Weird History

The 8 Largest Terrorist Attacks Thwarted by the US 

Alby Thompson
Updated June 14, 2019 23.1k views 8 items

Some of the largest terrorist attacks thwarted by the U.S. include attempts by terrorist suspects to bring down commercial airliners, plans to bomb U.S. landmarks and religious institutions, and attempts to injure or kill U.S. soldiers on American soil. These are some of the biggest terror attacks that have been foiled. In some cases, FBI informants have led to thwarted terrorist attacks. That's the case with the May 2012 underwear bombing plot. Reports say members of Al-Qaida in Yemen wanted to bring down a large jet bound for the United States, using a modified "underwear bomb." That plan was foiled by a CIA informant, who managed to infiltrate Al-Qaida, posing as a would-be suicide bomber.

Were all these terror plots thwarted by the U.S. Government? Nope. Some of the terror plots listed here were thwarted by ordinary people. In May of 2010, two (thankfully) observant street vendors in New York's Times Square spotted a suspicious SUV with smoke coming out of it. They alerted police, and a terrorist bombing attack was foiled. Flight attendants and passengers helped to thwart "shoe bomber" Richard Reid's attempts to bring down American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami just months after 9/11. This list includes some of the biggest, most potentially deadly terrorist attacks that were stopped, whether it's by CIA or FBI informants/operatives or regular, highly observant, quick-acting citizens.

How many terrorist attacks has the U.S. government stopped? This list will answer that question.

Check out more lists like Most Important False Flag Attacks in History and Famous People Who Died in Terrorist Attacks

CIA Foils Underwear Bomb Plot (May 2012)
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The 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)
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The 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)
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The 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)
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The 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.