By CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank:
Within weeks of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Osama bin Laden was planning follow-up operations to bring down airliners in the United States and south-east Asia, according to a convicted al Qaeda operative testifying in a terror trial in New York.
Saajid Badat was speaking via a video deposition from the United Kingdom, where he is serving a jail sentence for his role in plotting to blow up a U.S. bound aircraft in December 2001.
It’s the first time that an al Qaeda operative has provided such detail about plans to bring down airliners in the wake of 9/11.
Badat testified that a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, he met with Abu Hafs al Masri, then bin Laden’s right hand man, in the Jalalabad-Kabul area in Afghanistan.
“Abu Hafs asked me to take an explosive device onboard an airplane, a domestic airline [in the United States] and then detonate it,” Badat testified. He was then called to meet bin Laden himself.
“It was just the two of us in the room and he explained to me his justification for the mission,” said Badat.
“He said that the American economy is like a chain. If you break one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down. So after September 11th attacks, this operation will ruin the aviation industry and in turn the whole economy will come down,” he added.
Badat was then told to pick up two explosive shoes from an al Qaeda bomb-maker named Fathi. The explosives, he said, were concealed in the soles.
The idea was for him and Richard Reid, a British operative who came to be known as the “Shoe Bomber,” to blow up different planes simultaneously.
Reid tried to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001.
Before leaving Afghanistan in late November, Badat said he and Reid met with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
“It was as if he was giving me final orders,” Badat testified.
“He just gave us advice on how to interact with each other, how to contact each other,” he said, adding that the communication between him and Reid was to be via e-mail.
When Badat arrived in the United Kingdom in December he said he got cold feet, fearing going through with the operation and the possible implications for his family. He described how he dismantled the shoe bomb he had brought with him and stored it in his parents’ house.
On December 14, 2001, he e-mailed his Pakistani handler to tell him he was backing out.
Badat now feels he and others were manipulated by al Qaeda’s top leadership.
During his video deposition he stated he was ready to testify against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other top leaders to expose the hollowness of what he called their “bulls**t cause.”
Badat, who joined al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2000, was testifying at the trial in New York of Adis Medunjanin, an American of Bosnian descent charged with involvement in a plot to explode bombs on the subway in September 2009. Though the two never met, Badat met at least one al Qaeda member Medunjanin is alleged to have encountered.
Badat described meeting several times in Afghanistan with Adnan Shukrijumah, an American al Qaeda operative. At the time he knew the American as “Jaffar.” Shukrijumah, he stated, never had any knowledge of the shoe bombing plot.
U.S. authorities allege that Shukrijumah helped orchestrate the 2009 plot to attack New York subways and met Medunjanin in a camp in South Waziristan in September 2008. They say Shukrijumah has emerged as a senior operational planner for the network and is still believed to be at large in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
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