Plotter recalls al-Qaida brainstorming targets
NEW YORK (AP) — Shoe-bomb plotter Saajid Badat admits he was once in the thick of al-Qaida’s plans, winning a hug from Osama bin Laden for his quest to blow up a U.S. plane in midair and brainstorming with the self-professed architect of the Sept. 11 attacks about new English and American targets.
But the 35-year-old British man testifying in a New York City terrorism trial said he’s reformed from the man who reacted with “jubilance” when he saw news reports of the hijacked-plane attacks against the World Trade Center and with laughter when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed crossed out the demolished twin towers in an almanac’s listing of the world’s tallest buildings.
In two days of videotaped testimony from a site in London that concluded Tuesday, Badat gave fresh details about his three years with al-Qaida and coming “to know about (Mohammed’s) involvement in the 9/11 attacks.”
Last month, Badat testified at the trial of bin Laden’s son-in-law. Tuesday’s testimony came in the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, an Egyptian cleric who became well known as an extremist Islamic figure in London in the late 1990s. He has pleaded not guilty to charges he supported al-Qaida by assisting kidnappers in Yemen in 1999, when four hostages died, and by plotting to open a training camp in Bly, Oregon.
Badat, arrested in 2003 in a shoe-bomb plot he says he abandoned after his father threatened to kill him if he was a terrorist, said he began fully cooperating with British and American authorities only after seeing a 2007 news report that Mohammed faced trial and hoping he could testify against him. Badat said he cannot come to the United States because he’ll be arrested on federal charges in Boston accusing him of plotting to down an aircraft.
Badat said he had abandoned his radical views and wanted to get “my revenge on those most senior to me who were promoting these views.”
At times, Badat struggled to reconcile his past. “I had a twisted version of Islam,” he said.
Badat testified that he and failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid were enlisted days after the Sept. 11 attacks. He said Mohammed discussed blowing up a U.S.-bound flight or, if that was not possible, a flight over Europe.
Mohammed also discussed looking for a target on the West Coast of the United States or a building in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Badat said.
In a meeting with bin Laden that ended with “him giving me a hug,” the al-Qaida leader told him to read a Quran passage about “holding firm, standing fast, keeping the faith,” he said.
Soon afterward, Badat said, he and Reid traveled to Pakistan with Malaysian men tasked by al-Qaida to carry out a Sept. 11-style attack by barging into a cockpit, using the expertise of a pilot among them, and crashing the plane into a building.
He said he and Reid met the leader of the Malaysian group at a McDonald’s and afterward gave the group one of Badat’s shoe bombs.
Badat also recalled a brainstorming session he had with Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and others six months before an attack on the USS Cole in 2000 killed 17 American sailors. Badat said he suggested al-Qaida put explosives in a small boat and crash it into a large ship. He said Moussaoui wanted to mention it to al-Qaida’s top leaders.
He said the Ministry of Defense in London was also mentioned as a good target.
Jeremy Schneider, Mustafa’s lawyer, asked Badat if he felt partially responsible for the Cole attack.
Badat said he doubted it originated with him because “bin Laden would have come up to me and said: ‘Thanks for the idea.’”