Was missing flight MH370 jet brought down by a shoe bomber? British terrorist convicted of plotting similar attack says he gave explosive to Malaysian terror cell which included a pilot
- Saajid Badat tells court of plot for Malaysian pilot to blast his way into a plane’s cockpit
- He has testified about the plan before, but it now has a new resonance
- Badat told about the plot at trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law yesterday
PUBLISHED: 13:41, 12 March 2014 |
Saajid Badat, who was sentenced in 2005 to 13 years in jail as a co-conspirator in a notorious December 2001 plot to bomb US airliners, has testified about the Malaysian plan before
A British man convicted of plotting an Al-Qaeda plane bombing told a New York court yesterday about a separate 2001 plan for a Malaysian pilot to blast his way into a jet’s cockpit.
Saajid Badat, who was sentenced in 2005 to 13 years in jail as a co-conspirator in a notorious December 2001 plot to bomb US airliners, has testified about the Malaysian plan before.
But his description of the apparently abandoned plot has a new resonance as investigators probe the fate of a Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared on Saturday with 239 people on board.
There has been no previous suggestion that Badat’s 2001 plot is in any way linked to the new mystery of missing flight MH370, and terrorism is just one possible line of inquiry for authorities.
Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause for the plane’s disappearance, including mechanical failure, pilot error or sabotage. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what happened.
In 2001, Badat and fellow Briton Richard Reid were ordered by Al-Qaeda leaders to blow two US airliners out of the sky with bombs hidden in their shoes.
But, while Reid tried and failed to detonate his bomb on a Paris to Miami flight, Badat changed his mind after returning home.
Badat told US prosecutors at the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law on Tuesday that he was given two shoe bombs, one which he took to Britain and the other which he gave to a Malaysian cell.
He believed one bomb was enough to bring down a jet, he told the trial by video link from Britain, but the bomb he gave the Malaysian was intended simply to help him breach a cockpit door.
Badat said he travelled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001 with Reid, some Malaysians and a Mauritanian family.
Airforce personnel during a search mission for a Malaysian Airlines aircraft on board a military surveillance plane over the Malacca Straits on Wednesday
He described the Malaysians as ‘their own group of four to five individuals including a pilot’.
‘I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit,’ he told the court.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared 9/11 plotter now held at Guantanamo Bay, helped concoct the shoe-bomb plot and spoke of having plans for the Malaysians, Badat said.
He said Mohammed kept a list of the world’s tallest buildings and crossed out New York’s Twin Towers after the September 11, 2001 attacks by hijacked airliners as ‘a joke to make us laugh’.
Badat told the court he believed the Malaysians, including the pilot, were ‘ready to perform an act’.
During the meeting, the possibility was raised that the cockpit door might be locked. ‘So I said, “How about I give you one of my bombs to open a cockpit door?”‘ Badat told the court.
Malaysia today defended its handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777, but acknowledged it is still unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared.
Government officials said they asked India to join in the search near the Andaman Sea, suggesting they think the jetliner and the 239 people on board might have reached those waters after crossing into the Strait of Malacca, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the flight’s last known coordinates.
The mystery over the plane’s whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials.
‘There’s too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. ‘We will not give it up as long as there’s still a shred of hope.’
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the multinational search as unprecedented. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 square miles) to the east and west of Peninsular Malaysia.
‘It’s not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search,’ he told a news conference. ‘But we will never give up. This we owe to the families of those on board.’
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday and fell off civilian radar screens at 1:30 a.m. about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam. It sent no distress signals or any indication it was experiencing any problems.
‘All right, good night,’ were the pilot’s final words to air traffic control in Malaysia before the plane entered Vietnamese airspace, Malaysian officials told around 400 relatives of the passengers at a meeting Wednesday in Beijing, according to a participant.
Malaysian authorities said Wednesday that a review of military radar records showed plots of what might have been the plane turning back, crossing over the country and flying to the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane west of the narrow nation.
Air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud said the radar showed an unidentified object at 2:15 a.m. about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Penang.
‘I am not saying it’s flight MH370. We are still corroborating this. It was an unidentifiable plot,’ he said.
Military and government officials said American experts and the manufacturer of the radar systems were examining that data to confirm whether it showed the Boeing 777. Until then, they said the search would continue on both sides of the country.
The plane’s sudden disappearance led to initial speculation of a catastrophic incident that caused its rapid disintegration. The possibility now that it may have continued to fly without communicating with the ground would mean its electrical systems, including transponders which allow it to be identified by commercial radar, were either knocked out or turned off, voluntarily or otherwise.
TIMELINE: THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINES JET
SATURDAY, MARCH 8
- Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, departs at 12:21am, and is due to land in Beijing at 6:30am the same day.
- Airline loses contact with plane between 1-2 hours after takeoff. No distress signal and weather is clear at the time.
- Missing plane last has contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.
- Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam says plane failed to check in as scheduled while flying over sea between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh City.
Malaysian Airlines Group Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahyain, front, speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, March 8
- Flight tracking website flightaware.com shows plane flew northeast over Malaysia after takeoff and climbed to altitude of 35,000 feet. The flight vanished from website’s tracking records a minute later while still climbing.
- Malaysia search ships see no sign of wreckage in area where flights last made contact. Vietnam says giant oil slick and column of smoke seen in its waters.
- Two men from Austria and Italy, listed among the passengers on flight, are not in fact on board. They say their passports were stolen.
SUNDAY, MARCH 9
- Malaysia Airlines says it fears the worst and is working with U.S. company that specialises in disaster recovery.
- Radar indicates flight may have turned back from its scheduled route to Beijing before disappearing.
A woman, surrounded by media, covers her mouth on her arrival at a hotel which is prepared for relatives or friends of passengers aboard the missing plane
- Interpol says at least two passports recorded as lost or stolen in its database were used by passengers, and it is ‘examining additional suspect passports’.
- Investigators narrow focus of inquiries on possibility plane disintegrated in mid-flight, a source who is involved in the investigations in Malaysia tells Reuters.
MONDAY, MARCH 10
- The United States review of American spy satellite imagery shows no signs of mid-air explosion.
- As dozens of ships and aircraft from seven countries scour the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam, questions mount over whether a bomb or hijacking could have brought down the Boeing airliner.
- Hijacking could not be ruled out, says the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahmanthe
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation, briefs the media over latest updates on missing Malaysia Airline MH370 on March 10
TUESDAY, MARCH 11
- Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble names the two men who boarded the jet with stolen passports as Iranians who had entered Malaysia using their real passports. ‘The more information we get, the more we are inclined to conclude it is not a terrorist incident,’ Noble said.
- Malaysian police chief said the younger man appeared to be an illegal immigrant. His mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and had been in contact with authorities, he said.
- Malaysian police say they are investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage or mechanical failure.
- Malaysia’s military believes missing jet turned and flew hundreds of kilometres to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a senior officer told Reuters. The jet made it into the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, along Malaysia’s west coast, said the officer.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12
- The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet expands to an area stretching from China to India, as authorities struggle to answer what had happened to the aircraft that vanished almost five days ago with 239 people on board.