Abdul Hakim Murad washed his hands, and broke a basic rule of bombmaking.
When the water mixed with chemical residue in the kitchen sink of unit 603 in the Dona Josefa Apartments here in 1995, it set off an eruption that would reveal the inner workings of a clandestine terrorist cell allied with Osama bin Laden.
It also revealed a plan that gave a chilling preview of the attack in New York and Washington on Sept. 11.
Arrested and tortured by Philippine intelligence agents, Murad told the story of "Bojinka" -- "loud bang" -- the code name bin Laden operatives had given to an audacious plan to bomb 11 U.S. airliners simultaneously and fly an airplane into the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. -- all after attempting to assassinate Pope John Paul II.
The plot in the Philippines, which was recounted to U.S. investigators at the time, appears to be a model of the methods, aims and structure of the network that bin Laden's followers have assembled in dozens of countries around the world. Members of this diffuse confederation of radical Islamists, drawing inspiration, funding and training from bin Laden's al Qaeda group, have provided the foot soldiers -- and some commanders for his core organization -- for attacks on U.S. citizens.
These cells, the groups that host them and any country that allows them to operate within its borders are now the declared enemies in the U.S. war on terrorism. An examination of operations linked to bin Laden's network in five countries -- the Philippines, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Egypt -- shows how difficult the fight will be.
Despite common organizational patterns and ideology, the terrorists fighting for bin Laden's cause come from diverse locations and backgrounds. Some have long ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda. Others have acted nearly autonomously, undetected by authorities until the last moment before an attack, or after one had occurred.
The Philippines plot of 1995 had many hallmarks of an operation mounted by terrorists tied to al Qaeda, which means "the base." According to Philippine intelligence reports obtained by The Washington Post, the attempt to bomb the airliners was meticulously planned and well financed, and involved preparations in countries across the globe, including the United States.
Intelligence records indicate the precise flights that were to be targeted: United 808, Delta 59, Northwest 6, and others. The records included calculations to determine when to set the bomb's timer on each flight. They also included the names of dozens of associates, and photos of some; a record of five-star hotels; and dealings with a trading corporation in London, a meat market owner in Malaysia and an Islamic center in Tucson, Ariz.
The intelligence records list flying schools in San Antonio, Schenectady, N.Y., and New Bern, N.C., where Murad trained as a commercial pilot. They describe how money moved through an Abu Dhabi banking firm. Bar hostesses were bribed with gifts and holiday trips to open bank accounts in which to stash associates' funds.
The plotters also included in their plans the motives for the mission, in a manifesto recovered by investigators: "The U.S. government gives military aircraft to the Jewish state so the Jews can continue fighting and killing. All of this is a result of the U.S. government's financial and military support of the Jewish state. All people who support the U.S. government are our target."
Bin Laden's links to the Philippines were established early in the 1990s. In 1991, Abdurajak Janjalani, who had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, returned to the Philippines and founded Abu Sayyaf -- "father of the sword" -- which announced itself by killing two American evangelists in 1991 in a grenade blast. Officials believe Janjalani got money from an Islamic foundation run by bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, who lived in the Philippines with a Filipino wife.
When Pope John Paul II announced he would visit the Philippines in 1995, authorities worried about possible attacks by Abu Sayyaf. But the real threat turned out to be even graver.
On Jan. 6, one week before the pope's visit, Police Station 9 in Manila noticed a fire alarm was activated in an apartment building not far from the pontiff's expected route. At first the cause appeared to be a simple cooking fire. But Capt. Aida Fariscal, the night commander, went there to see for herself. "I had a sixth sense," she said.
As she was looking around, Murad, a 26-year-old Pakistani who called himself Saeed Ahmed, returned. He panicked, and tried to run. His shoe caught on the roots of a potted plant, and Fariscal commandeered a taxi and two bystanders to haul him back to the station. "He offered me a lot of money to get him out of this mess," said Fariscal. When she and others returned to the apartment, they found a bomb factory, stocked with beakers, gallons of sulfuric acid and nitric acid, glycerin, large cooking kettles, filters, funnels and fuses.
Slowly, pieces of disparate puzzles came together. Investigators found Casio watches in the apartment that matched a timing device used to detonate a small chemical bomb a month earlier on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo, killing a Japanese businessman. They found a stack of passports -- Norwegian, Afghan, Saudi, Pakistani -- for the three men in the apartment.
