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A page from Ramzi Yousef's playbook?
The Associated Press
NEW YORK – Two terror plots, roughly 11 years apart, had eerie similarities.
The first was designed to blow a dozen American airliners out of the sky with liquid bombs smuggled aboard in innocent-looking containers. The failed plot was developed in late 1994 and early 1995 by the man who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing — Ramzi Yousef.
The second — one that British authorities on Thursday said they thwarted — was similar to Yousef's recipe for terror: the simultaneous explosions of 10 aircraft heading to the United States using liquid bombs hidden in ordinary containers and smuggled aboard in hand luggage.
Yousef, serving life without parole at the federal supermax prison at Florence, Colo., for the 1993 bombing, is isolated now from the world of terrorists that still copy his plans — including Project Bojinka, his blueprint for such acts as the plane plot of 11 years ago.
"The parallels with Bojinka are amazing, the number of targets, explosive solution," said Roger Cressy, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council under President Clinton and President Bush. "It is something right out of the playbook.
"It has to be something either inspired by or directed by al-Qaida," he said.
Cressy said it was no surprise that terrorists were still trying to carry out Yousef's ideas. He was an egotistical man known in that world for his creativity. "He has a proven track record. They admire his brilliance and his bomb-making skills," Cressy said.
Yousef, who once boasted that he wanted to write a book of his exploits, said as he was sent to prison for life: "I am a terrorist and am proud of it."
Pat D'Amuro, a former FBI assistant director, said the London plot showed that terrorists "like to come back to areas, like they did the World Trade Center."
After Yousef and four others set off a bomb beneath the trade center in 1993 that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others, he went across the Hudson River and watched smoke rise from the towers. He was disappointed he had not toppled them.
Two months before his February 1995 arrest in one of Osama bin Laden's Pakistan safehouses, Yousef had successfully tested his technique to bring down the planes.
He assembled a bomb on the first leg of a two-flight trip with liquid explosives hidden in a bottle of contact lens cleaner and a reconfigured digital watch. He put it under a seat and then got off the Philippine Airlines jet.
The explosive detonated in midair, killing a Japanese businessman and injuring 10 other passengers. The pilot was credited for heroically landing the plane.
Investigators foiled Project Bojinka just two weeks before the plane bombings were to occur. They discovered Yousef's multiple terrorist plots on computers in a Philippines apartment where he and an accomplice accidentally set off a small fire.
Tom Corrigan, a former New York detective who investigated Yousef while on the FBI-NYPD terrorist task force, said similarities between the Bojinka plot and British plots were alarming. The "only difference," he said, "seems to be this was the Atlantic Ocean. That was the Pacific."
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company