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December 7, 2001
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Bombay terrorist reveals links with IC 814 hijackers

Josy Joseph in New Delhi

Mohammed Afroz, a trained pilot who was allegedly part of the global conspiracy to strike targets in several countries, has told his interrogators in the Bombay police that two of the IC 814 hijackers trained with him in Australia and the United States before the 1999 hijack.

Afroz told his interrogators that Islamic militants had planned to strike simultaneously in India, US, United Kingdom and Australia.

The original plan was to strike on September 9, 2000. However, it was later postponed by one year, and finally, to September 11.

Other than the World Trade Centre (WTC) in New York and the Pentagon (near Washington), the terrorists were planning to strike the British parliament and the Tower Bridge in the UK, Rolta Tower in Australia and the Indian Parliament.

The team assigned to Britain reached Heathrow airport on September 11 to hijack the London-Manchester flight, which was scheduled for take off at 1700 hours (GMT).

In the original September 9 plan, this team was to hijack the London-Bombay flight. The London-Manchester flight was chosen for September 11 as there was no London-Bombay flight on that date.

However, the plan eventually failed because all flights were grounded immediately after the attack on the WTC, Afroz's interrogation report said.

The investigators said that the Indian part of the plan was not abandoned even after September 11, and that the strike was to take place in November.

Afroz, a resident of Trombay (near Bombay) in Maharashtra, was part of one of the four groups that had been assigned the task of carrying out the strikes.

He had initially identified Mohammed Atta, main protagonist of the September 11 attacks, as one of those who trained with him at an aviation academy in Australia, where he underwent training between August 1997 and 1998, sources told rediff.com.

However, during sustained interrogation, he was inconsistent on his claim about Atta.

The cost of Afroz's training in Melbourne was borne by the Student's Islamic Movement of India, which is banned in India, Intelligence agencies claimed.

Investigators have also unearthed remittance of about a million Indian rupees to Afroz's account in Bombay from an ANZ Grindlays Bank account in Delhi.

Afroz also confirmed that two of the hijackers of the IC 814 Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi in December 1999 were part of the team that underwent training in Australia.

The New York Times has given details of evidence picked up in Kabul showing links between the IC 814 hijackers and the Taliban.

The paper said four ticket stubs from the flight, two boarding passes, an Indian Airlines Airbus 300 safety procedure card and a handwritten list of the plane's passengers were among those found in a hideout in Kabul. The hideout also had notes on nuclear and biological weapons.

The two IC 814 hijackers who trained with Afroz in Australia were Shahid Akhtar Sayeed alias Sandy and Mistry Zahoor Ibrahim alias Zia, both Pakistanis.

Afroz claimed to have returned to India in October 1999 and later went to Britain in August 2001 for a multi-engine training programme.

Afroz returned to India on September 22 and was staying in various hotels, but never returning to his home. On October 2, 2001, he was picked up from Hotel Abbot in Vashi.

According to the interrogation report, a large number of jehadis (holy warriors) from Iran were part of the entire plan. However, they disappeared in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

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