Foiling Project Bojinka New York trial: Conviction of three terrorists a victory for aviation safety.

September 13, 1996

THE CONVICTION of Ramzi Yousef and two accomplices in a New York court for an atrocity that never occurred is a victory for civil aviation and civil society. It is the fruit of international cooperation in the war against terrorism.

Yousef, a 29-year-old engineering graduate who holds many aliases but is considered a Pakistani, faces a life sentence and another trial. He is alleged to be the mastermind of the 1993 New York World Trade Center bombing for which four men have been convicted. He left the country within hours of it.

The breakup of the incredible plot -- five men planting bombs on 11 to 24 U.S.-flag and U.S.-bound airliners -- was a lucky accident. Smoke billowed out of a Manila apartment on Jan. 6, 1995. Philippines police found a bomb factory, notebooks with bomb-making instructions in Arabic and a computer hard disc.

They arrested one of the tenants, Abdul Hakim Murad, a Pakistani. Computer experts restored the erased disc giving details of the plot -- code-named Project Bojinka -- and identity and photograph of an Afghan accomplice, Wali Khan Amin Shah. All three defendants were extradited here to face charges for the plot against U.S.-bound airliners and, after a four-month trial, were found guilty on all counts.

Yousef and Murad were charged in the Philippines with a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II -- intended as a diversion during the airliner plot, which threatened 4,000 lives. Yousef was also convicted in New York of leaving a bomb in a Philippines airliner, which exploded killing one passenger and injuring 10 others.

The Philippines police raid thwarted Project Bojinka. Now three of its participants, including the planner, face life sentences.

The unsolved mystery of TWA Flight 800, which exploded during this trial, is possible evidence that terrorism never can be stopped for good. But the successful prosecution of three terrorists prevented more atrocities, showed good international cooperation and good police work. Terrorists must always be fought.

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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