Jury charges Reid with being terrorist trained by al-Qaida

First public confirmation that shoe had enough explosives to crash plane

January 17, 2002|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - A federal grand jury charged Richard C. Reid yesterday with being an al-Qaida-trained terrorist who tried to bring down a commercial jet with nearly 200 people aboard by igniting explosives in his shoes.

The nine-count indictment, issued in Boston, charges Reid with attempted murder, using a destructive device, trying to blow up an airplane and other crimes.

Reid, who is being held in a jail in Plymouth County, Mass., could face life in prison if convicted.

The indictment is the first explicit statement connecting Reid, who authorities say is a 28-year-old carrying a British passport, with al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

According to the indictment, Reid trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan sometime before boarding American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22.

The charges are also the first public confirmation that Reid, who was tackled by passengers and sedated by a doctor on board, carried enough explosives to crash the plane.

Attorney General John Ashcroft hailed the passengers on that plane as heroes for subduing Reid. He said their actions were evidence that the Bush administration's series of terrorist warnings to the public since the Sept. 11 attacks had worked.

"That this tragedy was averted stands as proof that terrorists - even al-Qaida-trained terrorists - are no match for alert and vigilant people roused to defend themselves and to defend their freedom," Ashcroft said.

In the past, the attorney general said, if the Justice Department "put out an alert saying, `Watch out for people with exploding shoes,' we would have been laughed out of town."

Ashcroft also said the charges "alert us to a clear, unmistakable threat that al-Qaida could attack the United States again."

In a statement yesterday, Reid's court-appointed attorney, Tamar R. Birckhead, noted that the indictment does not allege that Reid was acting on behalf of al-Qaida.

Whether Reid was a marginal al-Qaida trainee acting alone on a personal quest or whether he was on a mission orchestrated by al-Qaida leaders has been a matter of speculation for weeks.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that information found on a computer used by bin Laden's lieutenants in Kabul detailed travels by an operative whose journeys bear a striking similarity to Reid's.

Reid went to the same countries and in the same order, and, like the operative, received a new British passport in Amsterdam.

Reid, who according to the indictment has used two aliases, also reportedly attended the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged as a conspirator in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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