Muslims guilty of bombs plot

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The Independent Online
As the US government put forward new plans to tighten airport security, a New York court yesterday convicted three radical Muslims of plotting to kill thousands of passengers last year on 12 jumbo-jets, flown by American airlines, to punish the US for its backing of Israel.

After little more than two days deliberation, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, and his two co-defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, were found guilty on all counts, and face possible life sentences without parole. Yousef, 28, will be tried again later on charges of organising the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in 1993, in which six people died.

The plot first came to light with the discovery of detailed plans in a flat rented by Yousef and Murad in the Philippines' capital, Manila, in early 1995.Yousef became one of the world's most sought after fugitives, until his arrest in Islamabad, Pakistan a month later. He was extradited to the US and charged with plotting to murder 4,000 passengers on flights from the Far East to the US on Delta, Northwest and United Airlines over a 48-hour period in 1995.

The plot was never carried out. But Manila police found explosives, bomb- making manuals, timing devices, a laptop computer containing flight details, and a letter claiming responsibility for the intended bombings. In addition, Yousef was charged with placing a bomb on a Philippines' airline flight to Tokyo in December 1994. The bomb exploded under a seat, killing its Japanese occupant and wounding 10 other people.

During his trial Yousef conducted his own defence, arguing that the case against him was trumped up for political motives. "What better way to gain favour with the United States government than to give them someone to blame?" he asked during closing arguments last week, saying that the Philippines police had planted the explosives and doctored the computer files to implicate him.

The new security proposals, unveiled by Vice-President Al Gore, call for detailed computer profiles of passengers that would help airlines pick out potential terrorists, and the installation of advanced bomb detection equipment, capable of picking up the most sophisticated plastic explosives.

The commission which presented the recommendation was set up by President Bill Clinton after the crash of TWA flight 800 off Long Island in July, which authorities suspect - but have not yet proved - was an act of sabotage. All 230 people aboard died in the disaster.

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