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CIA Foils Underwear Bomb Plot (May 2012)vThe Plan: Using an upgraded version of an underwear bomb, members of Al-Qaida in Yemen purportedly wanted to bring down a commercial airliner bound for the U.S. The plan, which was still in the early stages, was to set off the device and blow up a plane around the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.
How It Was Thwarted: The latest underwear bomb plot was disrupted when a CIA informant, posing as an Al-Qaida suicide bomber, got the device and promptly delivered it to U.S. authorities. Amazingly, the CIA informant was able to infiltrate Al-Qaida in Yemen, pose successfully as a suicide bomber, and totally disband the deadly plot by taking the bomb directly to intelligence authorities.
The Outcome: No information was being released about the CIA informant's identity (for security reasons, obviously). The FBI was said to be studying the device, in hopes that it will allow for greater bomb-detection security measures in the future. The whereabouts of the man suspected of building the device, Al-Qaida's so-called "master bomb maker," Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, were unknown.
Army Soldier Fort Hood Terror Plot Thwarted (July 2011)vThe Plan: AWOL U.S. Army Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo was arrested and charged with plotting a deadly attack on fellow American soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. Reports say the 21-year-old Abdo, a Muslim soldier, had in his possession components for making potential explosive devices, bomb-making instructions, a pressure cooker, and various weapons.
How It Was Thwarted: An alert clerk at the Guns Galore store in Killeen, Texas, alerted authorities to a "suspicious purchase" made by Abdo (specifically, several pounds of smokeless gunpowder, along with shotgun and pistol ammo). From there, police took over: They apprehended Abdo in a motel very near Fort Hood.
The Outcome: Private Abdo was arrested, and officially charged with "possession of an unregistered destructive device in connection with a bomb plot." Abdo was held without bond. He was set to go on trial in May 2012.
Shoe Bomber's Attempt to Detonate Bomb on Plane Fails (December 2001)vThe Plan: Richard Reid, a British citizen, unsuccessfully attempted to detonate bombs hidden in the soles of his sneakers during American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, Florida, with hopes of bringing down the commercial airliner.
How It Was Thwarted: Reid's attempt to detonate the explosive devices in his shoes was thwarted by observant flight attendants. A passenger pointed the attendant to Reid, and she tried to grab him. A second attendant also tried to stop Reid from igniting the fuse. Eventually, several passengers on Flight 63 managed to subdue Reid, and a doctor on board gave him a tranquilizer drug. He was arrested when the flight made an emergency landing at Boston's Logan Airport.
The Outcome: Richard Reid is now serving a life sentence, without parole, at a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
Lackawanna Six Buffalo Terrorist Cell Busted (September 2002)vThe Plan: A group of six Yemeni-Americans were accused of running a terrorist cell in Lackawanna, New York – just south of Buffalo. The so-called "Lackawanna Six" were also accused of providing "material support" to Al-Qaida. All had traveled to Al-Qaida training camps before the 9-11 terror attacks, and at least one of the men had met personally with Osama bin Laden.
How It Was Thwarted: The CIA was monitoring the group closely, amid concerns they were seeking to recruit new Al-Qaida members. All of the suspects were eventually taken into custody by the FBI (five in Buffalo, a sixth, Mukhtar al-Bakri, in Bahrain).
The Outcome: Each member of the group received prison sentences after pleading guilty to charges related to terrorism. Two men received 10-year sentences, and the other four's sentences ranged from nine-and-a-half to seven years behind bars. Two other men were suspected in the cell: Jabar Elbaneh, who turned himself in to police after a prison escape (and is serving a 10-year sentence) and Kamal Derwish (Ahmed Hijazi), who was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen.
Sears Tower Bomb Plot Thwarted (July 2006)vThe Plan: A group of seven men were believed to be planning to bomb Chicago's Sears Tower, as well as FBI offices in the city, with the help of Al-Qaida. The Miami, Florida, men reportedly planned a "jihad" that they hoped would be "as good or greater than 9/11."
How It Was Thwarted: One of the suspects, Narseal Batiste, contacted a man be believed was a member of Al-Qaida, explaining his plans to wage a "jihad" against the U.S. That man was actually an FBI operative. Dozens of recordings of conversations between the two men were made, and eventually, authorities had enough evidence to bring them in. Members of the so-called "Liberty City Six" were arrested on terrorism charges.
The Outcome: Five of the men, including alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste, were convicted in May of 2009. Batiste received a 13-year sentence, and four other members of the group received sentences ranging from six to 10 years in prison. A sixth member, Naudimar Herrera, was acquitted on all charges.
First Underwear Bomber Plot Thwarted (December 2009)vThe Plan: On Christmas Day 2009, Nigerian Islamist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to detonate powerful plastic explosives sewn into his underwear while on board a commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Adbulmutallab was said to be working with Al-Qaida to try and bring down the plane.
How It Was Thwarted: Adbulmutallab's attempt to detonate the underwear explosives failed. Passengers on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 saw him coming out of the plane's bathroom, smelled a strange odor, and heard popping noises. A small fire broke out and as flight attendants tried to put out the flames, Adbulmutallab was restrained by passengers. Unfortunately, while U.S. intelligence did have some information about a planned attack, Adbulmutallab managed to get on the plane with his explosives.
The Outcome: In February of 2012, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
New York City Synagogues Terror Plot Foiled (May 2009)vThe Plan: Four Muslim men were accused of plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx, New York (the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center). They also planned on shooting down U.S. Military planes at a New York Air National Guard base.
How It Was Thwarted: A paid informant helped the FBI catch the men. Shahed Hussain met with the would-be attackers at a mosque in Newburgh, New York, posing as a terror operative. When the group planted what they believed were explosives near the Jewish Center and the Temple in May of 2009, they were apprehended by the NYPD. The explosives and missiles that they believed were real, were actually fakes supplied with the help of the FBI's informant.
The Outcome: All four men, including the ringleader, James Cromitie, were convicted and sentenced to 25 years behind bars.
Times Square Bomb Plot Thwarted (May 2010)vThe Plan: Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was planning to detonate a bomb hidden inside a Nissan Pathfinder in New York City's Times Square. Shahzad also reportedly planned additional attacks on other Manhattan targets, including Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center.
How It Was Thwarted: Two alert street vendors are credited with disrupting Shahzad's potentially deadly plan. On the evening of May 1, 2010, the vendors noticed smoke coming from a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was parked in Times Square (the engine was running and the SUV's hazard lights were on) at the busy intersection of West 45th Street and Broadway. They quickly alerted a nearby NYPD officer who saw canisters inside the SUV and smelled what he thought was gunpowder. The area was evacuated, a bomb squad was called in and the attack was successfully thwarted.
Within days, a Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the FBI, took over the investigation and zeroed in on Faisal Shahzad. He was arrested at JFK Airport in New York on May 3, 2010.
The Outcome: Faisal Shahzad was convicted in October of 2010, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. In addition, Pakistan also arrested several suspects in the case, as Faisal was believed to have had help with his planned attack from Pakistani militants.