As you know, we are here to discuss the trial of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center. The trial of four of the conspirators began approximately six months after the bombing. After a six-month jury trial, each defendant was found guilty on all counts. Last fall, Ramzi Yousef, who was a fugitive during the first trial, was also tried and convicted for the World Trade Center bombing. Each defendant was sentenced to a total of 240 years' imprisonment.
The defendants' respective roles in the terrorist plot – and their participation in the World Trade Center bombing – were reconstructed using over 1,000 exhibits and the testimony of more than 200 witnesses. In the end, the evidence overwhelmingly established that Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Mahmud Abouhalima, Ahmad Ajaj and Abdul Rahman Yasin conspired to bomb targets in the United States and that, as part of their terrorist scheme, they participated in the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
1. September 9, 1991 Through September 2, 1992; Ajaj Enters The United States, Leaves To Obtain Explosives Training, And Plots With Yousef To Bomb Targets In The United States.
Ahmad Ajaj first entered the United States on September 9, 1991. He settled in Houston, Texas, and filed a petition for political asylum, claiming that the Israeli government had imprisoned and tortured him in retaliation for his peaceful opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Ajaj never appeared for an INS hearing on his asylum claim. Instead, Ajaj relinquished his Houston apartment and, in April 1992, hastily left the country under an assumed name to attend a terrorist training camp on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
After arriving in Pakistan, Ajaj traveled to Dubai and then to Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, Ajaj obtained a letter of introduction to "Camp Khaldan," a terrorist training camp located just across the border from Peshawar, Pakistan, in Afghanistan. The letter of introduction stated that the bearer, Ajaj, had come to the "land of jihad" for training, and asked the leader of the camp to provide Ajaj with training in weapons and explosives.
With the letter in hand, Ajaj traveled to the Afghanistan border to attend Camp Khaldan. While at the terrorist training camp, Ajaj studied the construction of a number of explosive devices.
Also while in Pakistan, Ajaj made contact with Ramzi Yousef. Together, Ajaj and Yousef plotted to apply their collective explosives training and experience to bomb targets in the United States. With this objective, Ajaj and Yousef studied the voluminous materials amassed by Ajaj, including a series of printed bomb-making manuals with blue covers. Those blue books, like Ajaj's handwritten notes, contained formulae for various explosives later used by the conspirators to make the World Trade Center bomb.
Specifically, in assimilating their knowledge of explosives for use in the United States, Yousef and Ajaj appear to have focused on those portions of Ajaj's terrorist materials that explain how to make a bomb using the explosive compound urea nitrate as the primary explosive – the same compound later used as the main charge of the World Trade Center bomb. Formula and instructions for making a number of other explosives later used as boosters in the World Trade Center bomb – such as nitroglycerin and lead azide – were contained in Ajaj's blue books as well. In addition, the blue books set forth formulae and instructions concerning the use of explosives such as ammonium nitrate dynamite, which can be made with nitroglycerin. The conspirators were guided by these teachings when they produced the ammonium nitrate dynamite that served as a detonator for the World Trade Center bomb.
The materials Ajaj gathered during his terrorist course of study also included instructions on making and using false identification. Following those instructions, Ajaj and Yousef, while overseas in 1992, collected materials such as photographs, identification cards, bank records, education records, and medical records to create the false identities they would later use to travel to the United States to carry out the terrorist plot. Additionally, his materials recommended that a ground floor location be selected as the base of operations for an urban terrorist organization in order to facilitate an escape if necessary.
Ajaj's terrorist studies abroad also encompassed instructional videotapes. The videos not only demonstrated how to make explosives, but also advocated a specific bombing target: the United States. For example, the opening scene in one of the videos, obviously intended to be inspirational, shows a van crashing into the front of a United States embassy. Once inside the embassy, the suicidal driver of the van detonates a bomb, which destroys the embassy. Following that introduction, the video demonstrates how to make a number of explosives.
Having assimilated his explosives training and gathered his kit of terrorist materials, Ajaj and Yousef made plans illegally to enter the United States, and to bring with them Ajaj's terrorist kit. In August 1992, Ajaj and Yousef made reservations together through a travel agency to fly from Peshawar, Pakistan to New York City under assumed names. Both Ajaj and Yousef had entire identities created to support their assumed names, including passports, identification cards, bank records, education records, and medical records.
