Richard Reid

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This article is about the "shoe bomber". For other uses, see Richard Reid (disambiguation).
Richard Reid
Richard reid 1.jpg
Born Richard Colvin Reid
(1973-08-12) 12 August 1973 (age 43)
Bromley, London, England
Nationality British
Other names Abdel Rahim, Abdul Rof, the Shoe Bomber
Criminal charge
Criminal penalty Three consecutive life sentences and 110 years without parole
Criminal status Incarcerated at ADX Florence, Colorado, United States
Conviction(s) Guilty of all charges

Richard Colvin Reid (born 12 August 1973), also known as the Shoe Bomber, is a British man who attempted to detonate explosives packed into the shoes he was wearing, while on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. Born to a father who was a career criminal, Reid converted to Islam as a young man in prison after years as a petty criminal. Later he became radicalised and went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he trained and became a member of al-Qaeda.

On 22 December 2001, he boarded American Airlines Flight 63 between Paris and Miami, wearing shoes packed with explosives, which he unsuccessfully tried to detonate. Passengers subdued him on the plane, which landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, the closest US airport. He was subsequently arrested and indicted. In 2002, Reid pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to eight criminal counts of terrorism, based on his attempt to destroy a commercial aircraft in flight. He was sentenced to 3 life terms plus 110 years in prison without parole and is held in a super maximum security prison in the United States.


Reid was born in Bromley, Kent,[2] to Lesley Hughes, who was of white English descent, and Colvin Robin Reid, a man of mixed race whose father was a Jamaican immigrant.[3] When Reid was born, his father, a career criminal, was in prison for stealing a car.[3] Reid left school at age 16, becoming a petty crook who was in and out of jail, the first time for mugging an elderly person.[3] He began writing graffiti under the name "Enrol with FRF crew",[4][5] and ultimately accumulated more than 10 convictions for crimes against persons and property.[6] He served sentences at the Feltham Young Offenders Institution[7] and at the Blundeston Prison.[8]

His father advised him to convert to Islam, telling him that Muslims were more egalitarian and they got better food in prison. The next time Reid was incarcerated (in 1995 for petty theft), he converted.[3][9][10]

Islamic radicalisation[edit]

Upon his release from prison in 1996,[8] he joined the Brixton Mosque.[9][11] He later began attending the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London headed at that time by the anti-American cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and described as "the heart of the extremist Islamic culture" in Britain.[3][9] By 1998 Reid was voicing extremist views,[3] and may have fallen under the sway of "terrorist talent spotters and handlers" allied with Al Qaeda.[9]

He spent 1999 and 2000 in Pakistan and trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, according to several informants.[3] He may also have attended an anti-American religious training centre in Lahore as a follower of Mubarak Ali Gilani.[12]

After his return to Britain, Reid worked to obtain duplicate passports from British government consulates abroad. He lived and travelled in numerous places in Europe, communicating via an address in Peshawar, Pakistan, a city known for its Al Qaeda connections.[3] In July 2001, Reid flew to Israel, passing through the El Al airline's very tight security network.[9]

Preparation for bombing[edit]

Reid and Saajid Badat, another British man preparing as a terrorist, returned to Pakistan in November 2001, and reportedly travelled overland to Afghanistan. They were given "shoe bombs", casual footwear adapted to be covertly smuggled onto aircraft before being used to destroy them. Later forensic analysis of both bombs showed that they contained the same plastic explosive and that the respective lengths of detonator cord had come from the same batch: the cut mark on Badat's cord exactly matched that on Reid's. The pair returned separately to the United Kingdom in early December 2001. Reid went to Belgium for 10 days before catching a train to Paris on 16 December.[6]

On 21 December 2001, Reid attempted to board a flight from Paris to Miami, Florida. His boarding was delayed because his dishevelled physical appearance aroused the suspicions of the airline passenger screeners. In addition, Reid did not answer all of their questions, and had not checked any luggage for the transatlantic flight. Additional screening by the French National Police resulted in Reid's being re-issued a ticket for a flight on the following day.[13] He returned to the Paris airport on 22 December 2001, and boarded American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, wearing his special shoes packed with plastic explosives in their hollowed-out bottoms.

Bombing attempt on American Airlines Flight 63[edit]

One of Reid's shoes

On 22 December 2001, a passenger on Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, complained of a smoke smell in the cabin shortly after a meal service. One flight attendant, Hermis Moutardier, thinking she smelled a burnt match, walked along the aisles of the plane, trying to assess the source. A passenger pointed to Reid, who was sitting alone near a window and attempting to light a match. Moutardier warned him that smoking was not allowed on the airplane. Reid promised to stop.

