Terror Trail: WTC, OKC, 9-11
Journalists and congressional investigators are beginning to trace the terror trail backward from 9-11 to Oklahoma City and the earlier World Trade Center bombing.
Ramzi Yousef, the reputed mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, sits in a federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado, serving a life sentence. Terry Nichols, the convicted co-conspirator of Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing, is incarcerated in the Oklahoma County Jail. He faces a life sentence without parole for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents in that 1995 bombing, as well as an upcoming state trial for the deaths of the 161 men, women, children, and unborn baby not named in the federal indictment. Osama bin Laden, the alleged instigator of the September 11th holocaust, is on the run (if alive) with a $25 million bounty on his head.
This terrorist trio has more in common than shared infamy; evidence indicating that they are actual co-conspirators in a global terrorist network continues to mount. At long last, journalists and congressional investigators are beginning to connect the dots and trace the terror trail backward from last year’s 9-11 attack to Oklahoma City and the earlier World Trade Center bombing. The Dallas CBS television affiliate, Insight magazine, the Toronto Star, the Village Voice, FOX TV’s Bill O’Reilly, the Indianapolis Star, the Manila Times, and other media channels have begun to tread where previously only THE NEW AMERICAN had dared to go. Some even suggest that 9-11 might have been prevented if officials had fully investigated the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy.
Even the Establishment press is coming close to breaking out of its self-imposed muzzle on this subject.
The lead story in the major broadcast and print media for June 4th announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, already one of the FBI’s 22 "Most Wanted" for earlier terrorist acts, is now also being sought by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials as a key operative in the Black Tuesday attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A federal jury has charged Mohammed, a 37-year-old Kuwaiti, for collaborating with Yousef on both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a failed 1995 terror plot to bomb multiple airliners in a single day, or, as an alternative, to hijack and crash airliners into famous U.S. buildings. Both Yousef and Mohammed have long-established ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
According to the New York Times’ James Risen, a detailed financial investigation of the money trail from the 9-11 plot over the past few months has led officials to believe that Mohammed played a far more prominent role than they had earlier suspected. The developing evidence, said Risen, "could also help explain why Al Qaeda decided to attack the trade center again, to try to finish the job that Mr. Yousef started nearly nine years earlier."
The growing media acknowledgment that the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) attacks are directly connected is a major development; the same trail of evidence will lead honest inquirers to realize that the OKC bombing and other major attacks are also part of an ongoing, coordinated terror offensive. All of which is immensely pertinent to the current hot debate over who knew what and when they knew it, concerning our incredible 9-11 intelligence failures. Answering these questions is essential not only for establishing accountability for these deadly failures, but, more importantly, for averting future terrorist events. They are crucial to fixing the policies allowing the terrorist networks to enjoy easy access to, and operational freedom within, the United States.
Bojinka: The Manila Connection
The trails of Yousef, Nichols, and bin Laden converge in the Philippines as early as 1991. Bin Laden and his brother-in-law, Mohammed Khalifa, set up al-Qaeda operations in the Philippines in the early 1990s, working closely with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.
Intelligence experts believe Yousef, an Iraqi, is an operative for Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service. Yousef and his co-conspirators are not "Islamic fundamentalists"; they were known for being very secular: drinking alcohol, partying, frequenting night clubs, "shacking up" with women, and using profanity. Dr. Laurie Mylroie, perhaps the leading authority on Yousef, writes in her book, The War Against America, that "Yousef is definitely not a radical Muslim.... If Yousef ever spent any time [fighting] in Afghanistan, he would have been in Najibullah’s [Communist] camp rather than with the Islamic mujahedin."
