- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

A federal grand jury in Massachusetts yesterday returned a nine-count indictment against Richard C. Reid, accusing the 28-year-old British citizen of being an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who attempted to destroy a Paris-to-Miami jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, in announcing the indictment, said Reid was charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; attempted homicide of U.S. nationals overseas; placing an explosive device on an aircraft; attempted murder of aircraft passengers; two counts of interfering with a flight crew; attempting to destroy an aircraft; and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.
Mr. Ashcroft said Reid also was charged under a new anti-terrorism offense the attempted wrecking of a mass-transportation vehicle created by Congress last year as part of the USA Patriot Act. If convicted on all nine counts, Reid faces up to five life sentences.
"Reid's indictment alerts us to a clear, unmistakable threat: that al Qaeda could attack the United States again. The lessons for Americans are undeniable: We must be prepared. We must be alert. We must be vigilant," the attorney general said. "Al Qaeda-trained terrorists may act on their own or as part of the terrorist network, but we must assume that they will act.
"But for the vigilance of the flight crew and the courage of the passengers on Flight 63, Richard Reid may have succeeded in what today's indictment charges was his ultimate goal: the destruction of Flight 63 and the 197 people on board," he said. "That this tragedy was averted stands as proof that terrorists even al Qaeda-trained terrorists are no match for alert and vigilant people roused to defend themselves and to defend their freedom."
Reid was arrested Dec. 22 after crew members and passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 63 bound from Paris to Miami overpowered him as he attempted to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes. The aircraft, a Boeing 767 jetliner, was diverted for an emergency landing in Boston, escorted to Logan International Airport in Boston by two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets.
There were 185 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the plane.
Federal authorities are trying to determine if Reid may be an al Qaeda target scout known as "Abdul Ra'uff." His travel itinerary over the past several months matches that of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist known as Abdul Ra'uff. That itinerary is listed in a computer obtained in Afghanistan by a Wall Street Journal reporter.
The similarities in travel in Europe and the Middle East have led investigators to suspect Reid and Ra'uff are the same person.
Federal authorities said Reid was overpowered after he attempted to ignite 10 ounces of explosives hidden in his sneakers.
During a court appearance, FBI agent Margaret G. Cronin testified Reid was carrying "functioning improvised explosives, or, in layman's terms, a homemade bomb" and that if the sneakers had been ignited against an outside wall of the aircraft, they "would have blown a hole in the fuselage." Reid sat in a window seat during the flight.
Mrs. Cronin, an explosives expert, told the court that tests by the FBI on Reid's sneakers showed the presence of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly volatile plastic explosive. Preliminary analysis by the FBI laboratory in Washington has determined that there were two functional improvised explosive devices recovered from Reid's sneakers. TATP is a substance previously used by Hamas suicide bombers.
Following his arrest, U.S. Magistrate Judith Dein ordered Reid held without bail, pending the grand jury investigation.
Law-enforcement authorities have said the explosives believed to be in Reid's sneakers were too sophisticated for him to obtain and that he was likely working with or for others. Mr. Ashcroft yesterday declined to say whether Reid was acting alone or on al Qaeda's orders. He also declined to comment when asked whether Reid had any accomplices.
U.S. and British intelligence officials believe Reid spoke on the telephone with Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national of Moroccan descent now indicted on conspiracy charges in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Moussaoui, the first person to be indicted in the September 11 attacks, has been in federal custody since his Aug. 17 arrest after officials at a flight school in Minnesota became suspicious of him. He and Reid attended the same mosque in south London.
During the press conference, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III praised Flight 63's crew members and passengers, saying their actions had diverted a tragedy.
"As is so often the case, help from the public is a critical component in the fight against terrorism and the fight against crime," said Mr. Mueller. "And again, we have seen the courage and quick-thinking actions of passengers and crew. And in this case, again, those actions of the passengers and crew were a decisive factor in the outcome."
Reid's court-appointed defense attorney, Tamar Birckhead, did not return calls yesterday for comment. An arraignment in the case has not yet been scheduled.

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