World Trade Center Bombing, 1993
World Trade Center Bombing, 1993
World Trade Center Bombing Suspect Apprehended in Pakistan
By: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs
Date: February 8, 1995
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs
About the Author: The Office of Public Affairs (OPA) serves to keep the public informed of the Department of Justice's activities to the best extent possible without jeopardizing ongoing investigations, violating individual rights, or compromising U.S. security interests. To this end, the OPA issues hundreds of press releases each year, responds to queries from news organizations, and arranges interviews and news conferences.
In the early morning hours of February 16, 1993, a rental van loaded with more than 1500 pounds of explosives was detonated in the parking garage beneath Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The bomb blew a hole 150 feet wide and several stories deep in the parking garage, killing six and injuring more than a thousand people. The explosion caused more than $300 million in property damage, but the towers did not fall, as the men who set the bomb had hoped.
The idea of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was so unthinkable in 1993 that at first the explosion was assumed to be an accident. The detection of nitrates at the bomb crater, however, soon alerted FBI bomb experts to the nature of the bomb.
The investigation of the attack was thorough and yielded quick arrests. The first to be apprehended was Mohammad Salameh, caught when he tried to retrieve his security deposit for the van used in the attack. Within days, the other conspirators were identified from a small community of Arab radicals living in New Jersey. Within a few weeks, a second conspirator, Mahmud Abouhalima was apprehended in Egypt and extradited to the United States. In the process of the investigation, the agents even found another cell of extremists who were planning to blow up a series of New York City landmarks. By 1995, many of the bombers, and many of those involved in the landmark plot, had been arrested, tried and convicted.
Ramzi Yousef, known to his co-conspirators only as Rashid the Iraqi, was the undisputed leader and mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Within hours of the bombing, he boarded a plane to Pakistan. After spending some time traveling around the Middle East and Asia, Yousef and some associates moved to the Philippines and began hatching a bold plot to blow up as many as twelve airliners en route to the United States from Asia. In December of 1994, Yousef and his associates bombed the Greenbelt Theater in Manila. Less than a week later, he placed a small bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 to Tokyo, killing one Japanese businessman.
On January 6, 1995, Yousef and two accomplices were mixing chemicals in his apartment when a fire broke out, forcing them to flee into the streets of Manila. Remembering he had left his laptop computer behind, he sent one of his accomplices back to retrieve it. Philippine police, responding to the fire, captured the accomplice and the laptop, which contained detailed plans for the airliner plot. Yousef fled to Pakistan, where neighbors ultimately turned him in to the Pakistani authorities. After being tried and convicted for the Manila bombing, he was extradited to the United States to stand trial for the World Trade Center attack.
Attorney General Janet Reno said today that Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, a fugitive indicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City, has been arrested abroad and returned to the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be tried on the bombing charges.
Reno said "Yousef was apprehended in Pakistan and turned over to American authorities to face charges of taking part in a bombing that killed six persons and injured more than 1,000 others."
Reno said Yousef was taken into custody Tuesday in Pakistan, turned over to FBI agents there, and then flown aboard a U.S. aircraft to New York last night.
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said "The FBI has conducted a world-wide search for Yousef since he was charged shortly after the bombing on February 26, 1993." Yousef was first indicted on March 11, 1993, and named in a fifth superseding indictment on September 1.
Freeh said "Other parts of the federal government that made invaluable contributions to the investigation were the Department of State, including its Diplomatic Security Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. "
United States Attorney Mary Jo White of the Southern District of New York said "Yousef is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday."
White said "The message that this sends is that we will pursue accused terrorists wherever they seek to hide and bring them to justice."
Four of Yousef's co-defendants were convicted of federal charges on March 4, 1994, in the World Trade Center bombing: Mohammad Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Mahmud Abouhalima, and Ahmad Mohammad Ajaj. They have each been sentenced to 240 years of imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The indictment charged Yousef, 27, who was born in the Middle East, with 11 counts relating to the World Trade Center bombing. The most serious charges carry a maximum penalty upon conviction of life in prison without parole.
The indictment said Yousef, using a false name, flew to New York from Pakistan in September 1992, and later purchased chemicals. In January and February 1993, the indictment said, Yousef and other co-conspirators mixed chemicals in a Jersey City, New Jersey, apartment to produce explosive materials.
The co-conspirators caused an explosive device to detonate in a van in a garage area beneath the World Trade Center complex on February 26, 1993, the indictment said. On the same day, Yousef again used a false name when he boarded a flight in New York City for Pakistan, the indictment said.
Despite the tone of this press release, terrorism experts view the U.S. government's response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as flawed, especially in the failure of intelligence agencies to coordinate, collect, and analyze valuable information about the attack and attackers.
Of special note is the paragraph in which Freeh acknowledges the contributions of other governmental agencies to the case. Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). At the time, federal statute actually prevented information sharing among federal agencies in criminal cases, in order to preserve the government's ability to prosecute without being forced to provide critical information to the defendants' legal counsel. Consequently, the CIA did not learn the full details of the attack until the FBI made its case public at the end of the first trial.
As a result, several important connections were missed by both agencies. Yousef had trained in Osama Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and had stayed in Bin Ladin's guesthouse, the so-called house of martyrs, both before and after the 1993 bombing. At the time of Yousef's arrest, several pictures of Bin Laden were found in his luggage.
Among the information gathered from Yousef's captured laptop and the subsequent interrogations of his Manila accomplice was the fact that several Middle Eastern pilots were in the process of training in U.S. flight schools. At least one of the pilots had already proposed flying hijacked planes into federal buildings, a strategy that would be used a mere six years later to devastating effect against the very same target chosen by Yousef.
Reeve, Simon. The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999.
Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: The Penguin Group, 2004.
Musarium.com. "WTC Bombings: 1993." <http://www.musarium.com/stories/america-attacked/wtc/index.lasso> (accessed July 5, 2005).
"World Trade Center Bombing, 1993." Terrorism: Essential Primary Sources. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/energy-government-and-defense-magazines/world-trade-center-bombing-1993
"World Trade Center Bombing, 1993." Terrorism: Essential Primary Sources. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/energy-government-and-defense-magazines/world-trade-center-bombing-1993