Relatives of people killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States Friday welcomed moves by two former senators to link Saudi Arabia to the events as part of a huge lawsuit.
Ex-Florida senator Bob Graham and former Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey said in sworn affidavits to a New York court they were certain of the links between the Saudi government and the attacks.
"I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia," said Graham.
Graham led a joint 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks in which Al-Qaeda militants hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a Pennsylvania field. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the worst ever attack on American soil.
Kerrey, who served on a separate 9/11 inquiry, said in his own sworn statement last week that "significant questions remain unanswered about the role of Saudi institutions."
"Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued."
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Families of the victims said Friday they welcomed the comments "strongly disagreeing with papers filed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi High Commission claiming that they had been 'exonerated' of any connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks."
Saudi Arabia, now a key regional US ally in the fight against terrorism, has said the 9/11 commission's final report "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution of senior Saudi individuals funded" Al-Qaeda, the New York Times said.
But in a statement Thursday the group, the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism, "applauded" the statements by Graham and Kerrey which are part of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit before the court.
"The financiers and enablers of those who murdered our loved ones are still alive, well and capable of supporting terrorism. The trail back to them still points to Saudi Arabia," said Beverly Burnett.
Her son, Thomas Burnett, was killed when the passengers fought back against the hijackers, and their flight plowed into a Pennsylvania field.
"The families and survivors of the atrocities of 9/11 have not given up hope for justice. We are determined to expose the truth," she added.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was also a Saudi citizen. After years on the run, he was finally tracked down to a compound in Pakistan and killed in a US commando raid in May.