According to the signed statement of confessed Abu Sayyaf terrorist Edwin Angeles, he met in Davao City on the Philippine island of Mindanao in 1991 with Nichols, Yousef and other co-conspirators in the 1993 WTC bombing. Angeles, aka Ibrahim Yakub, a co-founder and second-in-command of the Abu Sayyaf Group, said in his handwritten statement:
I certify that Terry Nichols was known to me personally during our meeting with Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali-Khan and Ahmed Youssef [Ramzi Yousef] in [unintelligible] Davao City on Nov. 1991; Aim to establish a group and organize a Muslim and non-Muslim youth for a cause; we will also to [sic] plan for following: bombing activities; providing firearms and ammo; training in bomb making and handling....
Abdul Hakin Murad and Wali-Khan Amin Shah were convicted along with Yousef on September 5, 1996 in the so-called Bojinka Plot, and presently reside in American prisons. Bojinka (Serbo-Croatian for "loud bang") was Yousef’s code name for his terror scheme to blow up 11 U.S. jetliners in a single day. A variation of the plan called for crashing or "dive-bombing" planes into U.S. buildings, as Yousef’s al-Qaeda comrades did last September 11th. The plot was foiled when the Manila apartment Yousef and Murad shared caught on fire from chemical bomb components they were mixing. Murad was captured in the Philippines following the apartment fire, but Yousef escaped, as he did following the 1993 WTC bombing. With cooperation from Murad and Shah, Yousef was later tracked down and captured in Pakistan, where he was hiding in a guest house rented by a bin Laden company.
Murad’s statements to Philippine police and to U.S. officials have been largely ignored, but have huge significance for the OKC and 9-11 attacks, as well as potential future attacks. Important information in Murad’s file statements include:
Suicide hijackings. A January 20, 1995 Philippines police report tells of the Yousef/Murad plot presaging the 9-11 attack, in which Murad said he had planned to "hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA headquarters. There will be no bomb or any explosive that he will use in its execution. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute." Another hijacker was to fly a second plane into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center.
Hijacker pilot training. Murad detailed his pilot training instruction at several flight academies in the United States. The importance of this could not have been lost on federal authorities. In 2001, in the months preceding the 9-11 attacks, U.S. prosecutors focused on al-Qaeda use of U.S. flight schools in their high-profile trial of four men charged in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Essam al-Ridi, an Egyptian trained at a Texas flight school, was one of their star witnesses. Ihab Ali Nawawi, identified by prosecutors as a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a bin Laden confederate, had received pilot training at the same school in Norman, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City, where some of al-Qaeda’s 9-11 hijackers were trained.
Shoe bombs. The world was introduced to shoe explosives when passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001, subdued Richard Reid, a British al-Qaeda recruit, while he was attempting to ignite his shoe bomb. Abdul Hakim Murad’s Philippine police report for March 4, 1995 notes that Yousef "taught Murad how to smuggle chemicals and explosive devices inside the airport passing through several [of the] airport’s security arrangements," and that Yousef would hide detonators and timing devices inside his shoes. Yousef used these methods on December 11, 1994 to smuggle a bomb on board Philippines Airline Flight 434. On this practice run for the multiple-flight Bojinka plan, the bomb detonated, killing a Japanese passenger, but did not destroy the jetliner.
The Philippine police officials most closely involved in the Bojinka investigation have expressed shock at the failure of U.S. officials to apply the lessons of that case. "It’s so chilling," says Senior Inspector Aida D. Fariscal, the policewoman who uncovered the plot at Yousef’s smoking apartment. "Those kamikaze pilots trained in America, just like Murad." "The FBI knew all about Yousef’s plans," she said, in an interview with former Wall Street Journal reporter Matthew Brzezinski for the Toronto Star. "They’d seen the files, been inside 603 [the apartment bomb factory]. The CIA had access to everything, too.... This should have never, ever been allowed to happen. All those poor people dead."
General Avelino "Sonny" Razon, one of the lead investigators in the Bojinka case, was so shocked at what he saw on September 11th, reported Brzezinski, "that he jumped on a plane in Cebu, where he was now police chief, and flew to Manila to convene a hasty press conference." Razon stated that there was simply "too much coincidence" between 9-11 and Bojinka, particularly since the attacks had occurred within one week of the anniversary of Yousef’s conviction for the Bojinka plot on September 5, 1996.
