A would-be British shoe bomber testified Tuesday that he flew twice over Europe wearing a bomb in his shoe, but he decided not to ignite the bomb because he wanted to wait until he was on a domestic American flight. Before he could do that, he said, his parents talked him out of the shoe bombing plot and he quit.
After Saajid Badat got cold feet, as it were, his cohort Richard Reid went ahead with the plot, attempting to set off a bomb hidden in his explosive-packed shoes on a December 22, 2001, American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. But Reid never got the shoe bomb to ignite and he was arrested when the plane made an emergency landing at Boston’s Logan Airport.
Reid was later convicted and is serving a life sentence.
Badat, 34, served five years of a 13-year terrorism sentence in British prison starting in 2005, but was set free after he agreed to cooperate with authorities and provide evidence and testimony against other Al Qaeda terrorists.
The British terrorist-turned-informant said that he met the late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden between 20 and 50 times during a three-year period of terrorist training in Afghanistan.
He then helped smuggle explosives into Britain where he and Reid plotted at the behest of Al Qaeda leaders to blow up commercial airliners in suicide attacks, with bombs concealed in their shoes.
Reid and Badat are the reason that today all travelers must remove their shoes and put them through an X-ray machine before boarding a U.S. flight.
The would-be British shoe bomber testified Tuesday in the New York trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, 48, a son-in-law of bin Laden and former Al Qaeda spokesperson. Abu Ghaith, pictured at right in the above photo, is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans and other charges related to Al Qaeda terrorist plots.
Prosecutors do not believe that Abu Ghaith knew about the September 11, 2001, attacks in advance. But they charge that he knew in advance of the shoe bomber plot and referred to it in Al Qaeda videos in which he warned shortly after 9/11 that “The storms shall not lessen, especially the storm of the airplanes.”
Badat detailed his own involvement in the British shoe bomber plot, saying that he wore one explosive shoe first on a flight from Karachi, Pakistan, to Holland, and then again flying from Holland into the British isles.
He had only one shoe bomb because he had given the matching one to Malaysian would-be terrorists who planned to use the explosive to blast their way into an airliner cockpit and replicate the 9/11 hijackings.
Badat said that he and other Al Qaeda recruits in Afghanistan laughed and made jokes about the 9/11 attacks, but he withdrew from shoe bomb plots when his parents warned him against “being one of those sleepers.”
The British shoe bomber said he had never met Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranked Al Qaeda member to be tried in the United States, but prosecutors intend his testimony to paint a vivid picture of how the shoe bomb plot took shape.
Image: US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York