August 11, 2006

Was the Airline Plot a Rerun?

A decade ago authorities in Asia foiled an al-Qaeda plot eerily similar to the one just stopped in Great Britain


THOUGH details are still sketchy, the broad outlines of the foiled plot to bomb airliners plying the Atlantic are eerily reminiscent of a decade-old attempt by an al-Qaeda linked group to massacre hundreds of airline passengers — in that case aimed at U.S. airlines flying over the Pacific. That plot too targeted a dozen or so airliners and aimed to use a liquid explosive, a nitroglycerine-based concoction that was to have been smuggled on to the aircraft in hand-baggage. The plot, codenamed Bojinka — a play on the Serbo-Croatian word for explosion — by its Pakistani planners, came frighteningly close to fruition.

In December of 1994, according to U.S. court documents, Ramzi Yousef and Wali Khan Amin Shah, were instrumental in the bombing of a Philippine airlines flight en route to Japan that was a dry run for their much more ambitious attempt to blow up a dozen jets simultaneously. They managed to smuggle a container of liquid explosive concealed in contact lens solution aboard the airplane on an earlier flight, leaving it under a seat in row 26. The explosion killed a Japanese man and forced the plane to make an emergency landing. (Originally published in the TIME online edition, Aug. 10, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

THE immediate impact of the airline terrorist plot is the drop in airfares to the US or the UK. While we don't want to take advantage of other nations' problems, it must be said that this is a good opportunity for the Philippine government to ramp up its tourism marketing program. You know very well that if the same thing happened to us here, the other countries would be doing the same thing and taking advantage of the situation. The difference is, the Philippines is more desperate for those tourist dollars. We have been so left behind in the global tourism growth.

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