February 26, 1993
Almost a decade before 9/11, the FBI had investigated a terror attack at the WTC on February 26, 1993, when a bombing killed six people and injured more than a thousand. The explosion left a nearly 100-foot crater where the parking garage had been. Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task force and over 700 agents investigated that case, and SWAT team agents arrested the man who had rented the truck the bomb was concealed in after the VIN number was found on a piece of wreckage. Three more were soon arrested, and FBI agents discovered the man who had planned it, Ramzi Yousef, was planning more attacks. Yousef and five others were arrested, tried, and convicted, while a seventh conspirator is still at large. Many of the ERTs and other FBI investigators had no idea they would return to the site of the World Trade Center for a far more horrific attack eight years later, masterminded by Yousef's uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
FBI The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
On February 26, 1993, at about 17 minutes past noon, a thunderous explosion rocked lower Manhattan.
The epicenter was the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center, where a massive eruption carved out a nearly 100-foot crater several stories deep and several more high.
Six people were killed almost instantly. Smoke and flames began filling the wound and streaming upward into the building. Those who weren't trapped were soon pouring out of the building-many panic-stricken and covered in soot. More than a thousand people were hurt in some way, some badly, with crushed limbs.
Middle Eastern terrorism had arrived on American soil-with a bang.
As a small band of terrorists scurried away from the scene unnoticed, the FBI and its partners on the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force began staffing up a command center and preparing to send in a team to investigate. Their instincts told them that this was terrorism-they'd been tracking Islamic fundamentalists in the city for months and, they'd later learn, were tantalizingly close to encountering the planners of this attack. But hunches weren't enough; what was needed was definitive proof.
They'd have it soon enough. The massive investigation that followed-led by the task force, with some 700 FBI agents worldwide ultimately joining in-quickly uncovered a key bit of evidence. In the rubble investigators uncovered a vehicle identification number on a piece of wreckage that seemed suspiciously obliterated.
A search of our crime records returned a match: the number belonged to a rented van reported stolen the day before the attack. An Islamic fundamentalist named Mohammad Salameh had rented the vehicle, we learned, and on March 4, an FBI SWAT team arrested him as he tried in vain to get his $400 deposit back.
One clue led to another and we soon had in custody three more suspects-Nidal Ayyad, Mahmoud Abouhalima, and Ahmed Ajaj. We'd also found the apartment where the bomb was built and a storage locker containing dangerous chemicals, including enough cyanide gas to wipe out a town. All four men were tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.
The shockwave from the attack continued to reverberate. Following the unfolding connections, the task force soon uncovered a second terrorist plot to bomb a series of New York landmarks simultaneously, including the U.N. building, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the federal plaza where our office in New York is housed. On June 24, 1994, FBI agents stormed a warehouse in Queens and caught several members of a terrorist cell in the act of assembling bombs.
Meanwhile, the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing was still on the run-and up to no good. We'd learned his name-Ramzi Yousef-within weeks after the attack and discovered he was planning more attacks, including the simultaneous bombing of a dozen U.S. international flights.
Yousef was captured in Pakistan in February 1995, returned to America, and convicted along with the van driver, Eyad Ismoil. A seventh plotter, Abdul Yasin, remains at large.
We later learned from Yousef that his Trade Center plot was far more sinister. He wanted the bomb to topple one tower, with the collapsing debris knocking down the second. The attack turned out to be something of a deadly dress rehearsal for 9/11; with the help of Yousef's uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda would later return to realize Yousef's nightmarish vision.
7 Facts About the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
The attack by a group of Islamic fundamentalists announced the growing threat of terrorism on US soil.History.com Eighteen minutes after noon on February 26, 1993
A bomb exploded in the basement parking garage below the north tower of the World Trade Center. The massive explosion killed six people and wounded more than 1,000, with some 50,000 people forced to evacuate the twin towers as smoke and flames spread upward into the buildings.
The bombing brought home the shocking new reality of radical Islamic terrorism as a global phenomenon that directly impacted the United States and its citizens. The planned scale of the attack dwarfed previous terrorist plots, as the plot's leader, Ramzi Yousef, later told the FBI he had hoped to topple one tower into the other, killing some 250,000 civilians. Tragically, the 1993 bombing foreshadowed the much larger attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in which a different group of Muslim extremists would achieve at least part of Yousef's horrific goal.
The bomb blasted a massive crater several stories deep underneath the World Trade Center.