Murad would not talk. Handed over to intelligence agents, he taunted them. That didn't last.
"For weeks, agents hit him with a chair and a long piece of wood, forced water into his mouth, and crushed lighted cigarettes into his private parts," wrote journalists Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria in "Under the Crescent Moon," an acclaimed book on Abu Sayyaf. "His ribs were almost totally broken and his captors were surprised he survived."
An investigator intimately knowledgeable of the investigation confirmed the torture, but gloated that it was Murad's fears of Jews that finally broke him. "We impersonated the Mossad," he said, referring to the Israeli intelligence service. "He thought we were going to take him to Israel."
Murad told all. One of his two roommates in Apt. 603 was a young Kuwaiti chemical engineer named Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who had helped plan the 1993 explosions at the World Trade Center, he said. They were in Manila to make a bomb to kill the pope. One of them would hide it under a priest's robes, and try to get close enough to kiss the pontiff as the bomb went off.
The next part of the plan was to bomb American airliners. The device on the Philippine airliner was a dry run, he said. Murad had earned a commercial pilot's license, and told investigators he had planned to fly a plane into the CIA headquarters.
Murad was turned over to the Americans. Yousef, who had calmly walked away from the Manila apartment when the firemen arrived, was found a month later in Pakistan. A third man at the Manila apartment, Wali Khan Amin Shah, was nabbed in Malaysia. All three were convicted by a New York court in 1997 of involvement in the bomb plot.
But the scheme apparently lived on, officials here say. "They didn't give up the objective," said former Gen. Renado S. De Villa, who was head of the security effort for the pope's visit. "Murad clearly indicated it was a large-scale operation. They were targeting the U.S. And they had a worldwide network. It was very clear they continued to work on that plan until someone gave the signal to go."
Watching the attacks in New York and Washington unfold on television earlier this month, an investigator here gasped, "It's Bojinka." He said later: "We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?"
Robert Heafner, the FBI chief in Manila at the time, who is now retired here, said the information was heeded. "I believe everything was done that could have been done," he said.
Abu Sayyaf still thrives in the Philippines, and could be a target in the U.S. war on terrorism. The group has grabbed headlines with its kidnapping schemes that have netted an estimated $25 million in ransoms. The group has bought high-powered speedboats and armaments, and has grown to about 1,200 soldiers by paying for recruits in the poor, remote islands where it operates. The group also holds two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham. A third American captive, Guillermo Sobero, could have been killed.
Observers here dismiss Abu Sayyaf as a gang of bandits with no current links to bin Laden. "They are now just a kidnap-for-ransom group, trying to use religion to justify their action," said Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, chief spokesman for the Philippine Armed Forces.
But the jitters of a wider war linger. Immigration authorities say four of the Sept. 11 hijackers may have passed through the Philippines several times since 1999. Sen. Rodolfo Biazon insists there is intelligence that 50 Abu Sayyaf were training in Afghanistan this year, though senior intelligence chiefs discount that report.
"We've been dealing with this problem for 10 years," said De Villa, still a top adviser to the president. "You're about to find that this is going to be a long haul."
By the early 1990s, Raed Hijazi had found a mission.
Born and educated in California, Hijazi had been radicalized through college contacts he met at the Islamic Assistance Organization in Sacramento. He concluded that the country of his birth was the enemy of Islam. Violence was the means to confront it.
Hijazi traveled to Afghanistan, where he trained at bases run by al Qaeda. From there, he easily traversed continents with his U.S. passport. He worked as a cab driver in Boston, where he allegedly knew Nabil Al-Marabh, who was detained in Chicago last Wednesday in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. He came to Amman, where he assembled weapons, chemicals and other supplies from Syria, Europe and elsewhere.
Here, according to prosecutors, Hijazi helped organize what was intended as a spectacular disruption of Jan. 1, 2000, celebrations: deadly attacks on Western tourists and Israelis across Jordan.
Today, Hijazi is in a Jordanian prison. Of 27 accomplices arrested in the scheme, five received death sentences, 16 are imprisonned and six were acquitted. Hijazi is currently on trial, and during proceedings earlier this month quietly recited from the Koran while held inside a black cage. His lawyer maintains he was tortured in prison, and that he is innocent. Hijazi also faces a possible death sentence.
Hijazi's alleged role in the millennium plot demonstrates the entrepreneurial side of bin Laden's network, Jordanian officials say. In this case as in others, they say, a loose-knit local structure was drawn together for a precise mission at a precise time with cash, planning, and encouragement from al Qaeda.
