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Foiled plan resembles 1995 scheme to blow up 12 commercial jets

The terror plot described by British police yesterday resembled a 1995 plan to blow up a dozen airliners simultaneously over the Pacific using liquid explosives stored in household containers, US officials said.

Filipino authorities foiled a January 1995 plot to simultaneously explode 12 commercial jumbo jets on an Asian-Pacific route to the United States. It was uncovered after an apartment fire in Manila exposed the details.

Manila police discovered the plans on a laptop while searching the apartment of Ramzi Yousef, who would later be convicted of organizing the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The search was conducted two weeks before the scheduled attack dates, Jan. 21 and 22.

The plot was dubbed Project Bojinka by its planners. It was developed by Yousef and his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was identified by US officials as a rising aide to Osama bin Laden.

The plan was to use liquid explosives to down the planes over the Pacific , including United and Northwest airliners.

A trial run of the explosives was conducted on a Dec. 9, 1994, flight from Manila to Tokyo, prosecutors said.

Investigators said the bomb was assembled from liquid explosives, stored in a bottle of lens cleaner, and components from a modified digital watch. The bomb detonated under a seat, killing a Japanese passenger and injuring six. The Philippines Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Okinawa, Japan.

US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that the British plot disclosed yesterday was reminiscent of the Bojinka plan. ``The parallels with Bojinka are amazing -- the number of targets, explosive solution," agreed Roger Cressy, former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council.

The plans for the 1995 operation found in the Manila apartment indicated the scale of the plot. Five operatives would plant the bombs on the first leg of the trip, and the explosives would be detonated on the second.

Yousef was arrested in Pakistan in February 1995 and extradited to the United States for trial. He was convicted in September 1996 for plotting to destroy aircraft in US jurisdiction, federal court records said.

Yousef was sentenced to three life terms, which he is currently serving in a supermaximum -security federal prison in Colorado.

Mohammed told investigators after his arrest in Pakistan in 2003 that the idea behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings evolved from a scaled-down Bojinka-style attack. He told investigators the word ``bojinka" was a nonsense word, but it has been reported that it was derived from the Serbo-Croatian word for explosion.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

From Today's Globe:
Past Globe Coverage:
 MUSLIM RELATIONS: Some say police face a tough balancing act (Boston Globe, 8/11/06)
 OVER THE PACIFIC: Foiled plan resembles 1995 scheme to blow up 12 commercial jets (Boston Globe, 8/11/06)
 BRIAN MCGRORY: Something went right
 GLOBE EDITORIAL: Fright in a bottle
 GRAHAM ALLISON: Assessing our adversaries
Pop-up AP INTERACTIVE: Past terror plots thwarted
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