On August 31, 1992, Ajaj and Yousef boarded a flight from Peshawar to Karachi. On that flight, which constituted the first leg of their journey to New York, Ajaj and Yousef occupied adjacent seats in the first class section. When they changed planes in Karachi for the second leg of their trip to New York, however, Ajaj and Yousef split up in order to disguise the fact that they were traveling together. They checked in separately and sat apart from each other in the first class section of the flight.
Yousef, who was dressed in a multi-colored, three-piece silk outfit, left Pakistan using a British passport under an assumed name. Ajaj, who was dressed in a conservative suit and tie, carried a valid Swedish passport. That passport had been altered by affixing Ajaj's photograph on top of the original photograph. Evidently expecting to pass unchallenged through the INS inspection area at New York's Kennedy Airport – since an individual bearing a valid Swedish passport does not even need a visa to enter the United States – it was Ajaj who carried the kit of terrorist materials.
Specifically, Ajaj carried, among other things: two notebooks with handwritten notes on explosives; six printed bomb-making manuals with blue covers; two instructional videotapes on making explosives; anti-American and anti-Israeli materials; and documents relating to false identities.
Once Ajaj and Yousef arrived at the INS inspection area at Kennedy Airport on September 1, 1992, however, things did not go as planned. The first INS Inspector that Ajaj encountered determined that Ajaj's Swedish passport was suspicious, and directed Ajaj to the secondary inspection area. The Inspector examined the passport and, upon discovering that it had been altered, opened Ajaj's luggage and found the terrorist kit. Ajaj was detained as a danger to the United States, and was later charged with passport fraud in the for using the fake passport. Ultimately, Ajaj entered a plea of guilty to that charge and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
Meanwhile, at Kennedy Airport on September 1, 1992, Yousef – who did not have a visa – was sent directly to the secondary inspection area. Yousef abandoned his British identity upon reaching the United States, opting instead to use an Iraqi passport and claim political asylum. When Yousef was interviewed at the secondary inspection area, he was arrested for entering the country without a visa.
Yousef asserted, in a sworn statement to INS officials, that he had succeeded in boarding the flight to New York by bribing an official in Pakistan. Additionally, rather than divulge that he was traveling with Ajaj – who was carrying their terrorist kit – Yousef claimed to be traveling alone. Ajaj also claimed to be traveling alone. Ajaj's lie, together with the fact that the terrorist materials were carried by Ajaj rather than by Yousef, resulted in Yousef being released on his own recognizance. Thus, although Ajaj was detained and the terrorist material seized, Yousef succeeded in entering the country to carry out the bomb plot.
2. September Through December 1992: The Conspirators Obtain Money, Chemicals, A Storage Locker, And Other Items For The Bomb Plot.
Upon entering the United States, Yousef quickly began to work with other trusted co-conspirators on the bomb plot. Within two days of his arrival, Yousef had made contact with defendants Mohammed Salameh and Abdul Rahman Yasin, who both lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. Yousef began living with Salameh and became known to his coconspirators as "Rashed.".
a. Ajaj Continues to Assist With The Bomb Plot While Incarcerated.
Ajaj was incarcerated from September 2, 1992, when he was detained by INS officials at Kennedy Airport. Nevertheless, Ajaj remained in contact with Yousef and other co-conspirators and continued to be involved in the bomb plot during this period. During his time in federal custody, Ajaj never contacted Yousef directly. Rather, Ajaj used a friend in Dallas as an intermediary. Specifically, Ajaj would call Dallas from prison, and his friend would then either relay messages to Yousef or patch three-way calls through to Yousef, thereby rendering law enforcement efforts to detect contact between Ajaj and Yousef far more difficult.
During one of those calls, Ajaj told his friend to stay in touch with Yousef. Referring to the kit of terrorist materials seized at Kennedy airport, Ajaj told his friend that Yousef might "pursue my papers … one of these days."
b. Salameh And Ayyad Provide Money For The Bomb Plot; The Conspirators Look For The Chemicals Called For In Ajaj's Terrorist Manuals.
Meanwhile, the other coconspirators proceeded with the plot. In mid October, Salameh opened a joint bank account with co-defendant Nidal Ayyad, who worked as a chemical engineer. Together they deposited approximately $8,500 into the joint account to fund the bomb plot. A week later, Salameh and Ayyad withdrew the money from their joint account and transferred the cash to an individual bank account opened by Salameh that same day.
