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US thwarted big terror attack in 2002: Bush

Bush unveiled details about a thwarted September 11th-style Al-Qaeda plot to crash a hijacked airliner into the tallest building in Los Angeles in 2002.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 03:47 IST

US President George W Bush on Thursday unveiled new details about a thwarted September 11th-style Al-Qaeda plot to crash a hijacked airliner into the tallest building in Los Angeles in 2002.

Bush credited robust cooperation between the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia for dismantling the operation, and said global pressure had left Osama bin Laden's terrorism network "weakened and fractured" and short of cash.

The White House had described the plot -- which targeted the 310-meter (1,017-foot) US Bank Tower, also known as Library Tower -- in October 2005, but Bush disclosed an unprecedented amount of newly declassified information.

Bush said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- sometimes called the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks -- planned to have terrorists hijack an airplane, use shoe bombs to breach the cockpit doors and fly the jet into the building.

Bush said that instead of using Arab hijackers, as in the attacks on New York and Washington, the plot called for "young men from Southeast Asia whom he believed would not arouse as much suspicion".

The operatives met with bin Laden before beginning their preparations for the attack, which started to unravel in early 2002 when "a Southeast Asian nation" caught a key Al-Qaeda operative, said Bush.

The US President did not name the operative or the country.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's key co-conspirator was Hambali, a leader of the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), said Bush. The plotters were captured in 2003 in Pakistan and Thailand, respectively.

"Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target and how Al-Qaeda hoped to execute it. This critical intelligence helped our allies capture the ringleaders and other known operatives who had been recruited for this plot," said the President.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied any linkage between the new details and Bush's aggressive campaign to defend his secret domestic spying program, which some lawmakers have called illegal.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 00:27 IST