WASHINGTON (AP) A federal grand jury yesterday charged alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid with being an al-Qaida trained terrorist in an indictment Attorney General John Ashcroft hailed as fresh proof of the government”s ability to prosecute terrorists.
Ashcroft said the charges “alert us to a clear, unmistakable threat that al-Qaida could attack the United States again.”
The attorney general discussed the charges shortly after a federal grand jury in Boston handed up a nine-count indictment, saying, “We must be prepared. We must be ready. We must be vigilant.”
The indictment alleges that Reid attempted to kill the passengers on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22.
“Richard Reid did attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, consisting of an explosive bomb placed in each of his shoes,” against Americans, said the 12-page indictment.
Ashcroft credited passengers and crew on that flight with stopping Reid from detonating the shoe bomb and bringing down the plane. “Our trust in the common sense of people who act in the face of terrorism was vindicated,” he said. He said yesterday”s indictment showed the wisdom of national alerts the government issued on three occasions prior to the Flight 13 incident.
Yesterday”s indictment said Reid “received training from al-Qaida in Afghanistan.”
In addition to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder and attempted homicide, Reid was charged with placing an explosive device on an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, using a destructive device during a crime of violence and attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle.
He also was charged with attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, a new charge created by Congress in an anti-terrorism bill enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
“Our ability to prosecute terrorists has been greatly enhanced by the U.S.A. Patriot Act,” Ashcroft said.
Reid “did place on that aircraft explosive devices contained in the footwear he was then wearing,” the indictment said, referring to the American flight.
Ashcroft said if convicted on the charges brought against him, Reid could be sentenced to five life terms.
There were 183 passengers and 14 crew members on the flight, which was escorted into Boston”s Logan Airport.
On the charge of interfering with the flight crew, the indictment said Reid assaulted and intimidated flight attendants Hermis Moutardier and Christina Jones.