Ashraf knew Mohamed Atta at Cairo University. Ashraf pursued his studies as a civil engineer in the United States, working in US Government research labs.
Ashraf told the FBI he had flown to New York City in 1996 to meet up with 'Mohamed El Amir' as he knew him. The FBI did not consider Ashraf to be involved in radical jihad and Ashraf passed a lie detector test. This test lends to his credibility and that Atta was at the very least visiting the United States in 1996. There is little comment from the government on how often Atta had been in and out of the US in the 1990s and no information on his activities there.
According to FBI/911 Commission information, Ashraf was a friend of Mohamed Quadir Harunani. The FBI discovered Quadir-Harunani had Mohamed Atta's fathers phone number when they searched his house. This connection might explain that find.
Harunani was a "close associate" of Abdullah bin Laden who ran training camps for Chechens in Central Florida, where both Ashraf and Harunani lived.