Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Asian allies helped thwart 2002 terror attack, US says

AFP , WASHINGTON

A pair of South Asian countries and two others in Southeast Asia helped the US foil an al-Qaeda plot to crash a hijacked plane into Los Angeles' tallest skyscraper, a senior US official said on Thursday.

The cooperation displays the ties that the US has developed with Southeast and South Asia since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, said White House counterterrorism adviser Frances Townsend.

Townsend disclosed the number of Asian countries involved in stopping the Los Angeles plot after President George W. Bush earlier revealed that the US had thwarted the attack with the help of its allies in 2002.

The White House had mentioned a plot against the US West Coast last October without offering more detail.

Thursday, however, Bush revealed that the plan involved flying an airliner into Los Angeles's 310m US Bank Tower, also known as Library Tower.

Townsend said four countries had helped thwart the attack against the US West Coast's tallest building.

"Two in South Asia, two in Southeast Asia," she told reporters in a conference call. But she refused to name the four countries "because our partners want to have it kept a secret."

"The good news is, we have strengthened our relationship throughout that region in South Asia and Southeast Asia with our partners since 9/11," she said.

The US has an anti-terror pact with ASEAN.

ASEAN members Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, together with non-member Pakistan have all been cooperating closely with the US on terrorism.

Townsend said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- sometimes called the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks -- started planning the US west coast plot in October 2001.

Working in Asia with Hambali, a leader of al-Qaeda's Southeast Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, Mohammed recruited four operatives to form a terror cell for the attack, she said.

Bush said that instead of using Arab hijackers, as in the attacks on New York and Washington, the plot called for "young men from Southeast Asia whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion."

Townsend said Mohammed had trained the cell leader in the use of shoe-bombs.

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