Similar Plot First Uncovered In Philippines, Says Police Chief
September 13, 2001
A terrorist plot similar to this week's attack in New York and Washington was first uncovered in Manila in 1995, Philippine police said today.
The statement came amid a warning by the senate's vice chair for national defence that Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks in the US, could try to slip into the southern Philippines where he maintains contacts with Muslim separatist rebels.
Chief Superintendent Avelino Razon said a plot called "Project Bojinka" was uncovered by Philippine police in 1995 after arresting terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad in a Manila apartment where he was plotting to assassinate visiting Pope John Paul II.
Murad "is part of a terrorist cell established by Ramzi Yousef under the direction of Osama bin Laden," Razon said. Both Murad and Yousef were then wanted by US authorities for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
"In the course of the investigation, we found out through a laptop computer confiscated from Murad that they were also going to implement a terrorist plot called Project Bojinka," Razon, formerly Manila's police chief, said.
The plot called for the hijacking of US commercial airliners, bombing them or crashing them into several targets including the Central Intelligence Agency.
"Murad admitted that when he was being questioned that he was being trained for a suicide mission. We were able to find out that they had some targets already," Razon said.
Murad was later extradited to the United States, where he and Yousef were later convicted for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center with the help of Philippine police who testified.
Razon said Project Bojinka had been in the planning stage as early as 1994, when the terrorists carried out a test mission by exploding a bomb on board a Japan-bound Philippine Airlines jet, killing one passenger.
Razon said US federal officials were aware of Project Bojinka and that the Philippines' crack terrorist team was continuing to work closely with them.
He said there could be no doubt that the attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon were carried out by bin Laden's men.
"I remember that after the first World Trade Center bombing Osama bin Laden made a statement that on the second attempt they would be successful," Razon stressed. He said they could have chosen to carry out the attack on September 11, to mark the anniversary of Yousef's conviction for the first attack several years ago.
Meanwhile, Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a former military armed forces chief, warned that bin Laden could try to slip into the country if forced out of Afghanistan and other Middle East countries amid US pressure.
He said bin Laden was known to have direct contacts with the Abu Sayyaf Muslim group, now holding two US and 16 Filipino hostages in the south.
If the Saudi dissident is expelled by his hosts, "the possibility of Osama bin Laden seeking refuge among his allies the Abu Sayyaf exists."
© AFP 2001
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