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Report: 9/11-style plot linked to missing Malaysian jet

Al-Qaeda “supergrass” Saajid Badat spoke of a Malaysian plot in a New York court last week

Eman El-Shenawi

Published: Updated:

An alleged plot by Malaysian Islamists to hijack a passenger jet, in a similar style to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has been linked to the disappearance of Flight MH370, Britain’s Telegraph reported on Saturday.

The connection to the Malaysia Airlines flight, which went missing on March 8, is now being investigated following claims from an al-Qaeda “supergrass” who spoke of a Malaysian plot in a New York court last week.

Saajid Badat, a British-born Muslim from Gloucester, had said that four to five Malaysian men had been planning to take control of a plane, using a bomb hidden in a shoe to blow open the cockpit door, according to the newspaper.

But in one of the most shocking revelations, Badat said that he had met the Malaysian jihadists in Afghanistan, given them a shoe bomb to use to take control of an aircraft, and that one of them was a pilot.

Badat had been giving evidence at the trial in New York of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He told the court via video- ink that he believed the Malaysians, including the pilot, were “ready to perform an act.”

During his meeting with the Malaysian jihadists, Badat said the possibility was raised that the cockpit door might be locked. He told the court: “So I said, 'How about I give you one of my bombs to open a cockpit door?’

“I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit,” he said. Badat was jailed for 13 years in 2005 for his part in a conspiracy with the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid to blow up a transatlantic jet.

The Telegraph reported: “Badat, who spoke via video link and is in hiding in the UK, said the Malaysian plot was being masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of 9/11.

“The disclosure that Malaysians were plotting a 9/11-style attack raises the prospect that both pilots were overpowered and the plane intended for use as a fuel-filled bomb. One possible target, if the scenario is correct, will have been the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, a symbol of Malaysia’s modernity and the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 until 2004,” The Telegraph added.

Speaking to The Telegraph, an unnamed British security source said: “These spectaculars take a long time in the planning.”

The information comes amid mounting evidence that Flight MH370 was hijacked as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak revealed on Saturday that the Boeing 777’s communications systems had been deliberately switched off “by someone on the plane” and that the plane flew for up to seven hours after civilian radar lost touch with it.

Najib's revelations effectively ruled out earlier theories of a catastrophic mechanical failure or mid-air explosion, but raised the disturbing scenario of a potential hijack, attempted terror attack or rogue action by a member of the crew.

But could al-Qaeda be assessed as a possible threat here? To many, Malaysia is not one of the first countries that spring to mind when al-Qaeda is the topic of concern.

“Al-Qaeda remains fixated on commercial air attacks. In the past, al-Qaeda operatives have moved easily in and out of Malaysia,” Fred Burton, VP of Intelligence at the U.S.-based geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor and former State Department counterterrorism agent, told Al Arabiya News.


All eyes on the pilot

The pilot of the flight, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is also increasingly being spotlighted by the media, after it was reported by Britain’s Mail on Sunday that he was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

According to the report, Shah had also attended a controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years just hours before he took control of Flight MH370. Police sources now fear that Shah was “profoundly upset” by the court ruling.

In a police search of his house in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam, a home-made flight simulator was reportedly found.

“Investigators had already spent much of last week examining two laptops removed from Shah’s home. One is believed to contain data from the simulator,” the Daily Mail reported.

Information disclosed on Saturday by Malaysian included news that plane flew towards either Indonesia or to Kazakhstan after the transponder and messaging systems were disabled.

Still, the question remains whether it is wise to link the claims of an al-Qaeda supergrass to the disappearance of the Malaysian jet; an incident that is slowly unraveling a host of unanswered questions.

“As an investigator, one looks for modus operandi. This theory needs to be ruled-in or out. Washington will be looking into this as a viable concern,” Burton said.