New charges against shoe-bomb suspect

By DAVE HASKELL   |   Jan. 16, 2002 at 3:15 PM
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BOSTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury in Boston on Wednesday returned a new indictment against alleged shoe-bomb suspect Richard C. Reid, U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft announced.

The nine-count indictment charges Reid with, among other things, attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction stemming from his alleged attempt to blow up an American Airlines jetliner over the Atlantic Ocean with explosives in his sneakers.

In a Washington news conference, Ashcroft praised the actions of the crew and passengers aboard Flight 63 for foiling the plot to set off the explosives, and of the alerts issued for Americans to be alert and vigilant to potential acts of terror.

"But for the vigilance of the flight crew and passengers, Richard Reid may have succeeded with the destruction of Flight 63," Ashcroft said. He said the nation's trust in its citizens to act with common sense in the face of terrorism "was vindicated" by the actions aboard the aircraft.

He said that this tragedy was averted shows that terrorists are "no match for an alert and vigilant people."

"We must be prepared, we must be alert, we must be vigilant," Ashcroft said.

The new indictment against Reid, whom Ashcroft described as an al Qaida-trained terrorist, included charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted homicide of U.S. nationals overseas, placing explosive devices on an aircraft, attempted destruction of an aircraft, attempted murder of 197 passengers and crew, interfering with a flight crew, attempting to set fire and destroy an aircraft, and a new anti-terrorism offense, attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle.

Reid, 28, was being held without bail outside Boston on an initial charge of assault and interfering with the crew aboard American Airlines Flight 63. Crewmembers and other passengers on the Paris to Miami flight foiled Reid's alleged attempt to set off plastic explosives packed inside his sneakers on Dec. 22.

Reid was expected to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston on the new charges at an unspecified date, the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston said.

Reid's federal public defender, Tamar Birckhead, did not immediately return a call for comment. She previously said she knew of no links between Reid and any terrorist organizations.

Investigators have been tracking Reid's movements in recent months through Europe and the Middle East. He reportedly spent 10 days in Israel and the Gaza Strip last July, and possibly met with members of a Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

When arrested, Reid had the plastic explosive TATP in his sneakers, a substance used by Hamas suicide bombers.

Reid reportedly obtained his sneaker bombs in Amsterdam on Dec. 12 before traveling to Belgium where he was issued a new British passport. He boarded Flight 63 in Paris on Dec. 22.

When he allegedly tried to ignite the shoe-bombs aboard the flight, he was subdued and the plane was diverted to Boston where he was arrested and charged.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that a report found on a computer used by Osama bin Laden's lieutenants in Kabul detailed a target-scouting mission by an operative, identified as "brother Abdul Ra'uff," who flew from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv on El Al with a new British passport, and also went to Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan.

The Journal said those travels bear a striking similarity to those of Reid, who went to the same countries and in the same order, and also got a new passport in Amsterdam. The Journal said U.S. intelligence officials reviewed the computer files and believe that "Abdul Ra'uff's" true identity "may well be" Reid.

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