REPORT: Bomb plot focused on Los Angeles International Airport

Wednesday, May 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An Algerian man facing up to 140 years in prison for his conviction in a terrorist bomb plot has confessed that he had planned to plant a large bomb at Los Angeles International Airport, newspapers reported Wednesday.

Ahmed Ressam, who is trying to win a lighter sentence by cooperating with federal prosecutors, admitted his airport bombing plan in recent weeks, the Los Angeles Times and The Seattle Times said. They quoted unidentified law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

Ressam was convicted last month in Los Angeles of nine counts of conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism and other charges. But the intended target of the alleged plot to bomb U.S. sites at the turn of the millennium had never been publicly revealed.

The sources did not say whether Ressam, 33, had divulged additional details of the plan.

Ressam, who lived in Montreal, faces up to 140 years in prison at sentencing June 28. He is expected to receive a lighter sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

He was captured Dec. 14, 1999, at a Port Angeles, Wash., ferry landing. Authorities found 130 pounds of explosives in the trunk of his rental car along with four timing devices. Ressam also had reserved a room near Seattle's Space Needle during a planned millennium party, which was later canceled because of threats.

FBI and federal prosecutors would not confirm Ressam's confessions.

Chief Public Defender Thomas Hillier refused to comment.

Also found in the car was a California tour book with Ressam's fingerprints on pages showing downtown Los Angeles and the Transamerica tower in San Francisco. In Ressam's apartment was a map with circles around Los Angeles International Airport, and airports in Long Beach, Calif., and Ontario, Calif.

Federal authorities are investigating Montreal-based Islamic extremists and the group's reputed ties to alleged terrorist orchestrator Osama bin Laden. Four Bin Laden operatives were convicted in New York on Tuesday of conspiring in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people.

Ressam is expected to be the key government witness in the New York prosecution of one of his alleged co-conspirators, Mokhtar Haouari, also of Montreal. Haouari goes on trial June 26 for allegedly plotting to blow up U.S. targets on or about New Year's Day 2000 with Ressam and two other Algerian nationals. Haouari's attorney Daniel Ollen said he has not been notified Ressam will be a witness.