Richard Reid

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Richard Reid
Richard Reid "Shoe Bomber".jpg
Richard Colvin Reid

(1973-08-12) 12 August 1973 (age 47)
Bromley, London, England
Other namesAbdel Rahim, Abdul Rof, the Shoe Bomber
Criminal statusIncarcerated at ADX Florence, Colorado, United States
Conviction(s)Plea of guilty
Criminal charge
  • Attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction
  • Attempted homicide
  • Placing or transporting an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft or public mass transportation vehicle (dismissed before plea)
  • Attempted murder
  • Interference with flight crew and attendants on an aircraft
  • Attempted destruction of an aircraft or public transport vehicle
  • Use of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence
  • Attempted wrecking of an aircraft or public mass transportation vehicle[1]
PenaltyThree consecutive life sentences and 110 years without parole

Richard Colvin Reid (born 12 August 1973), also known as the "Shoe Bomber", is a British terrorist who attempted to detonate a shoe bomb while on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in 2001. 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 radicalized and went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he trained and became a member of al-Qaeda.

On 22 December 2001, Reid 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 arrested, charged, and indicted. In 2002, Reid pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to eight federal criminal counts of terrorism, based on his attempt to destroy a commercial aircraft in flight. He was sentenced to three life terms plus 110 years in prison without parole and was transferred to ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison in Colorado, United States.


Reid was born in Bromley, London,[2] to Lesley Hughes, who was of native 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 attended Thomas Tallis School in Kidbrooke,[4] leaving at age 16 and becoming a graffiti writer who was in and out of detention.[3] He began writing graffiti under the name "Enrol" as part of a gang,[5][6] and ultimately accumulated more than 10 convictions for crimes against persons and property.[7] He served sentences at Feltham Young Offenders Institution[8] and at Maidstone Prison.[9]

The next time Reid was imprisoned, in 1992 for three years, for various street robberies, he converted to Islam.[3][10][11]

Islamic radicalisation[edit]

Upon his release from prison in 1995,[9] he joined the Brixton Mosque.[10][12] He later began attending the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, headed at that time by the anti-American cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was described as "the heart of the extremist Islamic culture" in Britain.[3][10] By 1998 Reid was voicing extremist views.[3] At the Finsbury Park Mosque he fell under the sway of "terrorist talent spotters and handlers" allied with al-Qaeda, including Djamal Beghal, one of the leaders of the foiled plan for a 2001 suicide bombing of the American Embassy in Paris.[10][13]

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.[14]

After his return to Britain, Reid worked to obtain duplicate passports from British government consulates abroad. He lived and travelled in several places in Europe, communicating using an address in Peshawar, Pakistan.[3]

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.[7]

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.[15] 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. After she asked him what he was doing, Reid grabbed at her, revealing one shoe in his lap, a fuse leading into the shoe, and a lit match. Several passengers worked together to subdue the 6 foot 4 inch (193 cm) tall Reid who weighed 215 pounds (97 kg). They restrained him using plastic handcuffs, seatbelt extensions, leather waist belts and headphone cords. A doctor on board administered a tranquilizer to him which he found in the emergency medical kit of the airliner.[16] The flight was immediately diverted to Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, the closest US airport.[17]

The explosive apparently did not detonate due to the delay in the take-off of Reid's flight. The rainy weather, along with Reid's foot perspiration, caused the fuse to be too damp to ignite.[18]

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.[15] 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.[15][19]

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.[7][20][21] The prosecutor obtained a grand jury indictment and on 16 January 2002, Reid was charged with nine criminal counts related to terrorism, namely:

  • Attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction,
  • Attempted homicide,
  • Placing or transporting an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft or public mass transportation vehicle,
  • Attempted murder,
  • 2 counts of interference with flight crew members and attendants on an aircraft
  • Attempted destruction of an aircraft or public mass transportation vehicle
  • Using a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and
  • Attempted destruction of an aircraft
  • Attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle.[1]

The ninth charge, attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, was dismissed on 11 June 2002, because the Congressional definition of 'vehicle' did not include aircraft.[22]

Reid pleaded guilty to the remaining eight counts on 4 October 2002.[23] 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.[24] Reid was also fined the maximum of $250,000 on each count, a total of $2 million.[24][25]

During the sentencing hearing, Reid said he was an enemy of the United States and in league with al-Qaeda.[26] When Reid said he was a soldier of God under the command of Osama bin Laden, Judge Young responded:[27][24]

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.

