WASHINGTON – Al-Qaeda terrorists in 1999 planned to carry out large-scale attacks in Japan, South Korea and Singapore, according to a report released Wednesday by an independent panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The plot to hijack commercial planes and crash them into U.S. targets in these countries represented an alternate to a plan to hijack commercial U.S. airliners on Pacific routes from Southeast Asia and blow them up in midair.
“By April or May 2000, however, (Osama) bin Laden had decided to cancel the Southeast Asia part of the planes operation because he believed it would be too difficult to synchronize the hijacking and crashing of flights on opposite sides of the globe,” observes the staff report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
The report specifies no exact targets in the three countries, though they are believed to have included U.S. military bases in Japan.
The report states that, as of mid-1999, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a top bin Laden aide believed to have formulated the idea for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, planned simultaneous terrorist attacks in the United States and Southeast Asia.
Pakistani security agents arrested Mohammed in 2003 and handed him over to U.S. authorities.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Japan will look into the U.S. report.