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'95 Philippine plot had echoes of September 11

Documents concerning a 1995 hijacking plot were turned over to the FBI seven years ago, Philippine police say.
Documents concerning a 1995 hijacking plot were turned over to the FBI seven years ago, Philippine police say.  

From Maria Ressa
CNN Manila Bureau

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- The confidential documents tell of a chillingly familiar plan: Recruit Islamic extremists; send them to aviation schools in the United States to prepare to hijack commercial planes and crash them into buildings such as the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

The suicide plot sounds like what happened September 11.

In fact, Philippine police pieced the plan together in 1995 after busting a terrorist cell led by Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Other documents tell of a plan to attack U.S. nuclear facilities.

CNN's Maria Ressa reports on a terrorist plot uncovered in the Phillipines in 1995 that was similar to the September 11 attacks (March 14)

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All this, Philippine police said, was turned over to the FBI seven years ago, raising questions about what kind of impact the information could have had on the September 11 attacks.

"I believe there was a lapse," said Gen. Robert Delfin, Philippine intelligence chief.

U.S. law enforcement officials said the FBI did check four flight schools named in the Philippine documents but found no evidence of any further terrorist plans.

But Yousef's cell has one connection to September 11: Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian cleric and Afghan war veteran better known as Hambali.

In 1995, his name appeared on a document from the board of directors of the Malaysian company that police say funded Yousef's cell in the Philippines. Intelligence officials in the region allege Hambali is al Qaeda's main operator in Southeast Asia and may have helped plan the September 11 attacks.

In January 2000, intelligence sources said Hambali was videotaped in Malaysia meeting with two of the September 11 hijackers -- Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.

Philippine intelligence officials said they didn't have the resources to track down Hambali then and did not share the information with their Malaysian counterparts -- an example of how crucial information can slip through the cracks in the war against terror.




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