U.S. authorities brought charges Monday against a British man they said conspired with al-Qaida member Richard Reid to use shoe bombs to blow up airplanes in midair.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed in Boston charged Saajid Badat, 25, with attempted murder, trying to destroy an aircraft and other counts related to the alleged conspiracy with Reid, who also is a British citizen and Muslim convert.
Badat was arrested last Nov. 27 in Gloucester, England, and has been held in a top-security prison in Britain. He is set for trial there in February after pleading not guilty to conspiring to place a potentially destructive device aboard an aircraft.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said Washington would seek to bring Badat to the United States for trial, but he said Britain would have to decide whether to grant the extradition request.
“We do understand and recognize the interest that the British have in seeking to bring him to justice in the British system,” Ashcroft said at a news conference. “... But we have a keen interest in bringing to justice an individual who the indictment alleges ... [had] interests in destroying the lives of Americans.”
Asked why the indictment was unsealed Monday even though it was returned in Massachusetts on Sept. 1, Ashcroft cited the need for cooperation with foreign governments. Asked whether it was timed to influence Tuesday’s vice presidential debate to raise President Bush’s ratings, he replied that the “security and safety of the American people” was the sole consideration.
December attempt foiled
Reid’s attempt to blow up a Paris-to-Miami flight on Dec. 22, 2001, was thwarted by attendants and passengers after he tried to light a fuse leading to the concealed plastic explosives in his sneakers. No one was hurt.
According to the indictment, Badat “admitted that he was asked to conduct a shoe bombing like Reid” when he was arrested in Britain last November. Bomb components similar to Reid’s — including an explosive compound known as TATP — were found at his home, the indictment said.
“The alert passengers and crew of Flight 63 prevented Richard Reid from carrying out his deadly mission,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said. “The resulting investigation led us and our British colleagues to Badat.”
Badat pleaded not guilty last month to similar British charges and faces trial there Feb. 28.
Reid is serving life in prison in the United States after pleading guilty in federal court in Boston to the airline bomb plot. Badat also faces a potential life sentence if convicted on all U.S. charges.
After Badat’s arrest, the Homeland Security Department and the FBI each issued warnings that al-Qaida was still interested in using personal items to bomb aircraft. It is now commonplace for U.S. travelers to remove their shoes for screening before boarding a commercial flight.