The world changed on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, forever altering America. Due to the violent impact the event had on the nation, it can be easy to forget the first terrorist attack on New York's Twin Towers: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The first World Trade Center attack happened almost a decade prior to the attacks of 2001, but the two terrorist plots are linked in several ways. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center can be looked at as a sort of trial run to 9/11. The goal - to topple the Twin Towers - was the same, as was the motivation and international power behind it. In fact, some of the very same individuals who plotted the 1993 attack managed to maintain their freedom long enough to be involved in 9/11.
The 1993 attack was, for the most part, a failed operation, but it helped set the stage for the horror and destruction that would occur eight years later.
1993's Attack Was Also Carried Out By Al-Qaeda
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was primarily an operation of Al-Qaeda. The terrorists involved received training, funding, and advice from major Al-Qaeda figures, many of whom were in Afghanistan at the time.
Not all Al-Qaeda support came from overseas, however. Conspirators also received aid from Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric who lived in New York City. Rahman was eventually arrested for his role in various terrorist plots and conspiracies. The 1993 bombing was the first time Al-Qaeda took direct action against the United States on U.S. soil.
The Man Behind 9/11 Also Funded And Planned The '93 Attacks
One of the chief architects of the 1993 World Trade Center attack was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He was uncle to Ramzi Yousef, the man who planted the bomb, and an active member of Al-Qaeda. He not only funded the conspirators via money transfer, but also directly advised his nephew over the phone on how best to pull off the attack.
Later, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would gain worldwide notoriety when he was acknowledged as the principal planner behind the 9/11 attacks. He remained free until 2003, when the United States finally caught up with him.
The Plan Was To Topple Both Towers
The ultimate plan in the 1993 bombing was to topple the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. Only one tower, Tower 1, was targeted, but the terrorists hoped the blast would toppled it at such an angle as to knock over Tower 2. As the attack was aimed at the tower's foundation, it would have brought the towers down more quickly than the 2001 attack. This would have meant an even higher death toll. Fortunately, the attack was unsuccessful in meeting its goal.
One Conspirator Was Caught Upon Arrival In The U.S....And Then Released
Some of the co-conspirators involved in the 1993 bombing were caught before they had even perpetrated the crime. Ahmed Ajaj traveled to the United States from Pakistan with a forged Swedish passport and bomb-making materials in his bag. He was caught and arrested, but his arrest served as a diversionary tactic to allow Ramzi Yousef, the primary bomber, to make it through security on the same flight.
Ironically, Yousef was caught for using a fake Iraqi passport, but he claimed political asylum upon arrest. He was set free and given a future hearing date, allowing him the freedom to carry out the plan.