Groups linked to al Qaeda were first detected in Jordan nearly a decade earlier, in a series of modest attacks. Small explosive charges were detonated in parking lots, injuring no one. Theaters showing Western films, deemed "pornographic," were attacked. So were liquor stores, as was the American School on the airport road.
Membership in these groups included some of the 500 Jordanians who had volunteered to fight in Afghanistan as part of a CIA-supported war against an invading army from the Soviet Union. Returning after years of "jihad," or holy war, these "Afghan Arabs" didn't fit with Jordan's increasingly Westernized ways. They particularly came to resent the country's peace treaty with Israel and its ties to the United States.
"They found difficulty being part of the society," said a Jordanian official. "They considered that this society and this government was not good Islam, was not ruled by religion. Bars serving alcohol. Swimming pools. Discos."
They formed groups under names such as Mohammed's Army, Challenge and Reform, or the Group of Mohammed Maqdissi, while maintaining contact with bin Laden and his deputies. Jordanian intelligence officials saw a common pattern: Organizations devised localized schemes, then reported to designated deputies either in Afghanistan or Western capitals such as London.
Sometimes the connection to bin Laden was peripheral. Jordanian authorities claim that money and guidance for the Challenge and Reform group came from a London-based man, Omar Abu Omar, who they say largely operates on his own, even though he has ties to bin Laden.
For the millennium plot, however, they went straight to the source.
Beginning in 1996, Hijazi and a man named Khadar Abu Hoshar, a veteran of the Afghan wars, contacted one of bin Laden's chief operatives, Gaza-born Abu Zubaida. Arrangements were made for Hijazi and others to travel to Afghanistan in mid-1999 for final preparations.
There, Jordanians allege, both Zubaida and Khalil Deek, also an American citizen, reviewed the plan and the targets: a Radisson hotel fully booked for millennium celebrations, Israeli border posts, Mount Nebo, where Moses is thought to have viewed the Holy Land, and other spots.
It was one of three known operations set for New Year's Eve, including a plan to bomb Los Angeles International Airport that failed when a customs official at the Canadian border discovered bomb materials in the trunk of a car driven by an accused Algerian terrorist, Ahmed Ressam.
Jordanian officials broke up the plot through a combination of infiltration, electronic surveillance and counterintelligence. Although they dismantled the cell, they are unsure if remnants remain. Last week, authorities detained Mohammed Maqdissi, convicted of organizing a terrorist group in 1996 but pardoned in 1999, apparently seeking information about the Sept. 11 attacks.
In the end, proving complicity in individual crimes has been easier than undoing the network, or even demonstrating its reach. The Jordanian military tribunal that handed down guilty verdicts on some charges in the millennium case acquitted all of the defendants of charges that they were associated with al Qaeda.
In the two years since the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) introduced itself with bombings in this Central Asian capital, its heritage has been traced along the bloodlines of other groups born in Afghanistan.
One of its leaders, Juma Namangani, was a disillusioned Soviet paratrooper who embraced radical Islam on his return home to Uzbekistan, and eventually received training in Afghanistan from Tajik opposition and Pakistani and Saudi intelligence officials, according to a Russian military newspaper. The other leader, Tahir Yuldash, was a young activist in the same town in Uzbekistan who also wound up in Afghanistan, where he got to know bin Laden.
The IMU emerged from the guerrilla movement that challenged the government in Tajikistan during its 1992-97 civil war. Its goals are narrower and more nationalistic than those of bin Laden's borderless al Qaeda. It aims to topple President Islam Karimov and carve out an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley, a fertile region that includes Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz territory.
Although the Bush administration has identified the IMU as part of bin Laden's network, its links to al Qaeda are fuzzy. It enjoys a haven in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and is said to receive funding from bin Laden. With camps in Tajikistan and an ability to launch raids into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, U.S. analysts worry that one day it could strike near the oil fields of the nearby Caspian region.
Meanwhile, Karimov's repression of political opponents and Muslim activists may only be fueling its growth. Men wearing beards and women wearing scarves are often harassed and thousands of political opponents have been jailed. Some accused of radical ties have been raped and even beaten to death in detention, their bodies sent home with crushed skulls and no fingernails, according to human rights groups. Karimov has also alienated his neighbors by planting land mines along the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The Uzbek guerrillas did not return to fight on their home turf this summer. Analysts say the Taliban leadership, faring poorly against anti-Taliban rebels, pressed its resident foreign allies into fighting in Afghanistan.
