The Millenium Plot
Los Angeles International Airport
Biblical sites in the Middle East/ hotel in Amman, Jordan
Failed Middle East Attack
On December 31, 1999, an Algerian/Jordanian terrorist cell with cooperation from Al-Qaeda planned to execute two thwarted terrorist attacks. One an attack on Los Angeles International Airport, and the other on biblical sites in the Middle East and a hotel in Amman Jordan. In late 1998 two Palestinians, Raed Hijazi and Abu Hoshar settled on a plan to attack multiple targets throughout the middle east. They would first attack four targets: the SAS Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman, the border crossings from Jordan into Israel, and two Christian holy sites, at a time when all these locations were likely to be thronged with American and other tourists. Next, they would target a local airport and other religious and cultural sites. Hijazi and Abu Hoshar cased the intended targets and sent reports to Abu Zubaydah, a longtime ally of Osama Bin-Ladin, who approved their plan.
In early 1999, Hijazi and Abu Hoshar contacted Khalil Deek, an American citizen and an associate of Abu Zubaydah who lived in Peshawar, Pakistan, and who, with Afghanistan-based extremists, had created an electronic version of a terrorist manual, the Encyclopedia of Jihad. They obtained a CD-ROM of this encyclopedia from Deek. In June, with help from Deek, Abu Hoshar arranged with Abu Zubaydah for Hijazi and three others to go to Afghanistan for added training in handling explosives. In late November 1999, Hijazi reportedly swore before Abu Zubaydah the "bayat" to Bin Ladin, committing himself to do anything Bin Ladin ordered. He then departed for Jordan and was at a waypoint in Syria when Abu Zubaydah sent Abu Hoshar the message that prompted Jordanian authorities to roll up the whole cell.
After the arrests of Abu Hoshar and 15 others, the Jordanians tracked Deek
to Peshawar, persuaded Pakistan to extradite him, and added him to their catch. Searches in Amman found the rented house and, among other things, 71 drums of acids, several forged Saudi passports, detonators, and Deek's Encyclopedia. Six of the accomplices were sentenced to death. In custody, Hijazi's younger brother said that the group's motto had been "The season is coming, and bodies will pile up in sacks."
Thwarted LAX Strike
Ahmed Ressam, 23, had illegally immigrated to Canada in 1994. Using a falsified passport and a bogus story about persecution in Algeria, Ressam entered Montreal and claimed political asylum. For the next few years he supported himself with petty crime. Recruited by an alumnus of Abu Zubaydah's Khaldan camp, Ressam trained in Afghanistan in 1998, learning, among other things, how to place cyanide near the air intake of a building to achieve maximum lethality at minimum personal risk. Having joined other Algerians in planning a possible attack on a U.S. airport or consulate, Ressam left Afghanistan in early 1999 carrying precursor chemicals for explosives disguised in toiletry bottles, a notebook containing bomb assembly instructions, and $12,000. Back in Canada, he went about procuring weapons, chemicals, and false papers.
In early summer 1999, having learned that not all of his colleagues could get the travel documents to enter Canada, Ressam decided to carry out the plan alone. By the end of the summer he had chosen three Los Angeles-area airports as potential targets, ultimately fixing on Los Angeles International (LAX) as the largest and easiest to operate in surreptitiously. He bought or stole chemicals and equipment for his bomb, obtaining advice from three Algerian friends, all of whom were wanted by authorities in France for their roles in past terrorist attacks there. Ressam also acquired new confederates. He promised to help a New York-based partner, Abdelghani Meskini, get training in Afghanistan if Meskini would help him maneuver in the United States. In December 1999, Ressam began his final preparations. He called an Afghanistan-based facilitator to inquire into whether Bin Ladin wanted to take credit for the attack, but he did not get a reply. He spent a week in Vancouver preparing the explosive components with a close friend.
On December 14, 1999, Ressam drove his rental car onto the ferry from Victoria, Canada, to Port Angeles,Washington. Ressam planned to drive to Seattle and meet Meskini, with whom he would travel to Los Angeles and case LAX. They planned to detonate the bomb on or around January 1, 2000. At the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) preinspection station in Victoria, Ressam presented officials with his genuine but fraudulently obtained Canadian passport, from which he had torn the Afghanistan entry and exit stamps.The INS agent on duty ran the passport through a variety of databases but, since it was not in Ressam's name, he did not pick up the pending Canadian arrest warrants. After a cursory examination of Ressam's car, the INS agents allowed Ressam to board the ferry. Late in the afternoon of December 14, Ressam arrived in Port Angeles. He waited for all the other cars to depart the ferry, assuming (incorrectly) that the last car off would draw less scrutiny. Customs officers assigned to the port, noticing Ressam's nervousness, referred him to secondary inspection. When asked for additional identification, Ressam handed the Customs agent a Price Costco membership card in the same false name as his passport. As that agent began an initial pat-down, Ressam panicked and tried to run away.
Inspectors examining Ressam's rental car found the explosives concealed in the spare tire well, but at first they assumed the white powder and viscous liquid were drug-related-until an inspector pried apart and identified one of the four timing devices concealed within black boxes. Ressam was placed under arrest. Investigators guessed his target was in Seattle. They did not learn about the Los Angeles airport planning until they reexamined evidence seized in Montreal in 2000; they obtained further details when Ressam began cooperating in May 2001.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|