Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hambali: Mastermind of Terror

Key Targets

In 1994, Osama bin Laden sent a team of expert Arab terrorists to stage attacks against U.S. interests throughout the Philippines. Khalifa directed operations on behalf of his brother-in-law. The importance of this particular cell cannot be overlooked as bin Laden had sent his best operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Wali Khan.

Wali Khan Amin Shah
Wali Khan Amin Shah

According to a later investigation, it was Hambali's company that provided funding and operational assistance to the Manila cell. Allegedly, some of the ambitious projects selected for the cell included the assassination of President Clinton and Pope John Paul II. The plot against Clinton was quickly abandoned because of its difficulty, but the plot against the Pope was apparently deemed worthwhile. The plans were well under way when the cell was detected by local police in January 1995.

During the ensuing raid, police found documents, materials and computer files which made up the blueprint for what would have been a massive terrorist attack on U.S. interests. Known as the "Bojinka" plot, the plan was to place bombs on 11 commercial aircraft bound for the United States and trigger the explosive devices simultaneously. A second phase called for the all-too-familiar scenario of hijacking a commercial jet which would later be crashed into the Pentagon.

The arrests also netted several cell members, but Yousef and Khalid escaped and later left the country. Wali Khan was eventually arrested but escaped shortly after. He was again picked up in Malaysia in December 1995, and extradited to the United States. He stood trial with fellow plotter Ramzi Yousef and both were sentenced to life in prison for planning the "Bojinka" plot.

The investigation failed to uncover Hambali's involvement, and he was able to regroup and spend the next few months recruiting and fundraising for the next offensive.

In 2000, JI reached a new stage of maturity in the terrorist world with a spate of Christian church bombings across much of Indonesia that killed 18 and seriously injured many more. Soon, other buildings came under attack with shopping malls, office blocks and government buildings among the list of preferred targets. During that same year JI also organized coordinated attacks in Singapore and Indonesia.

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui

Later, Hambali and JI played a pivotal role in supporting the 9/11 terrorists during their attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Investigations found several of the hijackers had traveled to the United States via Malaysia where Hambali and his JI operatives gave them shelter and other means of assistance including money and work papers to help them get passports. One of the more prominent operatives given assistance was the alleged "20th hijacker Moussaou".

 

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