By mid November, Salameh and Yousef began to call a series of chemical companies to obtain what Ajaj's blue books described as the raw materials for urea nitrate: commercially manufactured urea (often used for fertilizer) and nitric acid. After they succeeded in obtaining urea and nitric acid for the "main charge" of the World Trade Center bomb, the conspirators began to build "boosters" and detonators for that bomb, again following the formulae described in Ajaj's blue books and handwritten materials.
c. Salameh Rents A Shed To Store Bomb Components; Yousef Orders Chemicals For Explosives For Delivery To The Shed; And Abouhalima Buys Smokeless Powder To Make Boosters.
Specifically, Yousef went to City Chemical Corporation, where, he purchased 1,000 pounds of technical grade urea and 105 gallons of nitric acid to make urea nitrate for the bomb's main charge, as prescribed in Ajaj's materials. Yousef also purchased: 60 gallons of sulfuric acid, packaged in 15-gallon carboys, to make nitroglycerin for boosters; one gallon of ethyl alcohol to stabilize nitroglycerin so that it could later be transported; and a 25-pound bag of sodium carbonate to neutralize acids during the mixing process. In mid December, Abouhalima, who was in daily contact with Salameh and Yousef, purchased a 16-ounce can of smokeless powder to make detonators for the World Trade Center bomb.
As the conspirators began to assemble the chemicals necessary to carry out the plot, Salameh rented a storage shed at the Space Station Storage Company in Jersey City. All of the bomb making materials were delivered to the conspirators' shed.
By the end of January, Yousef had placed two more orders with City Chemical for delivery to the Shed. The purchases included (i) additional quantities of urea and nitric acid to make more urea nitrate for the World Trade Center bomb's "main charge"; (ii) five pounds of potassium nitrate, which can be converted easily into gunpowder; (iii) two gallons of methyl alcohol for stabilizing nitroglycerin; and (iv) 100 pounds of aluminum metal powder, 25 pounds of magnesium metal powder, and 65 pounds of ferric oxide to be added to the urea nitrate mixture to enhance the bomb's destructive impact as recommended by Ajaj's manuals.
In all, the conspirators ordered and had delivered to the Shed a total of 1,500 pounds of urea and approximately 1,672 pounds of nitric acid. They used 1,200 pounds of urea and almost all of the nitric acid to make the World Trade Center bomb.
d. Yousef Speaks To Ajaj About Obtaining The Terrorist Kit.
In December 1992, when the conspirators were acquiring urea and nitric acid for the bomb's main charge of urea nitrate and looking for chemicals to make boosters and detonators in the manner specified by Ajaj's manuals, Yousef began to reach out for Ajaj. Beginning on December 4, 1992, a few days after Yousef ordered the first shipment from City Chemical, Yousef placed a series of calls to Ajaj's lawyer in New York and to Ajaj's friend in Texas. On December 29, 1992, after Salameh and Yousef had spent two days calling myriad chemical companies looking for chemicals to make boosters, Yousef again reached out for Ajaj.
Later that same day, a call from Ajaj was transferred to Yousef, permitting the two to speak directly. In the conversation, Ajaj immediately brought up the terrorist kit, informing Yousef that the Court had ordered the Government to return Ajaj's belongings. When Yousef asked if he could take possession of Ajaj's things, Ajaj readily agreed at first. He then said that it was not a good idea for Yousef personally to obtain the materials from the Government because it might jeopardize Yousef's "business," which, Ajaj said, would be "a pity!" As Ajaj well knew, Yousef's only "business" in the United States was to pursue the bomb plot the two conspirators had hatched together overseas earlier that year. Ajaj then suggested that Yousef send someone else to pick up the materials.
3. January And February 1993: The Conspirators Mix Bomb Components At 40 Pamrapo.
Mindful of the admonition in Ajaj's materials that, in order to facilitate escape, terrorist operations should be conducted out of ground floor apartments, Abouhalima helped Salameh and Yousef find a ground floor apartment in late December 1992 at 40 Pamrapo Avenue in Jersey City. After Salameh and Yousef moved into the 40 Pamrapo apartment, the conspirators used that apartment in January and February 1993 to mix the chemicals they had obtained from City Chemical and stored at the shed to create explosives for the World Trade Center bomb, including urea nitrate, nitroglycerin, ammonium nitrate dynamite, lead azide, and others. They mixed these chemical concoctions in a manner consistent with the formulae and other specifications in Ajaj's materials. The conspirators also prepared explosive mixtures containing smokeless powder at 40 Pamrapo. Once the explosives were mixed, the conspirators transported them to the shed, to be stored until needed.
