- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

A federal grand jury investigation into sneaker-bomb suspect Robert C. Reid is focusing on potential accomplices in what FBI agents believe may have been a coordinated suicide plot to bring down a U.S. jetliner.
The FBI inquiry, centered in Boston, also has targeted concerns that the aborted attack had been planned to mark the 13th anniversary of the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 persons.
Mr. Reid, 28, was overpowered Dec. 22 by flight attendants and passengers aboard an American Airlines flight bound from Paris to Miami after he attempted to ignite 10 ounces of explosives hidden in his sneakers, authorities said. The airplane was diverted to Boston, escorted by U.S. fighter jets.
He had tried unsuccessfully to board an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight on Dec. 21, but was detained by security officials and had to wait another day. U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein has since ordered Mr. Reid held without bail, pending the grand jury investigation.
The FBI also has been tracing Mr. Reid's movements in Europe and the Middle East, trying to determine if he met with members of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
During Mr. Reid's appearance before Judge Dein, FBI agent Margaret G. Cronin testified that he 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."
Mr. Reid sat in a window seat.
Mrs. Cronin, an explosives expert, told the court that tests by the FBI on Mr. 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 Mr. Reid's sneakers.
TATP is a substance previously used by Hamas suicide bombers.
Law enforcement authorities said the explosives believed to be in Mr. Reid's sneakers were too sophisticated for him to obtain and that he was likely working with or for others.
U.S. and British intelligence officials also believe Mr. 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.
British intelligence officials had Mr. Moussaoui under surveillance as a potential terrorist and reportedly monitored numerous telephone conversations he had with Mr. Reid before both left separately in December 2000 for Pakistan. The two men also attended the same mosque in south London.
Mr. 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.
Judge Dein said during a recent court appearance that Mr. Reid's "violent and assaultive behavior toward the flight attendants" showed that he would pose a danger to the public if released.
"The evidence is that the defendant was trying to set off an explosive device on a flight with approximately 183 passengers and 14 crew members on board," Judge Dein said in denying bail. "He acted with callous disregard for the safety of others, and, in fact, appears to have intended to cause them all serious harm, if not death."
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan in Boston said that Mr. Reid has been charged so far with interfering with the performance of the duties of flight crew members or attendants by assault or intimidation.
"Richard Reid is being charged in a manner consistent with the facts as we know them to be at this time. If at any point during this investigation we develop further information that warrants the consideration of additional charges, then we'll make those determinations at the appropriate time," Mr. Sullivan said.
In arguing that Mr. Reid be denied bail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Owyang said the man had "no verifiable address anywhere in the world" and had no known friends or relatives in the United States.
He also said Mr. Reid had no work visa or immigration papers.

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