Shoe bomb suspect took “dummy run” flight to Israel; El-Al checked his shoes

December 28, 2001

This dispatch contains two articles concerning the visit of Richard Reid, the "shoe-bomber," to Israel last June.

-- Tom Gross


"Shoe-bomber" terrorist spent week in Israel
By Ellis Shuman
Israel Insider
December 27, 2001

Richard Reid, the terrorist who attempted to bring down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami this week by igniting explosives hidden in his sneakers, visited Israel in June and was briefly detained at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Reid reportedly arrived in Israel from Europe and identified himself as a citizen of Sri Lanka, media sources reported. Upon arrival, Reid's appearance raised the suspicion of security officers at the airport, and he was detained for questioning, but later released. After one-week's stay in Israel, Reid left the country for Egypt through the international border crossing at Rafah.

Israeli security officials, in cooperation with the FBI, are investigating whether Reid arrived in Israel with the intention of gathering intelligence for a terror attack he was planning. Officials are trying to retrace Reid's visit in Israel, to discover where he stayed and with whom he met while he was in the country.

Le Monde reported that Reid's previous passport was marked with visits to Egypt and Turkey in the year 2000. According to the paper, Reid's Middle East travels raise the possibility that his bombing attempt was in coordination with a larger terror organization.

ABCNews reported that Reid was acquainted with accused hijack conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and that both men trained at the same al Qaida camp in Afghanistan.



Shoe bomb suspect took 'dummy run' flight to Israel
By Alan Philps in Jerusalem, Sandra Laville and Sarah Womack
The Daily Telegraph
December 28, 2001

Richard Reid, the British man accused of trying to blow up an American Airlines flight with explosives in his shoes, earlier flew to Israel aboard El Al in what security services suspect was a dry run for his planned attack.

Israel was alerted to his trip on the world's most security conscious airline by the French authorities after his arrest at the weekend.

Reid, 28, of Bromley, south London, is accused of smuggling bombs concealed in his shoes on to American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami last Saturday.

He was overpowered by the crew and passengers after they noticed him apparently trying to light a fuse connected to the explosives.

Reid told the FBI that he had acted alone in building the bomb, the French news agency AFP reported yesterday.

He bought the explosive, pentrite, in Amsterdam for around £1,000 after finding the sellers through the internet, he was reported as saying.

Israeli security services were last night investigating the reasons for Reid's visit to Israel in July, but it appeared likely that it was a dummy run to test airport security checks for a future bombing trip.

A spokesman for El Al said: "I can confirm that the alleged shoe bomber flew to Israel in July of this year on El Al. Before check-in he went through a security check."

Security personnel considered Reid a high risk and checked his luggage, his person and his shoes before he was allowed to board the aircraft.

El Al aircraft routinely have armed marshals aboard to tackle any would-be hijackers. In addition, passengers travelling on El Al and those leaving from Tel-Aviv airport on other airlines have been liable for several months to have their shoes checked.

Security personnel X-ray baggage belonging to non-Jewish Israelis and other passengers considered suspect, and remove footwear, which is taken to a special machine to check for hidden explosives.

Airport staff refused to say at what stage Israeli security was alerted to the danger of explosive footwear.

Reid was understood to have spent a week in Israel before leaving via the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip for Egypt.

There has been no indication that Reid was working on behalf of Palestinian militant groups in the territories ruled by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader. These groups have always been shunned by Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa'eda leader.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, yesterday ordered a review of prison visits by radical Muslim clerics after a leading imam warned that vulnerable inmates were open to indoctrination by Islamic extremists.

Reid was converted to Islam while in Feltham Young Offenders' Institute and left prison with radical leanings which were further developed by extremists who targeted him at the Brixton Mosque.

Tayab Ali, a member of the Central London Mosque and a visiting imam at Wormwood Scrubs Prison for 12 years, said the current arrangements left it open for extremists to enter jails and preach.

The system was open to abuse, he said. At least one prison imam had been suspended for "making inappropriate comments" after September 11.

"It is left to the mosques to choose any Tom, Dick or Harry to go in and talk to vulnerable prisoners and it concerns me," said Mr Ali. "There are not enough checks on these people in place.

"The local mosque chooses who they want and the police just check whether they have any criminal convictions. The mosques are doing the job the state should be doing."

A source close to David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said a review was being ordered. "Mr Blunkett is prepared to take a further look. If there are areas where there are problems, we would be happy to look at the system again.

"If there are ways of tightening the system, we would be happy to do that."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.