The Shoe Bomber's World


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By the summer of 2001, Reid was back in London. In July he obtained a new British passport in Amsterdam, claiming that he had accidentally put his old one through a washing machine, and flew to Israel on an El Al flight. Once in Israel, according to security sources there, Reid spent most of his time in Tel Aviv, where he cased the mall and office complex called the Azrieli Center as well as the local bus and train stations. ("Abdul Ra'uff" also checked security at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.) After 10 days in Israel, Reid crossed into Egypt and from there flew to Turkey and back to Pakistan before being debriefed (if the Journal's Abdul Ra'uff is in fact Reid) in Afghanistan.

He didn't stay there long. On Aug. 9, Reid was back in Amsterdam. It was a good choice. Amsterdam is an open city. In its streets and bars, a rough-looking and by all accounts singularly malodorous Englishman would hardly merit a second glance. He spent much of his time sending e-mails to addresses in Pakistan from Internet cafes. Presumably, it was during these months that the plan to bomb Flight 63 took shape.

Reid had another reason for choosing the Netherlands. The country, says Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on terrorism at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, has become a center of al-Qaeda activity. In September, Dutch police raided houses in Rotterdam and picked up Jerome Courtailler, a French convert to Islam arrested as a suspected associate in the Paris-embassy plot and yet another young European who was known to have attended the Finsbury Park mosque. Dutch investigators now speculate that before he was arrested, Courtailler helped Reid find temporary employment in Rotterdam.

On Dec. 5, Reid was off again, this time to Brussels, where he applied for yet another new passport; an embassy spokeswoman says his previous one was worn. He stayed at the Hotel Dar Salam in the Belgian capital's Arab quarter, where travel agencies offer bus trips to North Africa and the air smells of figs, oranges and cous-cous. On most days, Reid walked into the city center to send e-mails from the Easynet Internet cafe.

By Dec. 17, Reid was finally in Paris, hanging out in the Goutte d'Or neighborhood, a center of the city's Arab and African population. On Dec. 21, he made his first attempt to fly to Miami. French authorities have discovered an e-mail exchange made afterward with an interlocutor in Pakistan who urged Reid to try again the next day. "They obviously didn't want him spending a lot of time sitting around, where he might have changed his mind--or been caught," says a French investigator.

Reid's movements in Paris have been traced to fast-food restaurants and Internet cafes. But French authorities have found no evidence that he stayed at a Paris hotel. This has spooked the French police, who are convinced that the bomb was made locally, implying the existence of an unknown terrorist cell in Paris. "He stayed with someone," says an investigator. "When we find that bit of thread and pull it, a lot of larger tissue will unwind."

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