Terror plotter who planned tunnel bombs in NYC studied at Concordia University lead wealthy playboy life
July 9, 2006
The plot was first reported by the New York Daily News in its Friday editions.http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060707/newyork_terrorplot_060708/20060708?hub=CTVNewsAt11
NY plot suspect attended Mtl. university: report
Updated Sat. Jul. 8 2006 11:37 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
A man held in Lebanon on suspicion of plotting an alleged attack on New York's train tunnels attended Montreal's Concordia University in the 1990s, according to The Canadian Press.
An anonymous source told the news agency that alleged ringleader Assem Hammoud, 31, took "business-related" courses at the university, possibly from 1993 to 1997.
Earlier, an Arabic-language Beirut newspaper reported that Hammoud holds a Canadian passport, but his mother, Nabila Qotob, denies this. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said her son visited Montreal but does not hold a Canadian passport.
Hammoud, a native of Lebanon, has been held by authorities there since April.
The FBI announced his and eight others' arrests on Friday, saying the men were linked to a plot to attack train tunnels under the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day refused to comment Friday on the possible Canadian connection.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking to reporters at the Calgary Stampede breakfast on Saturday, said little more.
"We will co-operate with the U.S. and we'll start gathering all the information," Harper said.
Meanwhile, authorities in Lebanon are more talkative, saying Saturday that they found maps and bomb plans on Assem's personal computer.
"The information found in (Assem) Hammoud's personal computer was very important because it contained maps and bombing plans that were being prepared," acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat said in a local television interview.
Other officials said Hammoud confessed to the plot and had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
"During the investigation, Assem Hammoud admitted that he was planning to go to Pakistan for four months for training on the implementation of this operation in New York and that the implementation date was the end of 2006," Fatfat said.
With files from CTV News Ottawa Bureau, The Associated Press and Canadian Press
Bomb Suspect saw Gate Bridge as possible target
Wealthy Beirut Native had Al Qaeda ties officials say
Mohammed Bazzi Newsday
07-09) 04:00 PDT Beirut -- Before Assem Hammoud and his associates decided to try to bomb commuter train tunnels beneath New York's Hudson River, they had considered several other targets: the Golden Gate Bridge and the forests of California, and the Brooklyn Bridge, where they would set a huge fire, Lebanese security officials told Newsday.
They eventually settled on the train tunnels, plotting to send suicide bombers to kill thousands of commuters and devastate the U.S. economy, according to two security officials who spoke Saturday on the condition of anonymity.
"They studied different possibilities, and they decided to move ahead with an attack on the train tunnels," one official said. "They thought that would be the most viable plan."
Lebanese investigators found maps and other information about the two bridges and California forests when they raided Hammoud's home in Beirut after his arrest on April 27, the official said.
Hammoud, 31, is the alleged mastermind of the plot by eight al Qaeda followers scattered across six countries. He is being held in Lebanon.
U.S. and Lebanese officials unraveled the plan by monitoring Internet chat rooms used by Islamic extremists -- long before any of the suspects tried to secure financing or explosives. None had even visited the United States.
U.S. officials said Friday that two other plotters were in custody but refused to say where. The Lebanese officials said Hammoud was in contact with militants in Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Denmark and Canada, and that the other suspects are in those countries. The five plotters still at large are a Saudi, a Yemeni, a Palestinian, a Jordanian and an Iranian Kurd, according to the officials.
Although Lebanese and U.S. authorities said Hammoud was an al Qaeda operative who had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden, they did not outline his alleged ties to that group -- or its leaders -- when they first announced his arrest on Friday. That led some analysts to speculate that Hammoud was part of a new trend in global terrorism: small, localized cells that don't necessarily take orders from bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders.
"This is the lone wolf phenomenon, where a small band of like-minded extremists decide to take action on their own," said Diaa Rashwan, a leading expert on Islamic militancy at the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "They might draw inspiration from al Qaeda and bin Laden, but they might not be following direct orders."
The security officials said Hammoud had contact with at least two of 13 men who were arrested by Lebanese authorities in December for belonging to al Qaeda and planning attacks from Lebanon.
The officials said Hammoud was in touch with Hassan Nabaat, a Lebanese, and Hany Shanti, who has Lebanese and Jordanian nationalities. But Lebanese officials have provided few details about those arrested, their relationship to al Qaeda and what attacks they were plotting.
Investigators moved to arrest Hammoud in late April -- after keeping him under surveillance for three months -- because they concluded that he had obtained a visa to Pakistan and was getting ready to leave. After his arrest, the officials said, he confessed he was to undergo four months of training in Pakistan at an al Qaeda-linked camp.
The officials said Hammoud also had applied for a tourist visa at the Canadian Embassy in Beirut. He had traveled several times to Canada and studied business administration at a university in Montreal in the mid-1990s. Once he entered Canada this time, an official said, Hammoud planned to go to the United States and organize the train attacks in October or November.
The son of a wealthy Sunni Muslim family from Beirut, Hammoud taught economics and management at Lebanese International University, a private college. He is fluent in Arabic, English, French and German, relatives said.
In militant chat rooms, he was instructed not to grow a beard, wear Islamic clothing or show any outward sign of religious devotion. He was told to act like a typical Lebanese young man so he could avoid suspicion.
Hammoud did not disappoint his militant handlers, living a fast life in Beirut, according to his family and Lebanese officials. He frequently went out to nightclubs and cafes. He traveled around the Middle East, Europe and Canada. He drank alcohol and dated women. He even drove a red sports car.
In an interview at the family's home in an upscale Beirut neighborhood, his mother, Nabila Qotb, 58, insisted her son had no connection to al Qaeda or any militant group.
"He's very well educated. He speaks several languages. He likes to enjoy life, to go out and play sports," she said, sitting in a living room with flower print couches. "Why are people making these accusations against him? My son is innocent. I'm certain that he has no connection to al Qaeda. Absolutely none at all."
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