'US citizen was partner in Al-Qa'ida bomb plot'

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The Independent US

The United States government asserted yesterday that an American citizen who has been held for two years as an enemy combatant without trial, or having charges being filed against him, or easy access to lawyers, was plotting to blow up buildings and hotels and hoped also to release a radiological bomb.

The United States government asserted yesterday that an American citizen who has been held for two years as an enemy combatant without trial, or having charges being filed against him, or easy access to lawyers, was plotting to blow up buildings and hotels and hoped also to release a radiological bomb.

Documents released by the US Justice Department said that Jose Padilla and anaccomplice were preparing to carry out simultaneous attacks in American cities on orders of the al-Qa'ida terror network. He was allegedly hoping to detonate explosions in buildings that were heated with natural gas.

Also included in the newly declassified papers is a claim that Mr Padilla has admitted to working for al-Qa'ida and to having received training with the terror network in camps. He reportedly was ordered to carry out the attacks by a second-in-command to Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef.

"Padilla and the accomplice were to locate as many as three high-rise apartment buildings which had natural gas supplied to the floors," the documents said. "They would rent two apartments in each building, seal all the openings, turn on the gas, and set timers to detonate the buildings simultaneously at a later time." Washington will hope that the allegations will quell widely-voiced criticism that Mr Padilla has been unfairly held since his arrest in May 2002 as he returned to the US after a visit to Pakistan. A case questioning the legality of his incarceration is pending before the Supreme Court.

Deputy Attorney General James Comey called the chronicle of Mr Padilla's alleged plotting "remarkable for its scope, its clarity and its candour". He added: "We have decided to release this information to help people understand why we are doing what we are doing in the war on terror and to help people understand the nature of the threat we face."

The documents said that al-Qa'ida leaders were hoping that Mr Padilla could blow up buildings in New York and possibly in Florida and in Washington DC. They were reportedly sceptical, of his ability to acquire and release a "dirty bomb" in the US.

Donna Newman, Mr Padilla's defence attorney, called the information "a one-sided exposé of their version of the events without Mr Padilla having the right to put forth his version of the events". She said: "As they concede, he denies all this."

* A remote-controlled bomb was detonated under a police chief's office chair in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing him and wounding two government officials

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