1995 Conspiracy: The 'loud bang' plot that employed the same tactics

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The Independent Online

The latest details emerging from yesterday's foiled terrorist plot bear a remarkable resemblance to one of the most daring attempts by Islamic-inspired terrorists to launch a series of devastating attacks against Western airline targets.

In January 1995, police in the Philippines capital, Manila, investigated a fire in a flat rented by three men. Initially they said it was "just some Pakistanis playing with firecrackers" but they had uncovered one of the most audacious terror plots to date: a bid to smuggle liquid explosives on to 12 American airliners and detonate them simultaneously in mid-flight.

The mastermind was Ramzi Yousef, now serving a life sentence in the US for a bid to blow up the World Trade Centre in 1993.

With his fellow conspirators Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, Yousef had hatched a plan to smuggle liquid nitroglycerin, hidden in contact lens solution bottles, on to airliners. Nitroglycerin, Murad boasted after his arrest, was almost impossible to detect.

Using a modified Casio watch as a timer, two 9v batteries and a detonator hidden in their shoes, the idea was to assemble the bomb on the first leg of a flight, then disembark at the stopover. The explosives would detonate once the planes were back in the air.

The plot, codenamed "Bojinka" after the Serbo-Croat for "loud bang", was abandoned after the fire. But two months earlier Yousef had tested it, leaving a device on a Philippines Airlines flight to Tokyo which killed a Japanese businessman and wounded dozens. The plane survived and the pilot made an emergency landing.

Yousef's globalised approach to terrorism and desire to carry out momentous attacks was regarded as a precursor to the 9/11 attacks. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Pakistani-Kuwaiti who masterminded the operation, reportedly decided after "Bojinka" that smuggling explosives on to planes was too risky and that turning hijacked planes into flying bombs was a safer option for catastrophic attacks.

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