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"Bojinka II: Al-Qaida has tried this before"
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Plot mirrors earlier one planned by Al-Qaida
A similar plot unraveled in 1995 when a fire broke out as the suspects were
mixing liquid explosives.
By Stewart M. Powell
The alleged plot to use liquid explosives to simultaneously destroy as many
as 10 airliners crossing the Atlantic closely resembles a foiled Al-Qaida
operation in 1995 to blow up 12 U.S.-bound airliners crossing the Pacific,
aviation security specialists said Thursday.
The 1995 plot -- conceived by Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and
staged by his nephew Ramzi Yousef -- was inadvertently disrupted by
Philippine authorities after terrorists' explosives caught fire in the
kitchen sink of their Manila apartment.
When Philippine authorities responded to neighbors' complaints of a chemical
odor and smoke, they found storage containers with a variety of chemicals,
two large bottles of nitroglycerine, electronic fuses and timers, and an
Arabic text describing the fabrication of liquid explosives.
Five Al-Qaida operatives
Authorities managed to arrest one of the apartment residents -- Abdul Hakim
Murad -- and seize Yousef's laptop computer with incriminating details that
included trans-Pacific flight schedules, calculations of bomb detonation
times and a computer file titled "Bojinka" -- the code name for the secret
Investigators concluded that five Al-Qaida operatives were preparing to
sneak nitroglycerin in bottles marked "contact lens solution" aboard as many
as 12 U.S.-bound airliners where the explosive liquid would be detonated by
time-delayed electronic devices.
The plotters, led by Yousef, carried out dry runs for their plan. Yousef
rehearsed by leaving the liquid explosive and detonator aboard an aircraft,
secreting the device onto a Philippine Airlines jumbo jet flying from Manila
to Tokyo. The bomb exploded on Dec. 11, 1994, killing a Japanese businessman
and injuring 10 passengers, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing
Yousef, 38, is serving life imprisonment in Florence, Colo., following
conviction for the 1995 plot and the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade
Center. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed remains in CIA custody overseas.
Surprised it took so long
Douglas Laird, a former career Secret Service agent and security chief for
Northwest Airlines who runs an aviation security consulting firm, noted that
both the London-based and Manila-based operations planned to use liquid
explosives carried aboard aircraft in carry-on luggage to be ignited by
detonators fashioned from common electronic devices such as digital watches.
A key difference was that the London-based plotters, with still-to-be
determined links to Pakistan, apparently were going to rely on suicide
bombers. In contrast, the 1995 Manila-based plot called for the Al-Qaida
operatives to leave the nitroglycerin-based time bombs aboard aircraft when
they got off the planes at intermediate stops before the flights headed
across the Pacific to destinations including San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Honolulu and Portland.
"I see the latest attempt as a refinement of the earlier plot," Laird said.
"I'm surprised they've waited that long to try this, 10 or 11 years, when
the current system still has no way to detect such liquid explosives," Laird
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