2000 millennium attack plots

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On or near January 1, 2000, a series of Islamist terrorist attacks linked to al-Qaeda were planned to occur in the context of millennium celebrations, including bombing plots against four tourist sites in Jordan, against the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), and the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814.[1] The plots in Jordan and against LAX were foiled by law enforcement agencies, while the attempted bombing of The Sullivans only failed because the boat filled with explosives sank before detonating. The revelation of the plots led to unprecedented investigations into possible other terrorist cells in the United States, dubbed "Borderbom", and security measures around millennium celebrations. Other al-Qaeda-linked millennium attack plots may have been planned or foiled around the same time.[2]

Millennium attack plots[edit]

Jordan bombing plots[edit]

In Jordan, members of the Islamist terror organization al-Qaeda planned to bomb four sites: a fully booked Radisson hotel in Amman, Jordan; the border between Jordan and Israel; Mount Nebo, a Christian holy site; and a site on the Jordan River where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus.[3] These locations were chosen to target tourists from the United States and Israel.[2] The most active participant was a Boston taxi driver and US national named Raed Hijazi.[2]

On November 30, 1999, Jordanian intelligence intercepted a call between Abu Zubaydah, the leader of the plot, and Khadr Abu Hoshar, a Palestinian militant terrorist. In the conversation, Zubaydah stated, "The time for training is over." Sensing that the attack was imminent, Jordanian police arrested Hoshar and fifteen others on December 12, 1999.[4]

The authorities put twenty-eight suspects on trial. Twenty-two of them were quickly found guilty. Six of them, thought to be linked to Osama bin Laden, including Hijazi, were sentenced to death. Abu Zubaydah was sentenced to death in absentia.[5][6] Luai Sakra and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were sentenced in absentia in 2002 for their part in the plot, which included using poison gas during the bombing.[7]

LAX bombing plot[edit]

Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian citizen living in Montreal, Quebec confessed after interrogation to having planned to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on New Year's Eve. He was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Port Angeles, Washington, a U.S. port of entry, on December 14, 1999. Customs officials then found a cache of explosives that could have produced "a blast forty times greater than that of a devastating car bomb" and four timing devices hidden in the spare tire well in the trunk of the rented car in which he had traveled from Canada.[8][9] Ressam later asserted that the plot was facilitated by Zubaydah and known to bin Laden.[10][11]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted door-to-door interviews of up to 50 individuals across the country and made "dozens of arrests" as part of investigations into possible other individuals linked to the case.[12][13][14] The FBI reportedly "questioned hundreds of Muslims from Los Angeles to Boston, wiretapped hundreds of conversations, and put hundreds of individuals under surveillance".[15][16] Abdelghani Meskini, a known criminal was arrested in Brooklyn, New York on December 30 by Joint Terrorism Task Force due to his connection to Ressam.[17][18][19] In New York and Boston, nine other Algerians linked to Meskini were arrested by the FBI, as part of the largest counter-terrorism operation ever conducted in the United States, dubbed Operation "Borderbom".[15] Most, including Meskini faced minor charges after no significant terrorism links could be proven, while a suspected bomb-making accomplice, Abdelmajid Dahoumane had already fled the country.[15] Other suspected bombing targets alleged by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sources included the Seattle Space Needle and Disneyland, California.[20] Investigators found maps with circles around "three California airports--Los Angeles International, Long Beach and Ontario--as well as maps with San Francisco's landmark Transamerica building and Seattle's Space Needle."[21]

Ressam began cooperating with investigators in 2001. He was initially sentenced to 22 years in prison, but in 2010 an appellate court reversed and remanded the case based on procedural errors and recommended that his sentence be extended.[22] He was re-sentenced to 37 years' imprisonment in 2012.[23] Another Algerian-Canadian, Mokhtar Haouari was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment for assisting Ressam in the plot.[24] Abu Doha was indicted for the plot, but denied extradition from the United Kingdom.[25][26]

Hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814[edit]