Loaded with around 1,300 pounds of urea nitrate (an explosive material made from fertilizer) and hydrogen gas cylinders, along with cyanide, the bomb exploded inside a yellow Ryder van parked on the B-2 level of the parking garage under the North Tower. The massive blast killed six people near the bomb site and injured more than 1,000, with most of those suffering from smoke inhalation during evacuation from the towers.
While searching through 4,000 pounds of rubble, investigators found a key clue about its perpetrators.
Within minutes of the explosion, members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) headed to the World Trade Center, where they would coordinate an investigation including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York Police Department (NYPD) among other federal, state and municipal government agencies. The FBI and JTTF had been tracking Islamic fundamentalists in the city for months before the attack and immediately suspected this was an act of terrorism. The day after the attack, agents searching the wreckage found several parts of a vehicle that apparently exploded from the inside out. Two of the pieces showed a vehicle identification number (VIN), which investigators traced to a van that had been reported stolen on the day before the attack at a rental agency in Jersey City, New Jersey.
By the time the towers reopened in late March 1993, authorities had arrested four suspects.
When Mohammed Salameh, the man who had rented the van, returned to the rental agency on March 4 to try to get his $400 deposit back, an FBI team arrested him. Things unfolded quickly from there: FBI investigators found bomb-making chemicals that matched evidence found at the World Trade Center in a self-storage unit in Jersey City, while The New York Times received a letter claiming responsibility for the attack from a group called the Liberation Army, Fifth Battalion. A search of Salameh's apartment led to the arrests of three more suspects, including Nidal Ayyad (whose DNA matched saliva on the letter's envelope), Mahmud Abouhalima and Ahmed Ajaj. Investigators questioned another suspect, Abdul Yasim, but released him due to a lack of evidence; he subsequently fled the country and has never been captured.
Their leader remained at large for two years.
While Salameh, Ayyad, Abouhalima and Ajaj were tried, convicted and sentenced to life in March 1994, the man identified as the plot's mastermind had escaped to Pakistan immediately after the bombing. Over the next two years, Ramzi Yousef took part in various other terrorist actions, including planting a bomb on a commercial airplane in the Philippines in order to test a larger plot involving explosions on as many as a dozen U.S. planes. Captured in February 1995, Yousef was extradited to New York City, tried and found guilty of both the bombing and the Manila plane plot, code-named "Bojinka." He was sentenced in January 1998 to life in prison plus 240 years, with the judge factoring in combined life expectancies of the six people killed in the 1993 bombing. Yousef was unapologetic, claiming he wanted to punish the United States for its role in providing aid to Israel. "Yes, I am a terrorist and proud of it," he told the court.
Several of the WTC bombers were connected to the same mosque, led by an influential extremist cleric known as the ‘Blind Sheikh.'
The arrests of Salameh, Abouhalima and Ayyad led FBI investigators to a Brooklyn mosque all three had attended, and to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical Sunni Muslim cleric who had emigrated to the United States in the early 1990s. Abdel Rahman, who lost his eyesight at a young age, espoused a fundamentalist brand of Islam that condemned secular Muslims, Western materialism and U.S. support for Israel and Egypt. In the early 1980s, he had been tried and acquitted twice for instigating the assassination of that country's president Anwar Sadat.
Several months after the bombing, investigators foiled another terrorist plot against major New York City landmarks.
In June 1993, as part of an ongoing surveillance operation, an FBI camera caught a group of men constructing a bomb in a garage in Queens, New York. Authorities subsequently arrested Abdel Rahman and nine of his followers and charged them with planning to simultaneously bomb the United Nations headquarters, the George Washington Bridge, and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, among other targets. They were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in late 1995. Even behind bars, Abdel Rahman continued to exert a powerful influence on radical Muslims. Peter Bergen, a journalist and biographer of Osama bin Laden, described him as the "spiritual guide of 9/11."
The 1993 bombing proved to be a deadly dress rehearsal for 9/11.
By early 1996, U.S. authorities had determined that Ramzi Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had plotted with his nephew to bring down the planes in the "Bojinka" plot and wired him money before the first World Trade Center bombing. But KSM (as he was known) evaded capture and rose in the ranks of the militant Islamic group al Qaeda to become one of bin Laden's top lieutenants. As the "principal architect" of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, KSM succeeded where his nephew had failed, orchestrating the destruction of the twin towers and the mass murder of thousands of civilians on U.S. soil.
