Trial opens for accused mastermind in World Trade Center blast
Suspect bragged of New York bombing, prosecutors allege
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Web posted at: 9:41 p.m. EDT (0141 GMT)
From Correspondent Brian Jenkins
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The blast carved a massive crater in the underground garage at the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring 1,000 with smoke or debris.
It took two years to catch Ramzi Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the bombing. It has taken another two and a half years to start his trial.
In a brisk opening statement, prosecutor Lev Dassin told the jury of six men and six women that when agents flew Yousef back from Pakistan, he bragged his goal had been to topple one of the Trade Center's twin towers into the other, killing thousands and effectively declaring war against the United States for support for Israel.
"This man, one of the masterminds to the bomb, ordered, mixed, stored chemicals and planted the bomb," said Dassin, an assistant U.S. attorney. "This self-proclaimed army of terrorists was like no other. They were sending a message to Americans that this could happen to anyone, at any time ... and that anyone can be a victim of a savage attack on American soil."
Yousef's court-appointed lawyer said the prosecution must prove that Yousef had a hand in building and planting a bomb. "We're saying he didn't do anything that amounts to a criminal conviction," said defense attorney Roy Kulcsar.
Yousef, who claims Palestinian and Pakistani ancestry, was indicted in 1993 on charges of taking part in the bombing, along with four Muslim fundamentalists who were convicted in 1994. The four were each sentenced to 240 years in prison for their roles in the blast.
His co-defendant Eyad Ismoil, a Jordanian, is accused of driving the van that carried the bomb into the basement garage of the huge complex.
Yousef and Ismoil fled the country the night of the explosion. Yousef was captured in Pakistan in 1995 and Ismoil was arrested in Jordan last year.
Yousef called childhood friend
According to the prosecutor's version of events, Yousef flew into the U.S. six months before the February 1993 bombing. He arrived with a fake Iraqi passport, requested political asylum and took up with a handful of Muslim extremists in New Jersey. Then he started ordering chemicals to make a bomb.
The prosecutor said Yousef ordered 1,000 pounds (454 kgs) of urea and 100 gallons (378.5 liters) of nitric acid which he said when mixed together "makes a powerful explosion." He said Yousef later ordered hydrogen "which gave the bomb an extra kick."
The prosecution says he later called Ismoil, a childhood friend from Kuwait who was living in Dallas, to come help drive the bomb in a rental van into the Trade Center garage.
Dassin said the two men took a rented yellow Ryder van into the B-2 level of the public parking area and "at 12:18 p.m. EST, the bomb exploded, killing six people these men did not even know."
Ismoil's lawyer hinted at a defense laid out in pre-trial papers that Ismoil thought he was delivering a vanload of soap and shampoo for Yousef and that when he flew back to Jordan that night it was not to hide.
"He was at home using his name, his correct name everywhere he went," defense attorney Louis Aidala said.
Witness 'felt the tower heave'
The trial's first witness, Charles Maikish, former director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's World Trade Department, said he was sitting at his desk on the 35th floor when he "felt the tower heave."
He described the damage to the building's systems, including the communication and fire detection systems that were blown out in the explosion.
Security at the courthouse was tight as bomb-sniffing dogs checked every room inside and every person entering the building. Metal detectors were used to examine personal belongings of those attending the trial.
Jurors likely will be hearing testimony until early December. The defense lawyers pleaded with them to keep an open mind and not let emotions cloud their judgment of facts.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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