While the conspirators mixed explosives at 40 Pamrapo, they also attempted to calculate the size and type of bomb they would need in order to achieve the desired destructive impact on the World Trade Center. For these calculations, Abouhalima, who frequently joined his co-conspirators at 40 Pamrapo after finishing work for the day as a livery car driver for various companies, studied a book – identical to one of Ajaj's – titled "Rapid Destruction And Demolition." That book contained a formula for the destruction of buildings.
In the course of the mixing process, the conspirators spilled chemicals on the floors and walls of 40 Pamrapo, on their clothing, as well as on other items, thereby leaving telltale traces of their illegal activities. In the back bedroom of 40 Pamrapo, the conspirators mixed large quantities of urea nitrate for the main charge of the World Trade Center bomb, using technical grade urea and nitric acid in a roughly one-to-one ratio as prescribed by Ajaj's blue books. When mixing the urea nitrate, the conspirators first dissolved the urea in water and then added the nitric acid. This process created harsh chemical fumes, which required the conspirators to wear surgical masks during the mixing process, caused some of the paint on the walls to change from white to blue, and resulted in corrosion on the inside of the back bedroom's doorknob and door-hinges.
To enhance the urea nitrate mixture and increase the World Trade Center bomb's destructive impact, the conspirators added aluminum powder and other metals, as recommended by Ajaj's bomb-making manuals. During the mixing process, the urea nitrate overheated and bubbled, splattering the walls and hitting the ceiling of the back bedroom. The conspirators flushed some of the excess chemicals down the toilet, spilling urea nitrate in the bathroom in the process.
Another explosive mixed in the 40 Pamrapo apartment was nitroglycerin, which the conspirators used to make boosters for the World Trade Center bomb. As recommended by Ajaj's manuals, the conspirators used ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol to stabilize the nitroglycerin for transport, and sodium carbonate to neutralize acids as they mixed. Some of the nitroglycerin was used by the conspirators to make sticks of ammonium nitrate dynamite, which were wrapped in duct tape and added to the bomb as boosters. During the mixing process, the conspirators spilled nitroglycerin in the apartment and on their clothing, again leaving revealing traces of the explosive.
4. February 1993: The Conspirators Survey The World Trade Center Complex And Finalize Their Preparations.
The target of the bomb plot was the World Trade Center Complex, a sixteen-acre site located in lower Manhattan. Although mostly known for the Twin Towers, which are 110 stories tall and 1,550 feet high, the World Trade Center consists of seven buildings, including the Vista Hotel. Present in the World Trade Center Complex on any given day are roughly 20,000 employees of the various businesses located in the Complex, as well as approximately 80,000 additional people who are either visitors to the Complex or commuters traveling through it.
In February 1993, Ayyad obtained additional chemicals to make boosters for the World Trade Center bomb. To obtain the chemicals, Ayyad used his status as a chemical company employee, and even faxed a purchase order on his company's letterhead. Ayyad also procured hydrogen gas in an effort to enhance the power of the World Trade Center bomb. Gas enhancement involves the addition of a gas, such as hydrogen, to a bomb in order to heighten its destructive force.
Initially, Ayyad sought to obtain the hydrogen gas directly from his employer. When he was refused, Ayyad called a number of compressed gas companies from his office telephone, including AGL Welding Supply Co. with whom he ultimately placed an order.
a. Ayyad and Salameh Rent Vehicles And The Conspirators Scout Out The World Trade Center Complex.
In mid February, Ayyad rented an automobile, and listed Salameh as an additional driver. Salameh drove that rental car to inspect the B-2 level of the World Trade Center Complex, where the conspirators would later place the bomb. As it names suggests, the B-2 level is the second underground level in the Complex, and at that time was used primarily for parking. The B-2 level also contained a section leased by the United States Secret Service for parking, fenced off from the larger public parking area.
One week later, Ayyad exchanged the automobile for another, and, again, listed Salameh as an additional driver. Two days before the bombing, the conspirators used that rental car to survey the B-2 level of the World Trade Center Complex one more time.
On February 23, 1993, Salameh rented a yellow Ryder Ford Econoline cargo van. At the time, he said that he would need the van until at least February 28, 1993.
b. Ayyad Orders A Shipment Of Hydrogen Gas, Which Is Received By Salameh At The Shed.