WikipediaThe 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a terrorist attack carried out on February 26, 1993, when a van bomb detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. The 1,336 lb (606 kg) urea nitrate–hydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to send the North Tower crashing into its twin, the South Tower, taking down both skyscrapers and killing tens of thousands of people. It failed to do so, but killed six people, including a pregnant woman, and caused over a thousand injuries. About 50,000 people were evacuated from the buildings that day.
The attack was planned by a group of terrorists including Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad A. Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Abdul Rahman Yasin, and Ahmed Ajaj. In March 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing: Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad, and Salameh. The charges included conspiracy, explosive destruction of property, and interstate transportation of explosives. In November 1997, two more were convicted: Ramzi Yousef, the organizer behind the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the van carrying the bomb.
Emad Salem, an FBI informant and a key witness in the trial of Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah, stated that the bomb itself was built under supervision from the FBI. During his time as an FBI informant, Salem recorded hours of telephone conversations with his FBI handlers. In tapes made after the bombing, Salem alleged that an unnamed FBI supervisor declined to move forward on a plan that would have used a "phony powder" to fool the conspirators into believing that they were working with genuine explosives.
On Friday, February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef and a Jordanian friend, Eyad Ismoil, drove a yellow Ford Econoline Ryder van into Lower Manhattan, and pulled into the public parking garage beneath the World Trade Center around noon. They parked on the underground B-2 level. Yousef ignited the 20-foot (6.1 m) fuse, and fled. Twelve minutes later, at 12:18 p.m., the bomb exploded in the underground garage, generating an estimated pressure of 150,000 pounds per square inch (1,000,000 kPa). The bomb opened a 100-foot-wide (30 m) hole through four sublevels of concrete. The detonation velocity of this bomb was about 15,000 feet per second (10,000 mph; 4.6 km/s). Initial news reports indicated a main transformer might have blown before it became clear that a bomb had exploded in the basement.
The bomb instantly cut off the World Trade Center's main electrical power line, knocking out the emergency lighting system. The bomb caused smoke to rise to the 93rd floor of both towers, including through the stairwells (which were not pressurized), and smoke went up the damaged elevators in both towers. With thick smoke filling the stairwells, evacuation was difficult for building occupants and led to many smoke inhalation injuries. Hundreds were trapped in elevators in the towers when the power was cut, including a group of 17 kindergartners on their way down from the South Tower observation deck, who were trapped between the 35th and 36th floors for five hours. Location of the explosion
Six people were killed: five Port Authority employees, one of whom was pregnant, and a businessman whose car was in the parking garage. Additionally, over 1,000 people were injured, most during the evacuation that followed the blast. A report from the US Fire Administration states that "Among the scores of people who fled to the roofs of the towers, 28 with medical problems were airlifted by New York City police helicopters". It is known that 15 people received traumatic injuries from the blast and 20 complained of cardiac problems. One firefighter was hospitalized, while 87 others, 35 police officers, and an EMS worker were also injured in dealing with the fires and other aftermath.
Also as a result of the loss of power, most of New York City's radio and television stations (save for one, WCBS-TV (channel 2)) lost their over-the-air broadcast signal for almost a week, with television stations only being able to broadcast via cable and satellite via a microwave hookup between the stations and three of the New York area's largest cable companies, Cablevision, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable. Telephone service for much of Lower Manhattan was also disrupted.
Yousef's plan was that the North Tower would fall onto the South Tower, collapsing them both. The tower did not collapse, but the garage was severely damaged in the explosion. Had the van been parked closer to the WTC's poured concrete foundations, Yousef's plan might have succeeded. Yousef escaped to Pakistan several hours after the bombing.
Six people were killed:
- John DiGiovanni age 45, a dental products salesperson
- Robert "Bob" Kirkpatrick age 61, Senior Structural Maintenance Supervisor
- Stephen Knapp age 47, Chief Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section
- Bill Macko age 57, General Maintenance Supervisor, Mechanical Section
- Wilfredo Mercado age 37, a receiving agent for Windows on the World restaurant
- Monica Rodriguez Smith age 35, a secretary, who was seven months pregnant
At the time of the bombing, Smith was checking time sheets in her office on the B-2 level; Kirkpatrick, Knapp and Macko were eating lunch together in an employees' break room next to Smith's office; Mercado was checking in deliveries for the restaurant; and DiGiovanni was parking in the underground garage.