Sat, Aug 12, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Terror plot echoes 1995 Pacific planes scheme


A foiled plot to bomb US-bound air planes in Britain bears a striking resemblance to a murderous plan hatched in the Philippines more than a decade ago and uncovered just days before a visit of late Pope John Paul II in 1995.

The 1995 plot, dubbed "Project Bojinka" or "Oplan Bojinka," would have been the first large-scale terrorist attack against commercial passenger air planes using "liquid bombs."

It targeted 11 US-bound airlines that had stopovers in East and Southeast Asia. It was to have been carried out from Jan. 21 to Jan. 22, 1995.

The plot was planned in Manila starting December 1994 by Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and associates Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah.

It was, however, foiled when Murad was arrested in January 1995 after a fire broke out in their rented apartment in downtown Manila, which the three militants had turned into a clandestine bomb factory.

Murad returned to the apartment to retrieve various items left behind, including Yousef's laptop computer and diskettes containing details of Bojinka, but police were already swarming the area and he was caught.

Yousef was arrested in Pakistan one month later, turned over to US custody and was sentenced to life without parole. Shah was caught in Malaysia in December 1995.

According to police, the plan was to use "liquid bombs" made from nitroglycerin to attack the targeted air planes. Digital watches would have been used as timers, 9-volt batteries as power source and light bulb filaments as detonators.

Yousef allegedly tested the plan on Dec. 11, 1994 on a Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Narita, Japan, with a stopover in the central city of Cebu. He smuggled the nitroglycerin on board by putting it inside a contact lens solution bottle.

After planting the bomb inside the life jacket under a seat of the Boeing 747, Yousef disembarked in Cebu.

A Japanese businessman was killed and 10 other passengers were injured when the bomb exploded inflight. But the plane was able to make an emergency landing in Okinawa.

With the successful test, Yousef planned the attack for 11 flights on US carriers Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines from various parts of Asia. All flights had a stopover to allow the bombers to disembark after planting the explosives.

The bombers did not need US visas to implement the plot as they only booked through to the stopover destination.

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