"We told the Americans about the plans to turn planes into flying bombs as far back as 1995," Razon complained to reporters. "Why didn’t they pay attention?"
There was much, much more that U.S. officials had not paid attention to. On April 19, 1995, Abdul Hakim Murad sat in jail in New York awaiting trial on the Bojinka plot when news of the Oklahoma City bombing reached him via radio. Murad reportedly told prison guard Lt. Philip Rojas that the bombing was the work of the "Liberation Army." Sufficiently concerned about this statement, prison officials notified the FBI, which sent two agents to investigate. The standard FBI report on the incident, known as a "302," states that "Murad responded to the guard’s question by stating that the Liberation Army was responsible for the bombing." The FBI 302 then notes: "A short time later, Murad passed a note to the guard, again claiming that the Liberation Army was responsible for the bombing in Oklahoma City."
According to Edwin Angeles — who, remember, was a leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines and a co-conspirator with Yousef, Nichols, Murad and Shah — the "Liberation Army" Murad referred to was the Palestine Liberation Army, working with Islamic Jihad. And according to the U.S. Justice Department, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda have virtually merged into one group. Adding to the significance of all this is Oklahoma bombing co-defendant Terry Nichols’ role.
Tying In Terry Nichols
In addition to the testimony of Edwin Angeles, considerable circumstantial evidence exists linking Nichols to the Bojinka plot. There is even more evidence tying the Oklahoma City bombing to Middle Eastern terrorist elements. Consider:
• Nichols made many trips to the Philippines, sometimes staying for weeks or months, without any known means of support. Some of these trips coincided with the period during which Yousef was operating out of the Philippines. Moreover, the areas in which Nichols chose to stay were remarkable for an American because they were areas of the Philippines known for strong Islamic activism and Abu Sayyaf activity.
• Nichols renounced his U.S. citizenship and married a Filipina whose family was known to have connections to Abu Sayyaf.
• Nichols’ Filipino father-in-law, Eduardo Torres, stated that he had seen a book in Nichols’ luggage on how to build bombs.
• The Justice Department’s star witness in the OKC bombing trial, Michael Fortier, testified that a few months before the Oklahoma bombing Nichols had been unable to detonate even a small milk carton of ANFO. Yet Nichols and McVeigh were credited with constructing and detonating an ANFO bomb, not only bigger than anything ever previously set off in the U.S. by terrorists, but one also nearly 100 percent efficient in burning all of its explosive components. A more likely explanation is that they had help from experts like Yousef.
• Nichols made many unexplained telephone calls to the Philippines, including some to untraceable numbers. This would seem to fit Yousef’s modus operandi of using rental cellular phones to avoid surveillance.
• Nichols was in the Philippines when the apartment fire foiled the Bojinka plot. Like Yousef, he fled, breaking the excursion ticket he had purchased earlier and booking a one-way ticket back to the United States.
• U.S. federal undercover informant Cary Gagan has stated that Nichols was present at a meeting in Henderson, Nevada, involving Iranian or other Middle Eastern individuals, where some of the plans for the OKC bombing were made.
There is also the matter of Nichols’ strange behavior, as reported by his ex-wife, Lana Padilla, in her book, By Blood Betrayed: My Life With Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh. Lana Padilla recounts an incident which occurred on November 22, 1994, before Nichols took off on his final trip to the Philippines. He had just spent two weeks at her home in Las Vegas visiting their son Josh. Padilla explains that she had allowed him to stay there because she believed him to be broke. She drove him to the airport for a flight going first to Los Angeles, and then on to Cebu City. Before he left, Nichols gave her a folded brown paper bag and told her, "If I’m not back in sixty days, open it and follow the instructions." Those ominous words, together with Nichols’ melancholic behavior and Josh’s reaction as they drove away from the airport, caused alarm. "I’m never going to see my dad again," Josh sobbed.
