Moussaoui jury hears Flight 93 tape

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday played the tape showing the final minutes of the doomed United Air Lines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 to the jury trying Zacharias Moussaoui.

    Moussaoui has admitted he is a terrorist conspirator

    The tape showed how the hijackers, amid groans and sounds of a struggle, tried to shake off passengers clamouring for control of the plane over Pennsylvania. 

    A voice is heard saying "I am injured." A hijacker asks, "Shall we finish it off?"

    Moments later, the plane hurtles out of control to the ground, according to a cockpit voice recording played for the jury.

    Rounding off their case, the prosecutors figuratively placed the jury aboard the flight for its last heart-wrenching moments, using a computerised simulation of the plane's flight path based on information from the flight data recorder.

    Hamilton Peterson, whose parents were on Flight 93, earlier heard an enhanced audio version that was played for family members only. He believes the recording provides evidence that passengers attacked and killed a hijacker guarding the cockpit door.

    Audio recording

    The audio played in the courtroom made it impossible to confirm that interpretation. The September 11 Commission concluded there was a struggle for control, but reached no conclusion about whether passengers killed a hijacker.

    "Shall we put it down?"  "Yes, put it down."

    Hijackers' voice aboard Flight 93

    Much of what was heard was open to interpretation. In the last minute, voices could be heard in English saying "push up" and "pull down," as flight data showed the steering yoke moving wildly. Some interpreted that as a struggle for control in the cockpit between passengers and hijackers.

    For more than four minutes before that, the hijackers had been swinging the plane wildly in an effort to throw the rebelling passengers off balance.

    At 10am, a hijacker asks in Arabic: "Shall we finish it off?" The response comes back: "No, not yet."

    Terrifying minutes

    Then a voice is heard in English: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!"

    Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania
    killing all on board

    At 10.01am, a hijacker asks again: "Shall we put it down? The response: "Yes, put it down."

    At 10.03am, the recording ends, and the simulation shows the plane flying nose down, then rolling over belly up and hitting the ground nose first.

    The government later on Wednesday rested its case after Leoni Brinkema, the judge, rejected prosecutors' request to display a running presentation of the names and photographs of all of the nearly 3000 victims of September 11.

    Prosecutors were instead allowed to show one large poster with the pictures of all but 92 of the victims, and the three victim-impact witnesses gave testimony following the playing of the Flight 93 tape.

    Moussaoui defiant

    The judge sent the jury home for the day. Just after that, Moussaoui shouted: "God curse you all!"

    The prosecution are pressing for
    the death penalty

    His defence will commence its case on Thursday.

    The flight, one of four hijacked on September 11, 2001, crashed in a Pennsylvania field as passengers tried to retake it. The cockpit voice recording had not been played publicly before.

    Moussaoui has admitted to being a terrorist conspirator and al-Qaeda sympathiser. The jury deciding his fate has already declared him eligible for the death penalty by determining that his actions caused at least one death on September 11.

    Authorities believe hijackers were trying to get the plane to Washington to attack a target such as the US Capitol building. Washington was only about 20 minutes in flight time from where the jet crashed.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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