The al Qaeda Islamist militant group once planned to demolish New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, blow up grounded airliners with explosive-laden vans and derail passenger trains, Newsweek magazine reported yesterday.
Quoting federal investigators who interrogated captured al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the magazine said he told them he recruited a naturalized U.S. citizen, a truck driver from Columbus, Ohio, named Lyman Farris, to assess several terrorist attacks in the United States that never materialized.
One of them was to determine whether acetylene torches could be used to cut the cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge, sending it crashing into the East River, the newsweekly reported.
Another was the use of “torque tools” to bend railroad tracks, sending passenger trains crashing off their rails.
Still another was to drive a small, explosives-packed van into an airport and beneath a commercial airliner as it sat on the runway, blowing up the plane.
Mr. Farris reportedly told Mohammed that as a licensed truck driver he could penetrate airport security without problem, Newsweek said.
“None of these plots ever came off,” said Newsweek, and “Farris has disappeared.”
The magazine quoted sources as saying Mohammed was uncooperative and offered no information after his capture in Pakistan in March, but began talking when confronted with the contents of his computer and his cell-phone records.
Mohammed “revealed an overhaul of al Qaeda’s approach to penetrating America,” after its September 11 attacks in the United States.
The network began to rely on operatives who would be harder to detect, recruiting U.S. citizens or people with legitimate Western passports who could move freely in the United States, Newsweek reported.
“They used women and family members as support personnel, and made an effort to find African-American Muslims who would be sympathetic to Islamic extremism,” the magazine said Mohammed told federal investigators.
Citing interrogators, the magazine said Mohammed recruited a former Baltimore resident named Majid Khan to formulate a plan to blow up several U.S. gas stations simultaneously by detonating explosives fitted to their underground storage tanks.
That plot, too, never came to fruition, the magazine said.