%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:WX125-011602; AUDIO:%)

BOSTON (AP) _ The airline passenger accused of trying to ignite explosives in his shoes was indicted Wednesday on charges of being an al-Qaida-trained terrorist whose goal was to blow up the plane and kill the nearly 200 people aboard.

Richard Reid, a 28-year-old British citizen and convert to Islam, could get five life sentences if convicted.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury in Boston, alleges Reid attempted to kill the 197 passengers and crew aboard a Paris-to-Miami American Airlines flight Dec. 22 before he was tackled and the jetliner was diverted to Boston.

Reid did ``attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction ... consisting of an explosive bomb placed in each of his shoes,'' the indictment said.

The indictment said Reid ``received training from al-Qaida in Afghanistan.''

In a statement, Tamar Birckhead, one of Reid's court-appointed attorneys, noted that her client is considered innocent until proven guilty. She added that ``the indictment does not allege that any of the crimes charged were committed on behalf of or to further the cause of al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization. We are aware of no basis for such an allegation.''

A U.S. official said Reid may be an al-Qaida target scout, an Israeli official said it was possible Reid was gathering intelligence for large-scale terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and other cities. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said in Washington that the charges ``alert us to a clear, unmistakable threat that al-Qaida could attack the United States again.''

``We must be prepared. We must be ready. We must be vigilant,'' he said.

The charges against Reid include attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder and attempted destruction of an aircraft. He also was charged with attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, a new charge created by Congress in an anti-terrorism bill enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Reid had been held since his arrest on the lesser charge of interfering with a flight crew.

``The charges contained in the indictment are exceptionally serious and reflective of our intention to prosecute Richard Reid to the fullest extent of the law,'' said Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Ashcroft credited passengers and crew on that flight with stopping Reid from detonating the shoe bomb and bringing down the plane. He was overpowered by flight attendants and passengers as he allegedly tried to light a fuse protruding from his sneakers.

``Our trust in the common sense of people who act in the face of terrorism was vindicated,'' the attorney general said.

Reid converted to Islam while in prison for petty crimes. He later worshipped at the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, charged with conspiracy in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Reid's travels match those of an al-Qaida operative known as Abdul Ra'uff, which are listed in a computer obtained in Afghanistan by The Wall Street Journal. The similarities in the two's movements in Europe and the Middle East have led investigators to suspect they are the same person.

Reid boarded an El Al flight to Tel Aviv on July 7. He spent five days in Israel, before traveling to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. From Egypt, Reid apparently returned to Europe on a commercial flight, Israeli reports said.

Earlier this week, a U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the al-Qaida prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had identified Reid as someone he had trained with at a camp run by al-Qaida.

___

EDITORS: Associated Press writers Karen Gullo, national security writer John J. Lumpkin in Washington and Laurie Copans in Jerusalem contributed to this story