland on 22 September 2003 (confirming Mohammed's suspicions about the location of his detention March-September 2003), and the use of dummy flight plans (a tactic used when moving other detainees into Szymany), indicates that this circuit almost certainly involved the rendition of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. Information released by the Polish Border Guard Office notes that two passengers were on board the flight into Szymany, and that these were offloaded at the airport, though the identity of the other passenger remains unknown.

Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was moved in the Gulfstream V jet with registration number N379P. This aircraft was owned by the CIA, through a shell company Premier Executive Transport Services, and was involved in numerous renditions. Flight plans and other logistics for this circuit including the dummy flight plans were provided by Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of Boeing, Inc. which was involved in organising many of the rendition flights.

 

 

Analysis

 

On 1 March 2003, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, along with Mustafa al-Hawsawi. According to Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, speaking to the ICRC, he was detained in Rawalpindi for two days after his capture, before being transferred on an aircraft to what he thought was Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan. After three days of detention, interrogation and torture (including the insertion of water into his anus), Mohammed testifies that he was rendered again by aircraft to another detention site, which he thought was in Poland, where he was kept until 22 September 2003:


'After three days in Afghanistan I was dressed in a tracksuit. My eyes were covered with a cloth tied around my head. A cloth bag was then pulled over my head. Headphones were placed over my ears playing music, but not too loud. I was transported about ten minutes by vehicle and then placed in a plane sitting, leaning back, with my hands and ankles shackled in a high chair. I fell asleep.... On arrival the transfer from the airport to the next place of detention took about one hour. I was transported sitting on the floor of a vehicle. I could see at one point that there was snow on the ground. Everybody was wearing black, with masks and army boots, like Planet-X people. I think the country was Poland.'

 

Flight records closely match Mohammed's recollections. N379P left its home base of Johnston County Airport (KJNX) late in the evening of 1 March 2003, the same day that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Mustafa al-Hawsawi were captured in Pakistan. It flew first to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), where it stayed for around two hours. In the early hours of 2 March, the aircraft took off, flying cross-Atlantic and landing in Prague (LKPR) midmorning. It then flew from Prague to Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UTTT), passing through Polish airspace midmorning of 3 March.

There are no current records of the aircraft's movements from Tashkent. However, records held by The Rendition Project demonstrate that in the early hours of 7 March, Jeppesen filed a plan with Eurocontrol which had N379P leaving Kabul at 09:30 and flying to Budapest, Hungary (LHBP), and then another flight from Budapest at 16:30, flying to Glasgow International Airport (EGPF). Then, at 11:26, Jeppesen filed another two further flight plans, declaring that N379P would leave Warsaw at 16:30, heading for Prague, and then leave Prague at 18:20, flying to Glasgow.

Both of these flight plans were actually 'dummies', filed to disguise the true flights of the aircraft into and out of Szymany. Flight data released by the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) documents a landing by N379P at Szymany airport (EPSY), flying without a flight plan. The aircraft had flown from Kabul (OAKB), where it would have picked up Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, entering Polish airspace at 15:11 on 7 March and landing at 15:50 with two passengers and two crew.

Once in Szymany, N379P stayed on the ground for around 2.5 hours, while Mohammed was removed, before taking off at 18:28 and flying back to Prague, this time with no passengers on board. This flight from Szymany to Prague was filed to Eurocontrol by the Polish authorities at 18:22.

Once N379P actually touched down in Prague, in the evening of 7 March, it stayed for around an hour, before flying to Glasgow where it stopped for over 24 hours. Then, in the morning of 9 March, the aircraft left Scotland, flying to Washington and then Johnston County Airport, landing in the evening of 9 March 2003.

All flights in this circuit were given the key 'special status' designation of 'AFTM Exempt Approved', and were also flagged as 'Department of State Support'. This ensured that it would not have to adhere to normal rules of air traffic management.

 

Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C