Monday, July 10, 2006

Updating NYC Tunnel Terror Plot

The Lebanese authorities found maps and bombing plans on the personal computer of a supporter of Al Qaeda who was accused of plotting to attack train tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey, a Lebanese official said. A United States official disclosed that the man had visited the country at least once.

The official of the Beirut government, the acting interior minister, Ahmed Fatfat, described the information found on the computer of the man, Assem Hammoud, as "very important."

"It contained maps and bombing plans that were being prepared," Mr. Fatfat said on Saturday in a television interview in Lebanon.

In the United States, a federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said that Mr. Hammoud had visited the United States at least once — a trip to California six years ago. The official said that Mr. Hammoud, who is 31, had come on a visa for a brief stay and was believed to have been visiting either family or friends.

Lebanese security officials said in interviews that they had obtained important information from Mr. Hammoud's computer and CD's seized from his office at the Lebanese International University, where he taught economics.

"This information helped the investigators make Hammoud confess to his role in plotting a terror act in America," one Lebanese official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
The NY Post reports on more details of the plot:
Meanwhile, the terrorists plotting to take out the tunnels reportedly wanted their attack to echo 9/11 by flooding the World Trade Center site and toppling nearby skyscrapers.

Counterterrorism officials believe they planned to blow up the slurry wall that holds back the Hudson near the WTC site, Newsweek said.

By breaching the dike, the would-be terrorists hoped to fill the deep hole created by the Sept. 11 attacks with water and flood PATH tunnels under the river.

The flooding could have undermined buildings, inundated parts of lower Manhattan, and set back high-profile efforts to rebuild the Freedom Tower.

While developing their plan, the plotters considered other targets - including the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge - and even thought about starting a massive California forest fire, Lebanese security officials reportedly said.
I had speculated that the WTC was the focal point of the plot once media reports began focusing on PATH. Al Qaeda has shown a willingness to revisit attacking the same targets repeatedly, and going after the WTC complex in this fashion would have the effect of adding insult to injury.

Now while Hammoud is in custody, there are still several members of the plot at large.
The Lebanese newspaper As-Safir reported that a Syrian suspect had been lured to Libya and arrested there, along with a third suspect whose nationality was unknown.

Other suspects still at large include a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Iranian Kurd and a sixth whose nationality was unknown, As-Safir said.

The suspect's family denied that he had any al-Qaida links. His mother, Nabila Qotob, said Hammoud was an outdoorsy person who drank alcohol, had girlfriends and bore none of the hallmarks of an Islamic extremist.
All the better to fit in and remain undetected until the moment the attacks go down. We repeatedly see Islamic terrorists attempting to fit into Western society so that they can remain undetected until they attack. This shouldn't be surprising, nor should it be surprising that Hammoud drank, had a girlfriend, and otherwise 'fit in.'

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