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".[24][25] He is serving his sentence at the controversial United States Penitentiary, Florence ADX in Colorado, a supermax facility which holds the most dangerous prisoners in the federal system.[28]


Although Reid had insisted that he had acted alone and had built the bombs himself, forensic evidence included material from another person.[24] In 2005, a British man, Saajid Badat from Gloucester, admitted that he had conspired with Richard Reid and a Tunisian man (Nizar Trabelsi, who is in prison in Belgium), in a plot to blow up two airliners bound for the United States, using their shoe bombs.[29] 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,[30] and their explosive chemicals were essentially identical.[29] 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.[30]

Changes in airline security procedures[edit]

As a result of these events, some airlines encouraged 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.[31] In 2006, the TSA started requiring all passengers to remove their shoes for screening.[32] Scanners do not find PETN in shoes or strapped to a person. A chemical test is needed.[33] 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.[34]

In 2011, the rules were relaxed to allow children 12 and younger and adults 75 and older to keep their shoes on during security screenings.[35]

Alleged role in September 11 attacks[edit]

Captured al-Qaeda terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui stated at his sentencing hearing in 2006 that Reid was a co-conspirator in the September 11 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.[36]

Prison restrictions[edit]

Reid filed a lawsuit challenging 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.[37] The Department of Justice, after consulting with its counter-terrorism section, the prosecuting US attorney's office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, allowed Reid's prison restrictions to expire in 2009, rather than renewing them, making his lawsuit moot.[38]

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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Profile". NNDB. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. 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. Archived from the original on 27 August 2013.
  4. ^ Craig, Olga (30 December 2001). From tearaway to terrorist – The story of Richard Reid. The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  5. ^ Millbank, James (30 December 2001). "Loner Vowed to Make His Evil Mark". News of the World.
  6. ^ Syal, Rajeev; Townsend, Mark (11 January 2001). "Islamists target teen crime gangs in London". The Observer. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Timeline: The shoe bomber case". CNN. 7 January 2002. Archived from the original on 15 January 2010.
  9. ^ a b Nzerem, Keme (28 February 2002). "At school with the shoe bomber". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 26 August 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d Gibson, Helen (14 January 2002). "Looking for Trouble". Time. Archived from the original on 27 December 2007.
  11. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  12. ^ "Shoe bomb suspect 'one of many'". BBC News. 26 December 2001. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009.
  13. ^ Rayner, Gordon (8 January 2015). "Charlie Hebdo suspect 'mentored' by Abu Hamza disciple, Djamal Beghal". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 December 2017. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  14. ^ Stockman, Farah (6 January 2002). "Bomb Probe Eyes Pakistan Links". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 4 February 2002.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Thomas, Cathy Booth (1 September 2002). "11 Lives — The Flight Attendants". Time. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  17. ^ "U.S. v. Reid Complaint" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2010 – via Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation.
  18. ^ "Terrorist Use Of TATP Explosive". 25 July 2005. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. 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.
  21. ^ Candiotti, Susan (27 December 2001). "Official: Plastic explosive 'very sophisticated'". CNN. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. 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.
  22. ^ "United States v Reid". Justia. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Terrorism 2002–2005". U.S. Department of Justice, FBI. Archived from the original on 27 December 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ a b "Reid: 'I am at war with your country'". Partial transcript of court hearing. CNN. 31 January 2002. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  26. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  27. ^ "The Shoe Bomber Has His Day in Court!". The Daily Neutron. 30 January 2003. Archived from the original on 13 October 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  28. ^ "Inmate Locator, Richard Reid". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012.
  29. ^ a b Booth, Jenny (22 April 2005). "Gloucester shoebomber jailed for 13 more-or-less simultaneouslyyears". London: Times Online. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
  30. ^ a b Associated Press (22 April 2005). "U.K. shoe-bomb conspirator sentenced to 13 years". USA Today. Archived from the original on 22 April 2005.
  31. ^ Gathright, Alan (12 July 2003). "No small feat, tightening up shoe inspections". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  32. ^ "Transportation Security Timeline". Transportation Security Authority. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  33. ^ Kaminski-Morrow, David (27 December 2009). "FBI Identifies Explosive PETN As Part of Delta A330 Attack". Flight Global. Archived from the original on 30 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  34. ^ Hawley, Kip (15 April 2012). "Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How To Fix It". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 4 August 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  35. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon (9 October 2011). "TSA: Children pose little risk, can keep shoes on during security check". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 14 July 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  36. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (21 April 2006). "Prosecutors Concede Doubts About Moussaoui's Story". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 July 2017.
  37. ^ "'Shoe bomber' is on hunger strike". BBC News. 11 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  38. ^ McConnell, Dugald (22 September 2009). "Experts wary of 'shoe bomber' communication with family". CNN. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2009.

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