But now the IMU's 2,000 or so fighters may be on the move. According to the anti-Taliban group, Uzbek fighters were pulled back from the front lines about a week ago, and Russian border guards based in Tajikistan reported seeing concentrations of Uzbek militants on the other side of the border in recent days.
In the days after a suicide bomb tore open the USS Cole as it paused for fuel in the humid Yemeni port of Aden -- killing 17 sailors and two zealots aboard an explosive-laden skiff -- anyone with the bushy whiskers favored by conservative Muslims was liable to be hauled in and asked hard questions.
In the context of the Koran, a full, untrimmed beard bespoke piety. But a different context had taken hold in Yemen during the latter half of the 1990s. Islam had become mixed with war. Militancy had bled into terrorism. And facial hair had grown suspicious enough that operatives of al Qaeda were instructed to shave before undertaking a mission.
The Cole attack on Oct. 12, 2000, had all the markings of al Qaeda: a walled-off safe house where the bomb was assembled, the sophistication of the "shaped charge" that took the technical aspect of the Cole assault up a notch from the group's alleged previous attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.
And when authorities tracked down a newly issued boating license, they found a portrait of the suicide bomber, clean-shaven.
This stunningly picturesque, deeply Muslim nation of 18 million has nurtured a unique preoccupation with Islamic militants for nearly a generation. After the war in Afghanistan, Yemen absorbed not only its own veterans but also hundreds of foreign "Afghan Arabs" who streamed into a country that then required no entry visa.
In peace, however, the roving bands of righteous, heavily armed foreigners proved worrisome. Hundreds were asked -- then forced -- to leave.
"We can say that we deported almost all the non-Yemenis," said Abubakar Al Qirbi, Yemen's foreign minister. "There might be a few who remain. They are people who tried to integrate in traditional religious schools. Our security knows who they are. They are under surveillance."
As for the Yemeni veterans, the great majority settled back into normal life. Some, however, clung to the gun, setting up camps in the remote sections of a country that government officials are quick to acknowledge they control in name only.
Best known was the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan, also called the Islamic Army of Aden. The group praised bin Laden, whose father was born in Yemen, and used a camp reportedly established by him in the southern village of Mudiyah. But the army was more clearly tied to Sheik Abu Hamza, a handless, one-eyed Afghan war veteran living in London's Finsbury Park.
For all that, analysts here say the group was not taken seriously until December 1998, when it kidnapped 16 Western tourists, four of whom were killed after government forces attacked. The Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan has not been heard from since.
The plot against the Cole was more deft, and years in the making. A U.S. official said the idea of ambushing a U.S. warship in port appears to date back to May 1998, when the USS Mount Vernon paid an official visit to Aden, staying two or three days.
Over the next 2 1/2 years, a team was assembled and put into action. "These were 'sleeper agents,' " said one Yemeni official. "They try to live a simple life in the area where they are."
Yemeni and U.S. officials described the operation in three phases: In the first, a senior al Qaeda official assessed the feasibility of the mission and made initial preparations. In the second, a technical specialist arrived to provide "the infrastructure," in this case, a boat, trailer, car and bomb.
"And the third phase was the action," the Yemeni official said. "They work simple. They work very, very simple."
In Aden, the main hitch would be the bomb. The previous January, a boat laden with TNT proved so heavy it sank as it made for the USS The Sullivans, also on a routine fueling stop. When the Cole steamed in 10 months later, it was the first-ever arrival in Aden of an Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer, the platform from which cruise missiles were launched at bin Laden's Afghan camps in retaliation for the embassy bombings.
In the aftermath, the legions of bewhiskered potential suspects were winnowed to the six whom Yemeni authorities say they are prepared to take to trial. Jamal al Badawi, an Afghan war veteran whom Yemeni officials say is Egyptian, was described as the chief local organizer.
But the apparent mastermind was not to be found.
Mohammed Omar Al Harazi, a Saudi man of Yemeni descent who is also known as Abdul Rehman Hussain Mohammed Al Safani, departed Yemen a few days before the Cole attack, officials said. He also left Nairobi before the East Africa bombings he helped plan, according to a U.S. official.