Figuring that her ex-husband might be contemplating suicide, she opened the package. It contained a sealed letter to Timothy McVeigh’s sister Jennifer, Nichols’ life insurance policy, a key chain with nearly a dozen keys, and two hand-written lists of things for Padilla to "Read and Do Immediately."
On the "Do" list were instructions to find a plastic bag hidden behind a drawer in Padilla’s kitchen. Following Nichols’ directions, she was astonished to find a plastic bag stuffed with $20,000 in twenties and hundreds. Nichols’ list also referred to a storage unit rented under the alias of Ted Parker which would yield even more surprises: "… wigs, masks, panty hose, freeze-dried food, and various gold coins … along with gold bars and silver bullion stacked neatly in boxes. There were also some small green stones that appeared to be jade. I estimated at least $60,000 street value in precious metals!"
Inside the letter to Jennifer McVeigh was another sealed and stamped envelope addressed to Timothy McVeigh containing two hand-printed notes. One read: "If you should receive this letter then clear everything out of CG 37 by 01 Feb 95 or pay to keep it longer, under Ted Parker.... Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!!" A postscript said, "Also liquidate 40," and, "This letter would be for purpose of my death."
In the immediate aftermath of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, THE NEW AMERICAN began reporting on the extensive eyewitness testimony and law enforcement documentation concerning the involvement of Middle Eastern individuals. Regular readers of THE NEW AMERICAN will recall that shortly after the explosion an "all points bulletin" went out over the Oklahoma City Police radio band. The APB told law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for a "late model, almost new, Chevrolet, full-size pickup. It will be brown in color with tinted windows, smoke-colored bug deflector on the front of the pickup." The APB also stated that the vehicle was occupied by "Two Mideastern males, 25 to 28 years of age, six feet tall, athletic build, dark hair and a beard...."
In its 11-count indictment handed down on August 10, 1995, the federal grand jury in Oklahoma City charged that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols "did knowingly, intentionally, willfully and maliciously conspire, combine and agree together and with others unknown to the Grand Jury to use a weapon of mass destruction … resulting in death, grievous bodily injury and the destruction of the building." (Emphasis added.) A multitude of credible witnesses had reported seeing Timothy McVeigh on the morning of the bombing or in the days immediately before it with individuals other than Terry Nichols. Some of those witnesses described the individuals as appearing to be of Middle Eastern or Arabic ethnicity.
One individual identified by witnesses as a suspect seen fleeing from the immediate vicinity of the Murrah building right after the blast was Hussain al-Hussaini, a former Iraqi soldier who had entered the U.S. after the Persian Gulf War as a refugee. Al-Hussaini was the subject of a series of investigative reports on the OKC bombing by KFOR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City. We do not know if al-Hussaini, or other former Iraqi soldiers with whom he associates, were involved in the bombing, but, as we have reported previously, strong evidence supports that conclusion. It is obvious that additional accomplices assisted McVeigh and Nichols. The extensive evidence reviewed and uncovered during our seven-year investigation of the bombing points to the involvement of a network of Middle Eastern terrorist cells. President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, however, were determined to pin the blame on their political opposition, the "anti-government" forces of the "radical right." They went to extreme lengths to twist, cover up, and destroy any evidence and exclude all witnesses that might contradict this thesis. The OKC bombing terrorists they allowed to escape very likely played a role in the even more monstrous 9-11 attacks. And they will strike again, if they are not rooted out.
What You Can Do
Congress is now holding hearings on the U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism failures surrounding the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The hearings, which will continue for the remainder of 2002, are being conducted jointly by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.). Urge them, as well as other committee members and your own representative and senators, to investigate the evidence connecting the 9-11 attacks to the terror networks that were also responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Senator Graham and other senators may be contacted by mail by writing to:
Rep. Porter J. Goss and other House members may be contacted by mail by writing to:
To e-mail your senators and representative, as well as members of the committees investigating the 9-11 attacks, go to: www.jbs.org/congress/cgcontact.htm
For a list of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members, see:
For a list of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence members, see: