Terrorism: June 14, 2002


: As well-timed as the attacks of 11 September were, Al Qaeda may not have been capable of coordinating a wider plan that ranged from London to Los Angeles. The 13 June issue of the Canadian Globe and Mail cited Lieutenant-General Ken Pennie (the Canadian second-in-command of the North American Aerospace Defence Command) suspect that there might have been more than just the four commercial airliners involved in the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Pennie said the information stemmed from suspicious passengers leaving a grounded plane somewhere in North America on 11 September, apparently was alluding to a Los Angeles-bound United Airlines Flight 23 that was grounded at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Three Middle-Eastern passengers angrily demanded that the flight proceed and then were kicked off the plane, vanishing before police showed up. The general would not give more details, saying it was classified information he had been given by another source. There was no mention of this cell's suspected target, either.

The 12 June issue of the UK newspaper The Herald also cited a new book's claims that an al Qaeda cell planned to hijack two passenger jets at Heathrow on 11 September, then fly them into the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. The plot was inadvertently thwarted only by the Civilian Aviation Authority's quick grounding of all flights in the UK.

Author Rohan Gunaratna, a research fellow at St Andrews University, claims that the Heathrow terrorist team dispersed when it became clear that there were no airliners to use and that security would be stepped up at all British airports. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror is to be published in the United States this week. The book is based on interviews with former and current members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization, as well as information from US and Indian intelligence. Gunaratna warns that "what the CIA and others have failed to appreciate is that this network is prepared to learn by its mistakes before trying again. It is still planning, is still operational, and will not give up." - Adam Geibel

Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror


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