Indian Airlines Flight 814, en route from Nepal to India was hijacked on December 24, 1999 by five Harkat-ul-Mujahideen al-Qaeda-linked militants.[2][27] The hijackers reportedly told the captain, "Fly slowly, fly carefully, there is no hurry. We have to give India a millennium gift." A bomb in the cargo room of the plane was timed to go off at midnight, December 31, 1999. The plane landed in Taliban-controlled Kandahar; on December 31 India agreed to release three captive militants in exchange for the passengers.[28][29]

USS The Sullivans bombing attempt[edit]

In Yemen, members of al-Qaeda attempted to bomb the USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) while refueling in Aden with a boat laden with explosives. Terrorists deployed a bomb-laden boat on January 3, 2000, but the over-loaded bomb boat sank before detonating.[30][31] Richard A. Clarke (former US National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism), in his book Against All Enemies, says that at the time, no law enforcement agency in the world knew about this plot.[32]

Jamal Ahmad Mohammad Al Badawi and Fahd al-Quso were charged in absentia in 2003 for their alleged roles in several terrorist acts, including the attempted bombing of The Sullivans.[33] In 2011 Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, held in Guantanamo, was charged with planning the attack on The Sullivans along with other attacks, facing death penalty.[34][35]

Other plots[edit]

According to National Security Advisor of the Clinton administration, Sandy Berger, terrorist cells had been disrupted in "eight countries" in the weeks before New Year's Eve, which was said to have "almost certainly" prevented additional attacks.[2] The perpetrator behind the LAX plot, Ahmed Ressam, claimed there had been plans by other terrorist cells of millennium attacks "in Europe, in the Gulf, against U.S. and Israel."[2] Major security operations were launched to improve security for the millennium celebrations in Times Square, New York, along with several other cities in the United States and Europe.[36][37]

In anticipation of the turn to the new millennium, official concerns by the FBI and American authorities had focused on purported threats by apocalyptic religious or political groups, specified as lone wolf white supremacists, Christian apocalyptic cults or radical elements of Militia organizations.[12][38][39]

Aftermath[edit]

After the attack on The Sullivans failed, al-Qaeda tried the same type of attack a second time. They successfully bombed the USS Cole (DDG-67) on October 12, 2000.[2]

While in prison, Ressam revealed that al-Qaeda sleeper cells existed within the United States. This information was included in the President's Daily Brief delivered to President George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, entitled Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US.[10][11]

FBI special agent and counter-terrorism chief John P. O'Neill who had been central in the investigation of al-Qaeda in the late 1990s and the millennium plot, and subsequently suspecting the existence of sleeper cells in the United States, died in the September 11 attacks in 2001 as head of security of the World Trade Center, having started his new job on August 23 after he had been squeezed out of the bureau.[18]

On July 19, 2004, it was revealed that the U.S. Justice Department was investigating former National Security Advisor of the Clinton administration, Sandy Berger, for unauthorized removal of classified documents in October 2003 from a National Archives reading room prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents were five classified copies of a single report commissioned from Richard A. Clarke, covering internal assessments of the Clinton administration's handling of the plots. An associate of Berger said Berger took one copy in September 2003 and four copies in October 2003.[40]

