UK paper: Claimed 9/11-like plot being reviewed after MH370
A passenger removes his belt as he puts his belongings into an X-ray machine for screening by airport security at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport
KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 – Authorities are revisiting a suspected al Qaeda plot to hijack a Malaysian airliner following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, The Telegraph reported.
Pointing to a court testimony by al Qaeda terrorist-turned-informer Saajid Badat, the paper reported him as saying that the mastermind behind an alleged conspiracy to hijack a Malaysian plane is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the main planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US dubbed “9/11”.
Badat told the court last Tuesday that a group of four to five Malaysians – including a pilot—appeared “ready to perform an act”, The Telegraph said in a report yesterday.
In a purported meeting at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, Badat said that he had handed over a shoe bomb to the Malaysian group to access the plane’s cockpit if it was locked.
“So I said, ‘How about I give you one of my bombs to open the cockpit door?” said Badat, who was testifying at the New York trial of deceased al Qaeda leader’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.
“I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit,” the British-born Muslim also reportedly said in court through a video link from the UK.
Describing the alleged group as “Malaysian Islamists” and “jihadists” (freedom fighters),The Telegraph also reported that security experts felt Badat’s testimony as a convicted terrorist was “credible”.
The Telegraph noted that Badat – who is still serving a 13-year jail sentence since 2005 for his role in a conspiracy with Richard Reid to detonate a shoe bomb on a plane – had already claimed in 2012 that a Malaysian group was plotting to hijack a plane.
In the 2012 trial of American Adis Medunjanin over a conspiracy to bomb the New York subways, Badat had spoken on the purported Malaysian plot, saying: “I learnt that they had a group, uh, ready to perform a similar hijacking to 9/11.”
He had also then claimed that he provided the Malaysians with one of his shoes, which both contained explosives.
IN THE GALLERY
Yesterday, Malaysia confirmed that the missing plane’s communication systems were disabled manually and was deliberately flown off course, but stopped short of saying that the Boeing 777-200 ER plane initially bound for Beijing was hijacked.
Prof Anthony Glees, director of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies said a terrorism attempt could be possible, saying that he believed the change of the Malaysian plane’s flight path indicated a hijack.
“Evidence that it turned back to Malaysia means that this could easily have been a Malaysian Islamist plot to turn the plane into a 9/11-style bomb to fly it into a building in Kuala Lumpur.
“Now we know there is evidence of a Malaysian terror cell with ambitions to carry out such an attack and so this makes it even more credible,” Prof Glees was quoted saying by The Telegraph.
The Telegraph also listed down instances where Malaysians were arrested for alleged connections to al-Qaeda or another terrorist group linked to the organisation, Jemaah Islamiah.
Despite confirmation that two passengers on the MH370 flight were Iranians using stolen passports, Interpol said they were unlikely to be terrorists.
Yesterday, news agency AFP reported Adam Dolnik – professor of terrorism studies at Australia’s University of Wollongong – as saying that the MH370 flight was likely not linked to terrorism with the stolen passports having an “amateurish” element.
“Terrorists don’t do (hijackings), because the chances of success have gone down,” Dolnik said, pointing out the difficulties in taking weapons and subduing passengers.
Putrajaya yesterday announced that the investigation into MH370 will refocus on the plane’s crew and passengers.
Yesterday, police searched the houses of captain Zaharie Ahmad Shat and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, shortly after Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the flight was diverted deliberately after someone on board switched off the plane’s communications systems.