As an al Qaeda official linked to both the East Africa and Cole bombings, Safani presumably was the person meeting with Al-Midhar, the suspected hijacker of the plane that struck the Pentagon, when a surveillance camera captured his image in Malaysia earlier this year. Al-Midhar was later added to an Immigration and Naturalization "stop list," but by then had already entered the United States.
When al Qaeda was founded in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Ayman Zawahiri was at the creation. The bespectacled Cairo physician would eventually help supply bin Laden's organization with its globalist ideology. Other Egyptians would supply the bodies, from field commanders such as former policeman Mohammed Atef to one of the suspected participants in the Sept. 11 attacks, Mohamed Atta.
In the beginning, Zawahiri and Atef formed a trio with the Saudi-born bin Laden, the labor neatly divided. Bin Laden brought financial resources, Atef provided a compelling ability to organize field operations, and to smuggle people and supplies around the region, and Zawahiri expanded the theological and philosophical base of their mission.
When the Afghan war ended, the men realized they had the makings of something sustainable. Following Zawahiri's ideas, they turned their eyes back toward Egypt, and across the globe to the United States.
The grandson of a sheik and a trained surgeon, Zawahiri was steeped from childhood in the modern Islamic politics that has coursed through Egypt since the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s.
But in the 1970s he moved beyond the staid and nationalist political activism of the brotherhood to forge a broader theory of holy war. He saw it as a way to attack not only rulers perceived to be unjust, such as those in Egypt, but as justification to fight beyond national borders, anywhere that tyranny existed.
These principles of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the companion Islamic Group organization drew the disaffected such as Atef, brothers Mohammed and Khaled Islambouli, and others into a movement that penetrated not only the destitute slums of Cairo, but the ranks of the country's armed forces.
Though President Anwar Sadat had given Islamists political space, his decision to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 put him squarely among the enemies. Two years later, Zawahiri and Islamic Group leaders such as Rifai Ahmed Taha used connections in the armed forces to arrange Sadat's assassination during a military parade.
Ataf and others fled the country, moving easily through Sudan, Somalia and ultimately to Afghanistan. Some, like Khaled Islambouli, were tried and executed. Zawahiri and Taha served prison terms for gun and other violations. Many would meet under bin Laden's hospitality later in Afghanistan.
It is believed now that Atef was the al Qaeda member who identified the first American "target of opportunity": a peacekeeping mission to Somalia. To al Qaeda, the mission was another U.S. incursion into an Islamic country, like the U.S. troops who remained in Saudi Arabia after the Persian Gulf War. Al Qaeda members claimed to have helped organize the attack that killed 18 U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1992.
While allegedly supporting the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, Zawahiri and Taha also began focusing on their native Egypt, and President Hosni Mubarak's increasingly close ties to the United States.
Fundamentalism had spread quickly under Mubarak. Radical preachers set up storefront mosques in rural villages and urban slums. Islamist professionals took control of prominent labor syndicates such as law and engineering, Atta's trade. Islamic investment groups offered high returns and ample charity through shaky pyramid schemes.
When the military expertise of returning Afghan fighters was linked with the increasingly popular radical sermons of Abdel Rahman -- later convicted as an organizer of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing -- and a flow of money and weapons from Zawahiri, Atef and others, the result was almost civil war.
Taha's Islamic Group had a popular base so wide that the entire Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba declared itself an independent Islamic state. Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad went for higher-profile targets outside the country, nearly assassinating Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995, and bombing Egypt's embassy in Pakistan.
Countered by an increasingly effective Egyptian police force -- more than 600 suspected terrorists and planners were executed or killed between 1992 and 1997 -- there has not been an acknowledged terrorist attack since the November 1997 murder of 58 foreign tourists in Luxor, a massacre that turned the population squarely against the militants.
Soon after the Luxor killings, leaders of the Islamic Group called a cease-fire, arguing that violence had failed to advance them toward the goal of making Egypt an Islamic state.
But in Afghanistan, Zawahiri wanted none of it. After more than a decade at bin Laden's side, he formally merged Egyptian Islamic Jihad with his al Qaeda to form a combined World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. The name reflected the distance Zawahiri had traveled since the 1970s.
The group that once had formed around Sadat's murder was no longer satisfied with opposing the "iniquitous princes" in charge of the Arab world.
Now, they believed, they were after the power behind the throne.
Struck reported from Manila, Schneider from Amman and Cairo, Vick from Aden and Baker from Tashkent. Staff writer Bill Branigin contributed to this report.