NEW YORK, United States: A British terror convict flew from Pakistan to London wearing a shoe-bomb that he was supposed to detonate on a US passenger jet, a New York trial heard Tuesday.
Star prosecution witness Saajid Badat, testifying at the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law on Tuesday, revealed he flew via the Netherlands wearing the bomb.
Once back in Britain he was supposed to fly across the Atlantic and bomb a domestic US flight but a reunion with his parents, after three years in Afghanistan, changed his mind.
“It was then I decided to back out of the mission,” said Badat. He emailed his handler in Karachi to withdraw, but kept the bomb.
“I hadn’t relinquished my views so there may come a time when I would need it again,” added Badat.
He said he met bin Laden one-on-one to discuss the plot and admitted that he “envied” the 9/11 hijackers.
The revelation came as Badat provided striking insights into a string of plots and Al-Qaeda training activities in Afghanistan in 2001.
He also told the court how Al-Qaeda operatives had tested poisons on animals named Clinton, Bush and Sharon before watching them die.
Badat revealed how he met at least two of the 9/11 hijackers, went to Belgium in connection with a thwarted plot, researched Jewish targets to attack in South Africa and handed a shoe bomb to Malaysian plotters in December 2001.
A polyglot fluent in four languages, he also said he translated bin Laden’s speeches and sermons from Arabic so they could reach the English-speaking world.
– Code-name ‘Van Damme’ –
Badat revealed British shoe bomber Richard Reid had the Al-Qaeda code name “Van Damme” because a Pakistani thought he looked like the Belgian film star Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The 34-year-old saw a potential life sentence reduced to 6.5 years in exchange for cooperating with British and US officials.
Called by prosecutors in the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, he appeared by video link from Britain because he faces arrest and life imprisonment in the United States.
Wearing a well-cut grey suit, he articulated in precise English how a dog and rabbit were poisoned to death on an Al-Qaeda explosives course.
“The instructor would shout out this is Clinton, or Bush or Sharon,” he said in reference to the then and former US leaders and the late Israeli prime minister.
Badat said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 planner held in Guantanamo Bay, had an almanac of skyscrapers, in which he crossed out the Twin Towers.
– California targeted –
Looking at California, he quoted Mohammed as saying: “It might be an idea to now target the West coast.”
Badat says he met four to five Al-Qaeda recruits of Western origin, “mostly British” but also one from Australia and one from France.
Two fellow students on an urban warfare course, a son of bin Laden and a man who “ended up as one of the 9/11 hijackers” were awarded prizes, he testified.
On the course they did a night drill firing at three targets identified as Bush, Blair and Sharon after the then leaders of the United States, Britain and Israel.
He said he went to Pakistan to do Internet research on potential Jewish targets in South Africa.
In September 2001 he was sent to Belgium to make contact with man in connection with an Al-Qaeda plot.
Returning to Afghanistan after the success of the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaeda leaders ordered him to a blast a US airliner out of the sky with bombs hidden in his shoes.
To that end he said he had a 30-minute one-on-one with bin Laden in the Afghan capital Kabul.
“America is like a chain,” he said bin Laden told him. “He drew out a chain and said if you break one link you’ll break down the (American) economy,” he added.
Bin Laden told him that if he ever felt scared about the suicide mission he should recite from the Koran.