- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

From combined dispatches
The man arrested on suspicion of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight using explosives in his shoe has been linked in a report published today to a suspected conspirator in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Times of London reports in today's editions that Richard C. Reid, 28, was a worshipper at a London mosque also attended by Zacarias Moussaoui, who is charged with conspiracy in the September 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.
Abdul Haq Baker, chairman of Brixton Mosque, told the Times of Mr. Moussaoui's and Mr. Reid's presence at his mosque.
He told the London newspaper that Mr. Reid was "an amiable, happy-go-lucky individual, always wanting to get involved in things and helping," who would have been incapable of devising the plot to blow up an aircraft over the Atlantic without help from others.
"No way could he do this on his own," Mr. Baker said. "He doesn't have the capacity to think: 'I'm going to get these explosives, I know where to get these explosives from, I'll put them in my shoe.'
"He was a testing ground. If he had succeeded, they would know this is a mechanism that works. If the plane had exploded there would have been very little trace of how that happened."
Federal prosecutors say Mr. Moussaoui, who has been in custody since Aug. 16, engaged in the same preparation and training for murder as the 19 co-conspirators who carried out the September 11 hijackings.
Mr. Reid was on suicide watch in federal custody yesterday. He is accused of trying to use a match to ignite explosives packed in his shoes during an American Airlines flight Saturday from Paris to Miami.
Meanwhile, technical evidence also suggested that Mr. Reid was unlikely to have acted alone.
The Boston Globe reported in yesterday's editions that the FBI believes the shoe bombs found on Mr. Reid were so cunningly made that he probably had an accomplice.
The Globe quoted an unnamed Massachusetts state official as saying a preliminary examination of Mr. Reid's black suede athletic shoes revealed 4 to 5 ounces of explosive packed into each one.
"Because of the complexity of concocting such an explosive, FBI technicians believe that Reid must have had an accomplice, according to the state official," the paper said.
Establishing whether the suspect acted alone has been a main focus of the FBI investigation.
"We are considering every possibility," FBI special agent Charles Prouty said yesterday.
Mr. Baker also told the Times that Mr. Reid became radicalized during his time at the mosque, although the London mosque leader did not tie this specifically to Mr. Moussaoui.
"By the time he left, he was clearly arguing for this fight with the non-Muslims and this warped understanding of jihad," Mr. Baker said, referring to the Arabic word for "holy war."
The Times report said Mr. Reid was a repeat small-time offender who converted to Islam while in jail.
Meanwhile yesterday, a report in France's La Provence newspaper, citing police and intelligence sources, said Mr. Reid had belonged to an Islamic movement called Tabliq but left because he said it was "not radical enough" for him.
Mr. Prouty said the agency was investigating whether Mr. Reid had links to world terrorism. But a government official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that investigators had nothing to link Mr. Reid to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
Paul Wilkinson, a terrorism analyst at Scotland's St. Andrews University, told Reuters news agency that the suspect had probably not been acting alone.
"He was not just some lunatic, but had a device in both shoes that would have gone off. That's a sign of some sophistication," Mr. Wilkinson told Reuters. "On the face of it, it seems unlikely that an individual working on his own would acquire such an unusual means of destruction."
The Globe report also said the type of explosive used usually needs a battery or blasting cap to set it off, but FBI tests found a substance had been added that would have allowed it to be detonated by prolonged exposure to flame, the official told the paper.
"The belief is now that if he had a lighter and not a match, the thing would have detonated," the official was quoted as saying.
Mr. Reid remains held without bail at the Plymouth County House of Correction pending a psychological examination, Chief Deputy Timothy Bane of the U.S. Marshals Service said yesterday.
Also yesterday, the mystery of the man's identity continued as British officials said they believe the man, originally identified as Sri Lankan, is a British citizen, born in England.
"We have confirmed that the man is a British citizen," a spokesman for Scotland Yard told Agence France-Presse. "Anything else we have never discussed, not the name [of the suspect] either."
George Fergusson, consul general for the British Consulate in Boston, said yesterday that Mr. Reid's British passport seemed valid.
"We have no reason to believe it is not legitimate," he said.
"His passport says he was born in the United Kingdom, in England," he said. A more specific birthplace was not available.
But U.S. officials told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that they believe he was born in Sri Lanka to one British and one Jamaican parent, but became a naturalized British citizen. It was not clear where he lived.
American Airlines Chairman Don Carty, in a taped message to employees, put the blame squarely on French officials, saying they had failed to keep the suspect from boarding the jet.
"Our people brought the passenger to the attention of French authorities and it was only after those authorities cleared him that he was allowed to board the flight on Saturday," Mr. Carty said in the message, broadcast by ABC.
The French police official yesterday confirmed to the Associated Press that Mr. Reid had tried to board Friday's Paris-Miami flight and missed the plane because French border police detained him for extensive questioning after he acted suspiciously in the terminal.

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