The day after Salameh obtained the Ryder van to house the bomb, Ayyad contacted AGL Welding and ordered three tanks of standard hydrogen to enhance the power of the bomb. Ayyad requested that the hydrogen be delivered to the storage shed, and said that he would not be returning the tanks.
The next day, February 25, 1993, AGL Welding delivered the three hydrogen tanks ordered by Ayyad the previous day. Salameh accepted delivery. The AGL truck driver tried to bring the tanks into the storage facility but was stopped by a employee, who initially would not allow the tanks inside the facility because of their potential to explode. Only when Salameh advised that a van was coming to pick up the hydrogen tanks within minutes did the employee permit the tanks to be brought into the facility. A short while later, Salameh helped load the hydrogen tanks into the Ryder van he had rented on February 23, and then left the storage facility.
c. The Conspirators Begin To Build A Defense: Salameh Reports The Ryder Van Stolen.
The night before the bombing in order to distance himself from the Ryder van, Salameh falsely reported to the police that it had been stolen. In making this false report, Salameh proffered a handwritten piece of paper which incorrectly represented the license number of the van. Without the correct information, the police could not register a stolen vehicle report for the van.
5. The February 26, 1993 Bombing Of The World Trade Center Complex.
The day before the bombing, the conspirators loaded the bomb into the cargo area of the Ryder van. The completed bomb contained a urea nitrate main charge laced with aluminum powder, magnesium powder and ferric oxide for extra potency; ammonium nitrate dynamite and lead azide boosters; a smokeless powder booster; and hobby fuse inside rubber-tubing to prevent early detonation. Further to enhance the bomb's destructive impact, the conspirators also placed the AGL hydrogen tanks inside the cargo area of the Ryder van.
The conspirators then drove the van and its deadly cargo from Jersey City to Manhattan, eventually making their way into the red parking lot on the B-2 level of the World Trade Center Complex, where they parked the van. The conspirators then exited the van, with the bomb set to explode in the middle of a busy work day, and fled the World Trade Center Complex.
At approximately 12:18 p.m., the bomb in the Ryder van exploded, killing six people inside the World Trade Center Complex. The violent blast injured more than a thousand others, who suffered injuries ranging from crushed limbs to smoke inhalation.
The blast blew a huge crater in the B-2 level and destroyed portions of the B-1 level above it. A steel beam weighing approximately 3,000 pounds, that it was immediately adjacent to the point of the explosion, was propelled 30 feet inside Tower One, into the room were four people were killed. The Vista Hotel, located directly above the blast area, was almost toppled. The explosion so badly damaged the water system for the World Trade Center Complex that two million gallons of water gushed from severed pipes into the sub-grade levels. In addition, almost all electricity to the World Trade Center was cut, and the remaining lines had to be severed to avoid electrocution. Thus, as a result of the bombing, there was no lighting, heat, emergency power or running water, and no way to communicate with the Complex's numerous tenants. The explosion also caused approximately $300 million in property damage to the World Trade Center Complex.
6. After The Explosion.
a. Remnants Of The Blast Are Pieced Together.
Contrary to what the conspirators had hoped, not all traces of their bomb were destroyed by the blast or irretrievably buried underneath tons of debris. Instead, critical pieces of the Ryder van and its tires, as well as portions of the three AGL hydrogen tanks, were recovered after the blast, providing devastating proof of the conspirators' heinous crimes.
Specifically, an explosives expert concluded that each of the pieces recovered from the crime scene that were later identified by a Ford Motor Company expert as parts of a Ford Econoline cargo van displayed unique damage that occurred to only one vehicle in the sub-grade level of the World Trade Center Complex: the vehicle that held the bomb. Two critical pieces of the Ryder van that were recovered included sections of the frame rail which contained a unique confidential VIN number. This information identified the vehicle containing the bomb as the Ryder van rented by Salameh.
Further, an expert from AGL was able to identify certain fragments recovered from the sub-grade levels of the World Trade Center Complex as pieces of three distinct AGL gas cylinders. Each of those fragments displayed unique explosive damage, indicating that the AGL hydrogen cylinders were part of the World Trade Center bomb.
b. The Conspirators Proclaim Responsibility For The World Trade Center Bombing And Threaten Future Terrorist Attacks.
