Briton's homemade bomb 'would have blown hole in plane', court told


Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 29 December 2001 01:00 GMT

Richard Reid, the Briton accused of trying to destroy an airliner on the way from Paris to Miami, was carrying a “home-made bomb” containing enough explosives to blow a hole in the side of the plane, a court was told yesterday.

Mr Reid was ordered to be held in custody when he appeared at a bail hearing in Boston, the city to which the plane was diverted last Saturday after the 28-year-old tried to ignite explosives in his shoes. Mr Reid, from London, was overpowered by passengers and crew on the American Airlines flight 63 after an attendant saw him apparently trying to set fire to his black trainers.

FBI special agent Margaret Cronin, a specialist in crime aboard aircraft, told the federal court Mr Reid was carrying "functioning improvised explosives, or, in layman's terms, a home-made bomb". She said the bomb contained enough explosives to have blown a hole in the side of the plane.

Mr Reid, a convert to Islam who attended a mosque in Brixton, south London, appeared in court wearing a prison-issue orange jumpsuit with his hands shackled. He has been formally charged with intimidating or assaulting flight crew – an offence which by itself carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment – though the FBI has indicated that additional counts are likely to be brought.

US Officials have claimed Mr Reid's alleged plan may have been stopped in part because the material he used as a fuse was difficult to light. Tests carried out by the FBI showed indications of PETN, a material used to make the explosive Semtex. Experts said the fuse may have picked up enough moisture to hamper its ignition.

Inquiries are being made into claims from low-level al-Qa'ida prisoners that Mr Reid trained with them at Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

The south London mosque which Mr Reid attended was also frequented by Zacarias Moussaoui, who was charged with conspiracy relating to the attacks of 11 September.

Tamar Birckhead, a court-appointed lawyer, said there was no evidence linking Mr Reid to a terrorist network.

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