How Al-Qaida Planned to Bomb Heathrow

Minutes of the secret interrogations of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged masterminds of the Sept. 11 attacks, show the men continued to energetically forge new attack plans even after they struck New York and Washington. Guantanamo documents obtained through WikiLeaks outline a plot to strike London’s Heathrow Airport.

By Britta Sandberg and Holger Stark

Police at Heathrow Airport in a 2008 archive photo: A terrorist plot in London DPA

Police at Heathrow Airport in a 2008 archive photo: A terrorist plot in London

When two airliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and a third into the Pentagon in Washington on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh were traveling in Karachi. When Binalshibh and the sheikh reached an al-Qaida safe house a short time later, they switched on the television set. It was an hour of triumph for the two chief planners of the attacks on America.

The sheikh later told an al-Qaida confidant that attacks using aircraft had been a dream of his — his life’s work, in fact. One day, he said, he would repeat the attack on the White House, which may have been the target of the fourth plane on 9/11, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. As Binalshibh later related when he was in US detention, when Sheikh Mohammed, Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, the financier of the attacks, and a nephew of the sheikh watched the images from America on their television screen, they toasted each other and thanked Allah for the success of their operation.

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