London’s Sunday Times has an interesting report based on transcripts of al Qaeda interrogations; the Times is available only through pay subscription, but here is how the Sydney Morning Herald summarized the Times’ account:
Osama bin Laden ordered the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks to organise a massive strike on Heathrow Airport to punish Tony Blair for his support of the US, it has been revealed.
He told his operations boss, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to target the world’s busiest airport at a meeting in Kabul soon after the attacks on the US, according to interrogation transcripts seen by Britain’s Sunday Times.
Bin Laden described the British Prime Minister as his “principal enemy”.
The claims by Mohammed, captured in Pakistan about a year ago, have reportedly been cross-checked with confessions by other al-Qaeda operatives.
Mohammed’s account is the first confirmation of al-Qaeda’s desire to strike Heathrow Airport. Planning for the attack, which involved operatives from Pakistan, was disrupted by the US bombing of al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan.
He also reveals that al-Qaeda had originally planned to hijack 10 planes in the September 11 attacks, sending five against targets on the US west coast and five against the east. Potential targets included the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago, as well as nuclear plants, Hollywood studios and bridges.
The west coast plans were foiled when Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested at a US flying school a month before September 11, the Sunday Times reported.
So, to recap: al Qaeda was determined to strike England long before the Iraq war, and a catastrophic attack on Heathrow airport was likely prevented by the Bush administration’s devastation of al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan. I’m sure that President Bush will receive a lot of gratitude in England for his effective leadership.
And Moussaoui was allegedly involved in what could have been an even grander, more destructive Sept. 11 attack. We probably could have figured this out sooner if the French government hadn’t prohibited its intelligence agencies from sharing their voluminous files on Moussaoui with the American agencies.