On February 27, 1993, the day after the bombing, Ayyad called the Daily News "tips line" to claim responsibility on behalf of the "Liberation Army." Specifically, in his spoken message, which the Daily News tape recorded, Ayyad proclaimed:
This is the Liberation Army. We conducted the explosion at the World Trade Center. You will get our demands by mail. This is the Liberation Army.
Consistent with Ayyad's announcement to the Daily News that the demands of the "Liberation Army" would be sent by mail, the conspirators sent a letter to the New York Times. The conspirators' letter stated that the World Trade Center was bombed in retaliation for American support of Israel, demanded changes in United States foreign policy in the Middle East, and threatened that, if these demands were not met, more terrorist "missions" would be carried out against military and civilian targets in America and abroad. Specifically, the letter declared:
We are, the fifth battalion in the LIBERATION ARMY, declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.
OUR DEMANDS ARE:
1 – Stop all military, economical, and political aid to Israel.
2 – All diplomatic relations with Israel must stop.
3 – Not to interfere with any of the Middle East countries interior affairs.
IF our demands are not met, all of our functional groups in the army will continue to execute our missions against the military and civilian targets in and out the United States. For your own information, our army has more than hundred and fifty suicidal soldiers ready to go ahead. The terrorism that Israel practices (Which is supported by America) must be faced with a similar one. The dictatorship and terrorism (also supported by America) that some countries are practicing against their own people must also be faced with terrorism.
The American people must know, that their civilians who got killed are not better than those who are getting killed by the American weapons and support.
The American people are responsible for the actions of their government and they must question all of the crimes that their government is committing against other people. Or they – Americans – will be the targets of our operations that could diminish them.
The conspirators also drafted a second letter, which was later recovered from an erased file on a computer disk seized from Ayyad's office. In this second letter, which the conspirators apparently did not send, proclaimed that the World Trade Center bomb did not do as much damage as had been intended, because their "calculations were not very accurate this time." They warned, however, that they would be more precise in the future and would continue to target the World Trade Center if their demands were not met. After his arrest, Ramzi Yousef was more specific. He said that the conspirators had intended for the bomb to topple one of the towers and hoped that it would crash into the other, bringing them both down, and killing one quarter of a million people.
c. Salameh And Abouhalima Prepare Defenses; Yousef, Yasin And Abouhalima Flee; Salameh Makes Plans To Flee But Is Arrested.
At the same time as the conspirators were taking credit for the World Trade Center bombing in the name of the "Liberation Army," they also sought to avoid arrest by distancing themselves from the crime and making escape plans.
On the night of February 26, Yousef fled on a Pakastani International Airlines flight from Kennedy Airport to Karachi, Pakistan. From Karachi, Yousef proceeded on to Quetta, Pakistan, located at the Afghanistan border. It took nearly two years before he would be apprehended in Pakistan.
Following Yousef's lead, Abouhalima hastily prepared to flee as well. On February 27, 1993, Abouhalima booked a one-way ticket on the first available flight to the Sudan. On March 2, 1993, Abouhalima flew out of JFK to the Sudan via Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a one-way ticket, without his family and without any luggage. Three weeks later, Abouhalima was brought back to the United States after having been turned over to the FBI by Egyptian authorities.
Yasin also purchased a ticket for a flight from JFK to Amman, Jordan, and successfully fled the country. He remains a fugitive to this day.
In the afternoon of February 26, 1993, Salameh – confident that the Ryder van had been blown to pieces in the World Trade Center Complex – returned to the rental agency and requested the return of his $400 security deposit. He was told to fill out a police report and return after he had done so.
Salameh also began making plans to flee the country. On March 1, 1992, Salameh purchased a ticket for a flight from New York to Amsterdam and used the ticket to obtain a visa to the Netherlands. Although he planned to flee, Salameh evidently hoped to secure the return of his deposit for the Ryder van prior to leaving the country. Accordingly, on March 4, 1993, Salameh returned to the rental office to close out his contract and retrieve his deposit.
Unbeknownst to Salameh, however, FBI agents, having traced the Ryder van to the rental agency, and having been alerted that Salameh was coming to claim his deposit, were waiting for him. That day, Mohammed Salameh was arrested.
In the days that followed, agents obtained and executed a series of search warrants for various locations linked to the conspirators and their terrorist plot and ultimately arrested Ayyad, Abouhalima and Ajaj. Through the evidence seized from these searches and from the defendants at the time of their arrest, law enforcement was able to piece together the terrorist plot.