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Mon, Sep 22, 2003

9/11: It Could Have Been Worse

Mastermind Tells Investigators Of Wider Plan

The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington says the planned was scaled back several times before 19 suicide skyjackers were sent to their deaths.

Numerous media reports claim that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who's been in American custody since his capture in Pakistan March 1st, said al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden originally approved a plan in 1996.

That version called for al Qaeda hijackers to commandeer five aircraft on the East Coast and five on the West Coast. There were also plans for a simultaneous attack somewhere in East Asia.

Mohammed also reportedly said that, in its final stages, the hijacking plan called for as many as 22 terrorists and four planes in a first wave, followed by a second wave of suicide hijackings that were to be aided possibly by al-Qaida allies in southeast Asia.

But as time went on, MSNBC reports bin Laden scrapped many parts of the Sept. 11 plan, including attacks on both coasts and hijacking or bombing some planes in East Asia.

As the plot came closer to fruition, Mohammed learned "there was a large group of Saudi operatives that would be available to participate as the muscle in the plot to hijack planes in the United States," one report says Mohammed told his captors.

Saudi Arabia was bin Laden’s home, though it revoked his citizenship in the 1990s, and he reviled its alliance with the United States during the Gulf War and beyond. Saudis have suggested for months that bin Laden has been trying to drive a wedge between the United States and their kingdom, hoping to fracture the alliance.

American intelligence has suggested that Saudis were chosen, instead, because there were large numbers willing to follow bin Laden and they could more easily get into the United States because of the countries’ friendly relations.

The interrogation reports make dramatically clear that Mohammed and al-Qaida were still actively looking to strike US, Western and Israeli targets across the world as of this year.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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