The foiled terrorist plot to blow up as many as 10 U.S. airplanes departing the UK using liquid explosives bears striking resemblance to "Operation Bojinka," the failed al-Qaida-financed attack on airliners in 1995 that became a precursor to 9-11, counterterrorism analysts say.
Operation Bojinka � a plot to bomb more than a dozen airliners over the Pacific Ocean simultaneously � was developed in Manila by Ramzi Yousef, a planner of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to Philippines authorities.
The key to the Bojinka plot was the use of liquid chemical bombs and wristwatch timers that could elude airport security.
In the foiled UK scheme, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today the terrorists planned to use liquid explosives disguised as beverages and other common products and set them off with detonators disguised as electronic devices.
Counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann, writing in the Counterterrorism Blog, notes one of the detained men in the Bojinka plot, trained commercial pilot Abdel Hakim Murad, described Yousef's plans in detail: "The purpose was to train those Muslim brothers thereat, on using a Casio watch as a timing device, chemical mixtures to compound bombs, and to share his expertise in eluding detection on an airport's x-ray machine, and eventually smuggling [onboard] this liquid chemical bombs."
Murad said "these Egyptians and Algerians ha[ve] no experience on making these bombs and [do] not know the basics of smuggling liquid bombs through the airport."
Eleven years later, Kohlman comments, "we once again return to the same threat to commercial aviation posed by liquid explosives."
"Only now, it would appear that the fabrication of such high-tech terrorist weapons by al-Qaida operatives inside Western Europe is no longer an insurmountable challenge."
National Review writer Andy McCarthy, writing in The Corner weblog, also sees the striking similarities between Bojinka and the newly revealed plot, pointing out that in its final report, the 9-11 Commission said Yousef and Mohammed in 1994 "acquired chemicals and other materials necessary to construct bombs and timers."
The report said the two terrorists also "cased target flights to Hong Kong and Seoul that would have onward legs to the United States."
During the fall of 1994, the 9-11 report said, "Yousef returned to Manila and successfully tested the digital watch timer he had invented, bombing a movie theater and a Philippine Airlines flight en route to Tokyo."
"The plot unraveled after the Philippine authorities discovered Yousef's bomb-making operation in Manila; but by that time, [Mohammed] was safely back at his government job in Qatar. Yousef attempted to follow through on the cargo carriers plan, but he was arrested in Islamabad by Pakistani authorities on February 7, 1995, after an accomplice turned him in."