— Authorities released a chilling handwritten letter on Friday that investigators believe helped to prepare the hijackers for their deadly suicide mission.
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The four-page document, written in Arabic, was discovered by FBI investigators in a suitcase that belonged to suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta, who was believed to be at the controls of American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
The letter expresses Islamic extremists' hatred for America and extols the glory of martyrdom.
"Remember, the battle of the prophet … against the infidels, as he went on building the Islamic state," the letter urged, according to law enforcement officials who provided a translation of key excerpts to ABCNEWS.
"Keep a very open mind, keep a very open heart of what you are to face. You will be entering paradise. You will be entering the happiest, everlasting life … "
The note, which is believed to have been distributed to many or all of the 19 hijackers, contained practical instructions, as well as religious.
One passage appeared to urge the hijackers to confront any fears of death they might have had on the eve of the attack.
"The last night … Remind yourself that in this night you will face many challenges. But you have to face them and understand it 100 percent," the letter reads.
Another section instructed the terrorists on how to proceed on the morning of the hijackings:
"Check all of your items — your bag, your clothes, knives, your will, your IDs, your passport, all your papers. Check your safety before you leave … Make sure nobody is following you. Make sure that you are clean, your clothes are clean, including your shoes."
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller distributed copies of the letter in its original Arabic to the media this afternoon.
"It is a disturbing and shocking view into the mindset of these terrorists," Ashcroft told reporters at FBI headquarters in Washington. "The letter is a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terrorist acts."
Investigators found two other copies of the letter — one at the crash site in western Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 went down, and another in a car believed to have been used by Nawaf Alhazmi, one of the suspected hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
Atta's luggage never made it onto the plane which he would commandeer. Authorities discovered the suitcase in which the letter was found at Logan Airport in Boston, where the plane took off from. Atta is believed to have been a ringleader of the hijackers, but it is not known whether he wrote the letter.