SHOE BOMBER - May have been a testgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
12/27/2001 - Updated 01:21 AM ET Jet incident may have been a test
By Blake Morrison and Elliot Blair Smith, USA TODAY If Richard Reid is an al-Qaeda terrorist who was sent to blow up a passenger jet, he was operating from a much different playbook than the suicide hijackers who carried out the well-orchestrated attacks on Sept. 11. The hijackers went to great lengths not to stand out in crowds, and to mask their activities until it was time to strike. But Reid, who allegedly tried to light explosives hidden in his shoes, did little to avoid drawing attention to himself before boarding an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Saturday. He bought a one-way ticket and had no luggage. To passengers waiting to board, he looked "almost possessed," one said. Once aboard, Reid could have gone into a bathroom and, without being seen, tried to ignite the plastic explosives that could have downed the Boeing 767. Instead, in his seat in Row 29, he fumbled with matches until crewmembers and passengers subdued him. The flight made an emergency landing in Boston.
Could Reid, 28, have been a terrorist trainee of Osama bin Laden, perhaps sent to test aviation security? Or was he a bumbling loner who acted alone? Perhaps, some terrorism specialists say, he never intended to blow up the jet.
"All of his actions indicated that he might not have wanted to go through with it," says Reynold Hoover, a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent and an aviation counterterrorism expert. "This guy just left himself open to all sorts of discovery. But I think he's getting support from someone. Maybe this was an attempt to see whether they could penetrate security with this type of device."
Whether such support came from bin Laden remained unclear Wednesday. Authorities in Massachusetts, where Reid is jailed and on suicide watch, describe him as cooperative. The British national is due back in court Friday and faces charges of interfering with a flight crew. Authorities say they likely will charge him with other crimes, and if reports that Reid attended an al-Qaeda terrorist camp in Afghanistan are true, some analysts suggest that Reid could be tried by a military tribunal. President Bush has established a tribunal system to try foreigners accused of terrorism against the United States.
NBC News reported Wednesday that captured al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan identified Reid as a former terrorist-camp trainee. A French newspaper said Reid once belonged to an Islamic fundamentalist movement supported by bin Laden. And the chairman of a London mosque confirmed that Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, a French-Moroccan indicted in Virginia this month on conspiracy charges in the Sept. 11 probe, had attended the mosque at about the same time in 1998 and 1999.
Meanwhile, counterterrorism experts say the explosives Reid brought aboard the jet were far more sophisticated than it seems Reid could have come up with himself. That indicates it is unlikely that Reid acted alone, they say.
Saturday's incident resembled a past plot linked to bin Laden. That plan, code-named "Bojinka," called for using bombs to blow up more than a dozen passenger jets over the Pacific Ocean in 1995.
The plot was thwarted after one explosive device — what authorities called a "test bomb" placed aboard a Philippine Airlines jet — detonated in December 1994. One passenger died; several were hurt.
Abdul Haqq Baker, the leader of the London mosque once attended by Reid and Moussaoui, says he suspects that Reid was "sent as a tester" by Muslim radicals. "We honestly believe there are more serious things to come," says Baker, chairman of the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center.
Baker says the mosque had attracted delinquent youths like Reid, previously a small-time British criminal, and alienated immigrants like Moussaoui, to whom the center's form of Islam was not radical enough. Baker says some of the mosque's 500 members sought instruction on more extreme versions of Islam elsewhere.
When he began attending the mosque, Reid dressed in traditional Western clothing. Later, he wore military gear and carried a rucksack, The Times of London reported. Reid later was expelled from the mosque because his anti-Western views were deemed too radical, Baker says.
Contributing: Fred Bayles in Boston
-- Anonymous, December 27, 2001