- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Federal prosecutors yesterday said that shoe-bomb suspect Richard C. Reid had outside help in his failed bid to blow up a Paris-to-Miami jetliner, and that his choice of a target was "deliberate and calculated."

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, where the 28-year-old al Qaeda-trained terror suspect faces trial in a nine-count indictment, prosecutors said forensic evidence taken from Reid's tennis shoes determined that at least one other person assisted him.

Prosecutors were not specific and the documents do not say the plot involved members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, but Attorney General John Ashcroft has described Reid as an "al Qaeda-trained terrorist."

Reid, a British citizen, was indicted in January in 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; interfering with a flight crew; attempting to destroy an aircraft; and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.

He 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 was arrested Dec. 22 after crew members and passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 63 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 at Boston's Logan International Airport, escorted by two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets.

There were 185 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the plane.

Federal authorities said Reid was overpowered after he attempted to ignite 10 ounces of explosives hidden in his sneakers.

During an initial court appearance, FBI agent Margaret G. Cronin testified that 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 determined there were two functional improvised explosive devices recovered from Reid's sneakers. TATP is a substance that the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has used in its suicide bombings.

Law-enforcement authorities have said the explosives believed to be in Reid's sneakers were too sophisticated for him to obtain and he likely was working with or for others. Mr. Ashcroft has 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.

In yesterday's court filings, prosecutors said the investigation established that Reid "was not unassisted in his efforts to destroy Flight 63, and that his choice of a target was a deliberate and calculated act of international terrorism."

Prosecutors said forensic comparisons ruled out Reid as the source of a human hair and a palm print found inside the explosive devices, and noted that Reid kept an active travel schedule between July and December 2001 that took him from Belgium to Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan even though he had no known source of income.

They also disclosed for the first time parts of an e-mail Reid sent to his mother two days before he boarded Flight 63, in which he sought to explain his planned act. In the message, prosecutors said, Reid said he hoped his mother would not be upset "as what I am doing is part of the ongoing war between Islam and disbelief."

The e-mail also said: "I see it as a duty upon me to help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslim land and that this is the only way for us to do so as we do not have other means to fight them."

Reid has pleaded not guilty in the case. Trial begins in November.

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