The United States has disclosed a plot by Al Qaida to
target major U.S. infrastructure in an effort to achieve massive civilian
U.S. officials said Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden met with a key
operative and ordered the attacks on U.S. bridges and trains. The operative
was identified as Iyman Faris, also known as Mohammed Rauf,
a U.S. citizen.
Attorney General John Ashcroft told a news conference on Thursday that the
Columbus, Ohio resident pleaded guilty on May 1 to charges of conspiracy
as well as providing material support to Al Qaida. The plea by the 34-year-old truck driver, was concealed by U.S. authorities until
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"From late 2000 to March of this year, Faris worked in concert with Al
Qaida, our enemies, to plot potential attacks against America and its
citizens," Ashcroft said. "On any given day, Iyman Faris appeared to be a
hard-working, independent truck driver. He freely crisscrossed the country
making deliveries to airports and businesses without raising suspicion. But
Iyman Faris led a double life."
Officials said Al Qaida had planned to carry out an attack that would
result in thousands of casualties. They said Bin Laden wanted to launch an
attack that would match or exceed the suicide strikes in New York and
Washington that destroyed the World Trade Center and a wing of the Defense
Department. More than 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on Sept. 11,
Al Qaida's latest targets, officials said, was a bridge that connected
two boroughs in New York City. They said Faris was ordered to obtain
equipment to sever the cables of what was believed to have been the Brooklyn
Officials said Faris, a native of Kashmir who entered the United States
in 1994 and obtained citizenship in 1999, told Al Qaida through coded
messages through the Internet that the plan was not feasible. They said
Faris told investigators that his abort message was "The weather is too
Faris was also said to have met Bin Laden
during visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Officials said he helped provide
Al Qaida with airline flight tickets, cellular phones and information on
ultra-lite aircraft. The tickets were meant to facilitate the flight of Al
Qaida operatives to Yemen.
The meeting between Bin Laden and Faris took place in late 2000,
Ashcroft said. He said Faris was also ordered to help prepare for an attack
meant to derail commuter trains. Faris's handler was believed to have been
Khalid Sheik Mohammed, captured in March in Pakistan and relayed to U.S.
custody. Ashcroft said the train attack was to have taken place between
April 2002 and March 2003.
"He [Faris] was told of plans for another simultaneous operation in New
York City and Washington D.C.," Ashcroft said.