A few minutes later, Moutardier found Reid leaned over in his seat. Her attempts to get his attention failed. After asking "What are you doing?" Reid grabbed at her, revealing one shoe in his lap, a fuse which led into the shoe, and a lit match. She tried grabbing Reid twice, but he pushed her to the floor each time, and she yelled for help, and ran to get water. When another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, arrived to try to subdue him, he fought her, biting her thumb, and Moutardier threw water in his face. Several passengers worked together to subdue the 6 foot 4 inch (193 cm) tall, 200+ pound (90+ kg) Reid. They restrained him using plastic handcuffs, seatbelt extensions, leather waist belts and headphone cords. A doctor on board administered a tranquiliser to him which he found in the emergency medical kit of the airliner.[14] This flight was immediately diverted to Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, the closest US airport.[15]

The explosive apparently did not detonate due to the delay in the take-off of Reid's flight. The rainy weather, perhaps along with Reid's foot perspiration, caused the fuse to be too damp to ignite.[16]

Legal proceedings and sentencing[edit]

Reid is incarcerated at USP Florence ADMAX, pictured here

Reid was immediately arrested at Logan International Airport after the incident. Two days later, he was charged before a federal court in Boston with "interfering with the performance of duties of flight crew members by assault or intimidation", a crime which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (Additional charges were added when he was formally indicted by a grand jury.) The judge ordered Reid held in jail without bail, pending trial due to the gravity of the crimes and the perceived high risk that he would try to flee.[13] Officials at the time indicated that Reid's shoes contained 10 ounces (283 g) of explosive material characteristic of C-4—enough to blow a hole in the fuselage and cause the plane to crash.[13][17]

During a preliminary hearing on 28 December, an FBI agent testified that forensic analysis had identified the chemicals as PETN, the primary explosive, and TATP (triacetone triperoxide), a chemical needed to detonate the bomb with a fuse and match.[6][18][19] The prosecutor obtained a grand jury indictment and on 16 January 2002, Reid was charged with eight criminal counts related to terrorism, namely:

  • attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction,
  • attempted homicide,
  • placing an explosive device on an aircraft,
  • attempted murder,
  • interference with flight crew members and attendants,
  • attempted destruction of an aircraft,
  • using a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and
  • attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle.[1]

Reid pleaded guilty to all eight counts on 4 October 2002.[20] On 31 January 2003, he was sentenced by Judge William Young to the maximum of three consecutive life sentences and 110 years with no possibility of parole.[21] Reid was also fined the maximum of $250,000 on each count, a total of $2 million.[21][22]

During the sentencing hearing, Reid said he was an enemy of the United States and in league with Al-Qaeda.[23] When Reid said he was a soldier of God under the command of Osama bin Laden, Judge Young responded:

"You are not an enemy combatant, you are a terrorist" ... "You are not a soldier in any army, you are a terrorist. To call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. (points to U.S. flag) You see that flag, Mr. Reid? That is the flag of the United States of America. That flag will be here long after you are forgotten."[21][24]

Reid reportedly demonstrated a lack of remorse and a combative nature during the hearing, and said that "the flag will come down on the day of judgment."[21][22] He is serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary, Florence ADX in Colorado, a supermax facility which holds the most dangerous prisoners in the federal system.[25]


Main article: Saajid Badat

Although Reid had insisted that he had acted alone and had built the bombs himself, forensic evidence included material from another person.[21] Later, a British man, Saajid Badat from Gloucester, England, admitted that he had conspired with Richard Reid and a Tunisian man (Nizar Trabelsi, who is in jail in Belgium), in a plot to blow up two airliners bound for the United States, using their shoe bombs.[26] Badat has said that he had been instructed to board a flight from Amsterdam to the United States. Badat never boarded and withdrew from his part of the conspiracy. Badat did not warn criminal or aviation authorities about Reid.

Badat confessed immediately after being arrested by the British police. The detonator cord in Badat's bomb was found by experts to be an exact match for the cord on Reid's bomb,[27] and their explosive chemicals were essentially identical.[26] He had received the bomb-making materials from an Arab in Afghanistan. Badat was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a British judge and has since been released.[27]

Changes in airline security procedures[edit]

As a result of these events, airlines required passengers departing from an airport in the United States to pass through airport security in socks or bare feet while their shoes are scanned for bombs.[28] Scanners do not find PETN in shoes or strapped to a person. A chemical test is needed.[29] However, even if the X-ray scanners cannot detect all explosives, it is an effective way to see if the shoe has been altered to hold a bomb.[30]

In 2011, the rules were relaxed to allow children 12 and younger to keep their shoes on during security screenings.[31]

Alleged role in September 11 attacks[edit]

The captured Al-Qaeda terrorist conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, stated at his sentencing hearing in 2006 that Reid was a co-conspirator in the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and that Moussaoui and Reid had intended to hijack a fifth aircraft and crash it into the White House in Washington, D.C., as part of the attacks that took place that day. Department of Justice investigators and the federal prosecutors were skeptical of Moussaoui's claim that Reid was involved in the plot.[32]

Prison restrictions[edit]

