Los Angeles Skyscraper Was Terrorist Target, Bush Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2006 Al Qaeda terrorists were planning to fly a plane into the tallest building on the West Coast not long after they'd launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, President Bush said here today.
Al Qaeda terrorists were planning to fly a plane into the tallest building on the West Coast not long after they'd launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, President Bush said today during a speech given at the National Guard Memorial Building in Washington. Photo by Paul Morse
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
The terrorists' target was a notable Los Angeles office building, he said during a speech given at the National Guard Association of the United States' headquarters.
The 73-story Los Angeles office building, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, was called the Library Tower at the time of the terrorist plot. It was renamed US Bank Tower in 2003.
Bush said the scheme involved terrorists using shoe bombs to hijack an aircraft that would then be flown into the skyscraper. The plot was thwarted in early 2002, Bush said, when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al Qaeda operative who was in on the plan.
"Subsequent debriefings and other intelligence operations made clear the intended target and how al Qaeda hoped to execute it," Bush said. "This critical intelligence helped other allies capture the ringleaders and other known operatives who had been recruited for this plot."
Bush said the ringleader of the West Coast plot was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was al-Qaeda's military chief at the time. Mohammed was later captured in Pakistan in March 2003, Bush said.
Mohammed had planned to employ members of JI, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group located in Southeast Asia, for the Los Angeles operation, Bush said. The al Qaeda chief wanted young South Asian men rather than Arabs to conduct the operation, he said, so as not to arouse as much suspicion.
Bush said the leader of JI was a terrorist called Hambali who'd recruited key operatives for the plot who'd been trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan. The recruits met with Osama bin Laden to get their marching orders, he said, and then began preparations for the ill-fated West Coast attack.
"The West Coast plot had been thwarted," Bush said. "Our efforts did not end there. In the summer of 2003 our partners in Southeast Asia conducted another successful manhunt that led to the capture of the terrorist Hambali."
Today, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain determined and dangerous, but they are weakened thanks to cooperative anti-terror operations like the one that exposed the West Coast plot, Bush said.
"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot," the president said. "By working together, we took dangerous terrorists off the streets.
"By working together, we stopped a catastrophic attack on our homeland."
The president, a former Texas Air National Guard fighter pilot, also viewed the unveiling of a bronze bust cast in his image that was presented in his honor at the event.