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Reid blames zionists { October 3 2002 }

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Reid gravitated to the far more radical Finsbury Park Mosque in London. Its imam, Abu Hamza, was a passionate preacher who nursed an intense dislike of the United States and Israel. He contends that U.S. spy agencies and the "Zionists" organized the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a plot against mankind in general and Muslims in particular.

Bomb Suspect Offers Guilty Plea

By Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 3, 2002; Page A01

BOSTON, Oct. 2 -- Richard Reid, the British drifter and Muslim fundamentalist who tried to ignite two sophisticated bombs in his shoes and blow up a transatlantic flight, today offered to plead guilty to the government charges against him.

Defense lawyers for Reid, who faces the possibility of life in prison, said their client "has no disagreement with the facts asserted in the charges." "He wants to avoid the publicity associated with a trial and the negative impact . . . upon his family," defense attorneys said in a statement.

Reid, 28, offered to admit guilt to all eight charges against him, but plans to ask the court to delete two references to his having received training from al Qaeda in Afghanistan. A judge earlier refused to remove this language from his indictment, and prosecutors insisted today they would oppose any such deletion now.

Since his arrest last December, Reid has come to personify a phenomenon that frightens prosecutors and U.S. and European intelligence services: He allegedly is one of a large pool of rootless young men secretly recruited by Osama bin Laden's terror network, men ready to sacrifice their lives in service of a jihad against the West.

Reid told police that his planned suicide attack was an attempt to strike a blow against the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan and the Western economy. In an e-mail sent to his mother, which he intended her to read after his death, Reid wrote it was "his duty upon me to help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslims land."

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft stressed today that Reid decided to plead guilty on his own, and that federal prosecutors did not strike a deal. "Richard Reid, like any defendant, is free to plead guilty to criminal charges," Ashcroft said. "The Justice Department stands by each and every allegation in the indictment."

In Boston, federal prosecutor Michael Sullivan said his lawyers remained committed to presenting evidence that Reid was a graduate of al Qaeda terror training camps in Afghanistan, and suggested they would go to trial, if necessary, to prove that point.

"The indictment stands as far as we're concerned," he said. "We're not striking the language."

It was not clear last night if Reid's plea was contingent on the removal of the al Qaeda language. The federal judge in Boston has scheduled a court hearing for Friday on Reid's plea.

Reid is accused of trying to blow up an American Airlines jetliner flying from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22. Flight 63 carried 183 passengers and a crew of 14. About 90 minutes into the flight, as the plane soared over the Atlantic, Reid, a hulking and unkempt 6-foot-4 man who weighs about 220 pounds, began repeatedly striking matches. A flight attendant sniffed the sulfurous odor and found Reid trying to set fire to the inner tongue of his shoe.

She noticed a wire protruding from that shoe and grabbed at Reid. He tossed her off. Reid bit another flight attendant on the hand but eventually the attendants and several passengers subdued him. The flight was diverted to Boston.

Police and the FBI later found sophisticated bombs in each of Reid's shoes, plastic explosives powerful enough to rip a hole in the fuselage of the Boeing 767. Reid insisted that he had constructed the bombs himself, based on instructions obtained on the Internet. But the FBI has stated that Reid was aided "by an Al Qaeda bomb-maker." Investigators have found unidentified human hair and a palm print on the explosives.

Much about the Reid case perplexes investigators. They have yet to account for all of his travels in the months before the attempted attack. Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan earlier this year while trying to investigate alleged links between Reid and a radical Muslim cleric in that central Asian nation.

Reid was born in London in 1973, of a white British mother and a mixed-race Jamaican father. He was a troubled boy who rarely showed much interest in academics and dropped out of school after turning 16.

He fell into a life of petty crime, including muggings, robbery and shoplifting. He moved from youth correctional facilities to the Brixton Prison, a graduate school for the street-hardened, where his father also was an inmate. There Reid had a chance to talk with him about Islam. Soon after his release, Reid knocked at the door of the Brixton Mosque. "He was eager to know Islam, to learn Arabic," the imam, Abdul Haqq Baker, told the Washington Post earlier this year.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the French national now held on conspiracy charges related to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, also attended that mosque. It is not clear if the men knew each other.

Reid gravitated to the far more radical Finsbury Park Mosque in London. Its imam, Abu Hamza, was a passionate preacher who nursed an intense dislike of the United States and Israel. He contends that U.S. spy agencies and the "Zionists" organized the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a plot against mankind in general and Muslims in particular.

Reid "had the extremist line down perfectly," Baker told The Post. In 1999, Reid's new friends arranged for him to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was trained in bin Laden's camps, federal prosecutors say. He visited Israel -- where he scouted prime bombing sites in Jerusalem, according to intelligence sources and a computer file obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Sometime in August 2001, Reid arrived in Amsterdam. There, investigators believe, he purchased the shoes that would later be loaded with explosives. He went to Paris, where he apparently stayed in an unknown safe house. On Dec. 21, Reid tried to board an American Airlines flight, but his unkempt appearance and lack of baggage prompted airline security to question him closely, and he missed his flight.

They eventually concluded, however, that he should be allowed to fly and put him up at an airport hotel. From there, he apparently e-mailed a handler and asked what to do next. The handler advised him to try again.

The next evening Reid boarded Flight 63. His last e-mail to his mother asked her to "forgive me for all the problems I have caused you both in life and in death."

2002 The Washington Post Company

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