Reid filed a lawsuit against the restrictions placed on him in prison which controlled his communications with lawyers and other non-prisoners, limited his access to Muslim clerics, and prevented him from joining in group prayer at the prison. In 2009, Reid went on a hunger strike and was force-fed and hydrated for several weeks. It was unknown whether Reid's hunger strike was related to his lawsuit.[33] The Department of Justice, after consulting with its Counterterrorism Section, the prosecuting Federal District Attorney's office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, allowed these prison restrictions on Reid to expire[clarification needed] during 2009, making his lawsuit moot.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "United States v. Richard Colvin Reid Indictment" (PDF). U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. 16 January 2002. p. 11. 
  2. ^ "Profile". NNDB.  In an email sent to his mother, Reid stated he was part of the war "against unbelief" and was sacrificing his life to "help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslim lands"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Elliott, Michael (12 February 2002). "The Shoe Bomber's World". Time. 
  4. ^ Millbank, James (30 December 2001). "Loner Vowed to Make His Evil Mark". News of the World. 
  5. ^ Syal, Rajeev; Mark Townsend (11 January 2001). "Islamists target teen crime gangs in London". The Observer. 
  6. ^ a b c "Judge denies bail to accused shoe bomber". CNN. 28 December 2001. Archived from the original on 19 March 2005. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Timeline: The shoe bomber case". CNN. 7 January 2002. 
  8. ^ a b Nzerem, Keme (28 February 2002). "At school with the shoe bomber". The Guardian. London. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Gibson, Helen (14 January 2002). "Looking for Trouble". Time. 
  10. ^ Reid reportedly followed a fundamentalist form of Islam known as Salafi, which seeks a return to the roots of the religion and is the predominant form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia"Wahhabism: A deadly scripture". The Independent. London. 1 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "Shoe bomb suspect 'one of many'". BBC News. 26 December 2001. 
  12. ^ Stockman, Farah (6 January 2002). "Bomb Probe Eyes Pakistan Links". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 4 February 2002. 
  13. ^ a b c "Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody". CNN. 25 December 2001. Archived from the original on 4 April 2002. Retrieved 31 December 2009. 
  14. ^ Thomas, Cathy Booth (1 September 2002). "11 Lives — The Flight Attendants". Time. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Terrorist Use Of TATP Explosive". 25 July 2005. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Pierre; Pinto, Barbara; Stark, Lisa; Wright, David (24 December 2001). "Shoe Bomb Suspect Had Enough Explosives to Bring Down Plane". ABC News. Retrieved 9 December 2014. Officials at Logan Airport described the substance as consistent with the military plastic explosive C-4 
  18. ^ Reeve, Simon (6 January 2002). "Shoe-bomb flight -- a trial run? / U.S., British officials fear similar attacks in the works". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 9 December 2014. The TATP in Reid's shoes was "blended" with an explosive called PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which can be ignited with a normal cigarette lighter. 
  19. ^ Candiotti, Susan (27 December 2001). "Official: Plastic explosive 'very sophisticated'". CNN. Retrieved 9 December 2014. Richard Reid hid 10 ounces of PETN-based material, a version of the plastic explosive C4 that is very sensitive to heat and friction 
  20. ^ "Terrorism 2002-2005". U.S. Department of Justice, FBI. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Belluck, Pam (31 January 2003). "Threats and Responses: The Bomb Plot: Unrepentant Shoe Bomber Is Given a Life Sentence". New York Times. 
  22. ^ a b "Reid: 'I am at war with your country'". Partial transcript of court hearing. CNN. 31 January 2002. 
  23. ^ Reid's membership in Al Qaeda was corroborated later in 2003 by informant Mohammed Mansour Jabarah during an interrogation at an American military base. Jabarah said Reid was a member of Al Qaeda who had trained in Afghanistan under the direction of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Ressa, Maria (6 December 2003). "Sources:Reid is al Qaeda operative". CNN. 
  24. ^ "The Shoe Bomber Has His Day in Court!". The Daily Neutron. 2003-01-30. Retrieved 2016-09-10. 
  25. ^ "Inmate Locator, Richard Reid". Federal Bureau of Prisons. 
  26. ^ a b Booth, Jenny (22 April 2005). "Gloucester shoebomber jailed for 13 more-or-less simultaneouslyyears". London: Times Online. 
  27. ^ a b Associated Press (22 April 2005). "U.K. shoe-bomb conspirator sentenced to 13 years". USA Today.  archived by WebCite.
  28. ^ Gathright, Alan (12 July 2003). "No small feat, tightening up shoe inspections". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  29. ^ Kaminski-Morrow, David (27 December 2009). "FBI Identifies Explosive PETN As Part of Delta A330 Attack". Flight Global. 
  30. ^ Hawley, Kip (15 April 2012). "Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How To Fix It". Wall Street Journal. 
  31. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon, TSA: Children pose little risk, can keep shoes on during security check Archived 14 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Chicago Tribune, 9 October 2011.
  32. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (21 April 2006). "Prosecutors Concede Doubts About Moussaoui's Story". New York Times. 
  33. ^ "'Shoe bomber' is on hunger strike". BBC News. 11 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. 
  34. ^ McConnell, Dugald (22 September 2009). "Experts wary of 'shoe bomber' communication with family". CNN. 

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