The Radisson SAS hotel in Amman which was the target of a millennium attack plot was successfully bombed by al-Qaeda in 2005.[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Planned Jan. 2000 Attacks Failed or Were Thwarted; Plot Targeted U.S., Jordan, American Warship, Official Says", Vernon Loeb, The Washington Post, December 24, 2000 (subscription required) (mirrored at [1])
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Other Millennium Attacks". PBS Frontline. October 25, 2001. Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Amman Radisson Targeted in Foiled Millennium Attack". ABC News (American Broadcasting Company). November 9, 2005. Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Dissecting a Terror Plot From Boston to Amman". The New York Times. January 15, 2001. 
  5. ^ "Six Muslim militants sentenced to death for plotting to attack tourists in Jordan". The Independent. September 19, 2000. 
  6. ^ "U.S.-Jordanian sentenced to death". CNN. February 11, 2002. 
  7. ^ "Syrian Terror Suspect: Aladdin of the Black Forest". Der Spiegel. August 15, 2005. 
  8. ^ U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (February 2, 2010). "U.S. v. Ressam" (PDF). Retrieved February 27, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Complaint; U.S. v. Ressam" (PDF). NEFA Foundation. December 1999. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Transcript: Bin Laden determined to strike in US". CNN. April 10, 2004. 
  11. ^ a b "Bin Laden memo puts Bush on back foot". The Independent. April 12, 2004. 
  12. ^ a b "World prepares for millennium attacks". United Press International. December 23, 1999. 
  13. ^ "FBI 'terrorism' swoop". BBC. December 30, 1999. 
  14. ^ "U.S. links Canadian woman to bomb-smuggling suspect". CNN. December 30, 1999. 
  15. ^ a b c Adams, Lorraine (August 20, 2007). "The Other Man". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ "Chapter 14: The Warning". Seattle Times. July 2002. 
  17. ^ "Big Apple's Millennium Bash". CBS News. December 31, 1999. 
  18. ^ a b Wright, Lawrence (January 14, 2002). "The Counter-Terrorist". The New Yorker. 
  19. ^ "U.S. Case Against Informer Bares a Tangled Bond". The New York Times. October 17, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Terrorists targeted Disneyland, Space Needle". United Press International. February 20, 2001. 
  21. ^ "Millennium Terror Plot Foiled, U.s. Tells Trial". Chicago Tribune. March 14, 2001. 
  22. ^ "'Millennium bomber' sentence overturned; feds seek longer one". CNN. February 2, 2010. Archived from the original on March 29, 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  23. ^ 'Millennium bomber' Ahmed Ressam given longer sentence, BBC News, 24 October 2012
  24. ^ "New York: Manhattan: Conviction Upheld In Bomb Plot". The New York Times. January 28, 2003. 
  25. ^ "Germany sends 4 to prison in New Year's plot". Chicago Tribune. March 11, 2003. 
  26. ^ "Lacking evidence, Britain to free LAX bomb plot suspect". The Los Angeles Times. June 29, 2008. 
  27. ^ "Kandahar plane hijack: Rehman admits link with terrorists". The Indian Express. June 23, 2016. 
  28. ^ Riedel, Bruce O. (2012). Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9780815722748. 
  29. ^ Hiro, Dilip (2014). "War Without End: The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and Global Response". Routledge. pp. 287–288. ISBN 9781136485565. 
  30. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation (2004). "Terrorism 2000/2001 2004–306-694". www.fbi.gov. United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved February 4, 2015.  (PDF version)
  31. ^ Piszkiewicz, Dennis (2003). Terrorism's war with America: A history (first ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 123. ISBN 0-275-97952-0. Retrieved February 4, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror" Richard A. Clarke. ISBN 0-7432-6823-7[page needed]
  33. ^ "U.S. Charges Cole Role Players". CBS News. April 11, 2003. 
  34. ^ "USS Cole Bombing Fast Facts". CNN. April 6, 2016. 
  35. ^ "USS Cole bombing 'mastermind' arraigned in Guantánamo". The Telegraph. November 9, 2011. 
  36. ^ "Federal agents are scrambling to stop a new Y2K worry: terror". CNN. December 27, 1999. 
  37. ^ "Big bang theory haunts the US". The Guardian. December 28, 1999. 
  38. ^ "FBI to warn local police to be alert for extremist millennium attacks". The Journal Times. October 21, 1999. 
  39. ^ "This Week in History: Y2K, terror and apocalypse". The Jerusalem Post. December 31, 2010. 
  40. ^ "Sandy Berger to plead guilty on documents charge". CNN. April 1, 2005. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  41. ^ "Amman Radisson Targeted in Foiled Millennium Attack". ABC News. November 9, 2005. 

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