A Detailed Overview of the 2006 New York Tunnel Bombing Plot

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director, Northeast Intelligence Network &
Judi McLeod, Founding Editor, Canada Free Press

The Targets Identified

10 July 2006: What began as a screaming headline in a New York newspaper has brought the war against terrorism to the forefront once again. Late last week, authorities initially identified the Holland Tunnel connecting New Jersey to lower Manhattan as the primary target, but gradually the number of targets grew as did the numbers of terrorists who were reportedly involved.

All of the terrorists identified as part of this plot to-date are multi-national and do not share any geographical boundaries, but rather participate in the common subculture and ideology of orthodox Islam. In this case, these foreign terrorists intended, as their primary mission, to blow up commuter train tunnels that run below the Hudson River, connecting lower Manhattan and New Jersey. The tunnels are part of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority commonly known as PATH, an acronym for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson.

The trains transport nearly a quarter-million passengers each workday, thus making them an enviable target for a terrorist attack. The latest plot might also have involved the historic Holland Tunnel, a named target in the “Islamic Underground,” as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in California, and further planned to wreak havoc by using the destructive properties of wildfires in the west, destroying property and taxing our first responders.

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According to Assistant FBI Director Mark Mershon, head of the FBI’s New York field office, the plot involved at least eight-(8) conspirators based in other countries and was “the real deal.”

The Terrorist Plot Leader

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The “mastermind” of this plot was identified as 31-year-old Assem HAMMOUD, also known as Amir al-ANDALOUSY, a resident of Beirut, Lebanon and a Lebanese national. In custody since 27 April 2006 when arrested by members of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, research confirmed that HAMMOUD attended Concordia University in Montreal, Canada for seven years beginning in 1995, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce in 2002. Research also confirmed that HAMMOUD was recruited as an al Qaeda operative during his early years in Montreal, which was even then known as a base of operations for Islamic terrorist organizations. (See al Qaeda goes to ground in Montreal –http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/cover071006.htm -CanadaFreePress.com.

He went on to teach economics at the Lebanese International University in Beirut, Lebanon. Until his arrest in April, HAMMOUD reportedly maintained a relationship with a girlfriend who still lives in Montreal. While incarcerated and confronted with evidence against him, HAMMOUD confessed to orchestrating the planned attacks, which he said were to be executed in October or November of this year.

He admitted that he was planning to travel to al Qaeda terrorist training camps located in Pakistan, and further confessed that he had given detailed maps of the targets to several of his accomplices. During the investigation in Lebanon, authorities found maps and bombing plans outlined in surprising detail on the hard drive of HAMMOUD’s personal computer and on a number of CDs seized from his office at the Lebanese International University.

More detailed Investigation revealed that HAMMOUD had traveled to the United States about six years ago to visit “family or friends” living in California. Intelligence officials are privately admitting that he traveled to New York and New Jersey on several occasions to covertly inspect and perform surveillance of the intended targets in that area. The FBI, however, has openly denied that his trips to the U.S. “had anything to do with this plot.”

Refining his Tactics: Plot Leader followed al Qaeda “Instruction Manual”

For all practical purposes, Assem HAMMOUD was a perfect selection for jihad training. He is multi-lingual, and is fluent in Arabic, English, French and German After studying al Qaeda’s textbook on how to conduct covert operations in America, HAMMOUD knew not to grow a beard, wear Islamic clothing, or show any obvious indications of religious devotion or adherence to the orthodox doctrine of Islam. He was a recruit in the truest sense of the word - a soldier in a global jihad – preparing to fight in the name of Islam against the infidels. Assem HAMMOUD knew that he had to behave like a typical young, secular Lebanese male without ties to any terrorist group or ideology. He was actually an ideal recruit because he had no known ties or associations to extremists or other known terrorists, and he knew enough not to attract attention.

He had no criminal history and was living a normal life, seemingly beyond any suspicion. He was a textbook example of the perfect covert jihad warrior as described by al Qaeda training manuals such the [i][b]Camp al Battar[/i][/b] series, an instructional manual disseminated via the Internet that has provided a well rounded and broad education in paramilitary style training and tactics for those wishing to become terrorist operatives.

HAMMOUD’s intense hatred for the U.S. and Western countries was further fueled by the U.S. action against Iraq in 2003. It was at about that time, based on our research as well as information derived from open source documentation, that HAMMOUD became involved with terrorist Internet sites, forums and chat rooms. It was through the Internet that he became educated in the tactics of jihad and met others who shared his hatred for the United States. His Internet contacts provided teaching materials to him, gave him practical advice about how to train for jihad without outside detection.

That same valuable source also contributed to his downfall; his identification, the identification of others, and the exposure of the plot. The FBI, in conjunction with other agencies including Lebanon’s Internal Security, traced HAMMOUD and his associates across the Internet, and uncovered the plans to bomb the named targets. His Internet use and phone activity was actively monitored for several months before his April 27, 2006 arrest, and was found to possess a significant amount of terrorist literature and material sent to him by others of the same ideology. Through the Internet, HAMMOUD sent “detailed maps and instructions” about the U.S. targets to others, many which were intercepted by Lebanese investigators.

In chat rooms, forums and on web sites, he used the pseudonym “Amir Andalusi,” which translates to “Prince of Andalus” in Arabic and is a reference to the Muslim empire of Al-Andalus, now modern-day Spain. It is historically symbolic by its 15th-century downfall due to infighting among rival Muslim leaders and clans. The fall of Al-Andalus is widely considered the end of Islam’s golden age.

Response by HAMMOUD’s Family

In an all too familiar response by the alleged terrorist’s family members, they collectively and vociferously scoffed at reports of his alleged links with terrorists and the bombing plot.

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His mother, Nabila QOTOB, verified that her son attended university in Canada and had been regularly visiting his Canadian girlfriend in Montreal. His mother added that “his morale is high because he is confident he is innocent.” She tersely admonished the press, “Don’t make up accusations. My son is innocent. What al-Qaeda? He never left his father’s side. He loves life and fun.” HAMMOUD is believed to have two brothers, one living somewhere in Canada and another employed in the United Arab Emirates.

Other Co-Conspirators

Of the eight terrorists known to be involved, one of them has been identified as a Canadian, and three terrorists are in custody overseas, including HAMMOUD of Beirut. Authorities have tentatively identified the other five terrorists and are on the trail of those individuals. Two Lebanese al Qaeda terrorists HAMMOUD was in contact with have been identified as Hassan NABAAT and Hany SHANTI, the latter holding dual Lebanese and Jordanian citizenship. They were among 13 others arrested in Lebanon in December relating to other matters. The Canadian citizen has not yet been publicly identified by authorities due to the nature of the ongoing investigation, although it was learned that Canadian police detained and questioned a man from Montreal who was suspected of having an active role in the bombing plot. He was ultimately released because there wasn’t enough evidence to hold him.

Other terror suspects still at large include a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, and an Iranian Kurd.

The Method of Attack

Although the intelligence agencies have been deliberately silent on many of the details pertaining to the planned attacks, it is known that the terrorists planned to use vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and specifically, homicide bombers and backpacks filled with explosives, including the favorite triacetone triperoxide or TATP, also known as the “Mother of Satan” due to its instability and unpredictability.

There were plans to use tanker trucks, box trucks, vans and other vehicles to deliver deadly explosive payloads at strategic locations. Some of the explosives were to be propositioned, while others used in the same fashion as the London bombings. In each case, however, the plans appeared to be well drafted and workable. In this case, however, the plot appears to have been stopped in time.

The question is: will we be able to stop the other plots currently being planned?