Ramzi Yousef

Pakistani citizen Ramzi Yousef is a convicted terrorist and the nephew of notorious 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (KSM). Prior to his 1995 arrest by Pakistani authorities, Yousef planned or carried out several successful and attempted international terrorist attacks, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others.Robert Windrem, “Al-Qaida timeline: Plots and attacks,” MSNBC Research and NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4677978/ns/world_news-hunt_for_al_qaida/t/al-qaida-timeline-plots-attacks/#.WN61y28rKpo. Yousef subsequently worked alongside KSM to plot the 1994 Philippine Airlines Flight 434 bombing, as well as the attempted 1995 “Bojinka plot”—in which the men sought to destroy 12 U.S. commercial airplanes within 48 hours.Phil Hirschkorn, “Top terrorist convictions upheld,” CNN, April 4, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/04/04/terrorism.yousef/. In planning these attacks, Yousef relied on explosives training he had received at an al-Qaeda training camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 1992.“1993 World Trade Center Bombing,” New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/1993-world-trade-center-bombing-gallery-1.2130538?pmSlide=1.2130526;
Henry Schuster, “The next big fear,” CNN, February 2, 20016, http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/02/02/schuster.column/index.html?iref=mpstoryview;
“United States of America vs. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef…,” Untied States Court of Appeals, April 4, 2003, 8, http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/usyousef40403opn.pdf.

Following his February 1995 arrest in Islamabad by the FBI and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Yousef was extradited to the United States for legal proceedings and convicted on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder.“Plane terror suspects convicted on all counts,” CNN, September 5, 1996, http://www.cnn.com/US/9609/05/terror.plot/. Yousef is serving a life sentence plus 240 years at the federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado.Find an inmate [Ramzi Yousef],” Federal Bureau of Prisons, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/. A judge on Yousef’s case, U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy, has referred to Yousef as a “cold-blooded killer, completely devoid of conscience.”Richard A. Serrano, “After 15 years in solitary, convicted terrorists pleads for contact with others,” Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/16/nation/la-na-yousef-solitary-20130217.

Yousef was born and raised by Pakistani parents in Fahaheel District, Kuwait, then home to a large number of Palestinians prior to Kuwait’s expulsion of that community during the first Gulf War. Yousef would later justify his terrorist attacks by citing support for the Palestinian cause, together with his hatred of Israel and its ally, the United States.Christopher S. Wren, “Charged as Terror Master, Surrounded by Mysteries,” New York Times, May 29, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/29/nyregion/charged-as-terror-master-surrounded-by-mysteries.html;
Benjamin Weiser, “Mastermind Gets Life for Bombing of Trade Center,” New York Times, January 9, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/09/nyregion/mastermind-gets-life-for-bombing-of-trade-center.html.
In 1986, Yousef left Kuwait and studied electronic engineering in Swansea, Wales, in the United Kingdom. He returned to Kuwait in 1989 after completing his studies, and moved to Pakistan in the summer of 1990.Christopher S. Wren, “Charged as Terror Master, Surrounded by Mysteries,” New York Times, May 29, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/29/nyregion/charged-as-terror-master-surrounded-by-mysteries.html.

In the spring of 1992, Yousef traveled to an al-Qaeda camp on the Af-Pak border, where he received training in building explosives and began to plot the World Trade Center bombing.Christopher S. Wren, “Charged as Terror Master, Surrounded by Mysteries,” New York Times, May 29, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/29/nyregion/charged-as-terror-master-surrounded-by-mysteries.html;
“1993 World Trade Center Bombing,” New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/1993-world-trade-center-bombing-gallery-1.2130538?pmSlide=1.2130526;
Henry Schuster, “The next big fear,” CNN, February 2, 20016, http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/02/02/schuster.column/index.html?iref=mpstoryview;
“United States of America vs. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef…,” Untied States Court of Appeals, April 4, 2003, 8, http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/usyousef40403opn.pdf.
That fall, he moved to the United States, flying into New York’s JFK International Airport. Yousef used a fake Iraqi passport, claiming that he was seeking political asylum. He was held and interrogated but released after 72 hours, in part due to overcrowded holding cells.Terry McDermott, “The Mastermind,” The New Yorker, September 13, 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/13/the-mastermind;
Bob Martin, “Vetting for terror ties has failed for two decades,” New York Post, December 14, 2015, http://nypost.com/2015/12/14/vetting-for-terror-ties-has-failed-for-two-decades/.

Yousef immediately set about recruiting co-conspirators for his World Trade Center bombing plot from a mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey. With assistance including financial support from KSM, Yousef plotted and directed the World Trade Center bombing that took place on February 26, 1993.“1993 World Trade Center Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, February 21, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/05/us/1993-world-trade-center-bombing-fast-facts/;
Robin Wright and John-Thor Dahlburg, “Legwork, Luck Closed Net Around Bombing Suspect: A mysterious informer’s tip capped an intense search for alleged mastermind of trade center blast,” Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1995, http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-12/news/mn-31228_1_trade-center-bombing/2;
Terry McDermott, “The Mastermind,” New Yorker, September 30, 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/13/the-mastermind.
Ultimately designed to topple both towers, the 1,500 pound bomb—planted in a truck parked in the North Tower’s basement garage—created a hole of 200 feet by 100 feet, killing six people, injuring more than 1,000 others, and causing $500 million in damage. On the night of the bombing, Yousef fled the United States on a pre-booked Pakistan International Airways flight to Karachi, where he joined KSM.Robin Wright and John-Thor Dahlburg, “Legwork, Luck Closed Net Around Bombing Suspect: A mysterious informer’s tip capped an intense search for alleged mastermind of trade center blast,” Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1995, http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-12/news/mn-31228_1_trade-center-bombing/2. By May 1993, four of Yousef’s five accomplices in the World Trade Center bombing had been arrested. All four were sentenced to 240 years in prison.“1993 World Trade Center Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, February 21, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/05/us/1993-world-trade-center-bombing-fast-facts/. The fifth accomplice, Omar Abdel-Rahman, was convicted in October 1995 and sentenced to life in prison.“1993 World Trade Center Bombing Fast Facts,” CNN, February 21, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/05/us/1993-world-trade-center-bombing-fast-facts/.

Yousef did not stay in Karachi for long. In early 1994, he and KSM moved to Manila, Philippines, believing it would be a relatively easy place from which to plan terrorist attacks.Terry McDermott, “The Mastermind,” New Yorker, September 30, 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/13/the-mastermind. That summer, the pair—alongside accomplices Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah—began to plan the “Bojinka” plot, the intended bombing of 12 U.S. commercial passenger planes over the Pacific Ocean within two days. In addition to the plot, Yousef and KSM planned to bomb U.S.-bound cargo carriers by smuggling explosives on board, and to assassinate Pope John Paul II and U.S. President Bill Clinton during the leaders’ respective trips to Manila in late 1994.National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Thomas H. Kean, and Lee Hamilton. 2004. The 9/11 Commission report: final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. (Washington, D.C.): 489, http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf. Yousef and KSM prepared for the Bojinka plot by building and testing explosives—including at an empty Manila movie theater.Raymond Bonner and Benjamin Weiser, “Echoes of early design to use chemicals to blow up airliners – Asia – Pacific – International Herald Tribune,” New York Times, August 11, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/11/world/asia/11iht-web.0811manila.2447764.html.

On December 11, 1994, in order to further test explosives for the Bojinka plot, Yousef planted a bomb on Philippine Air Flight 434 from Cebu to Tokyo. The explosion killed a Japanese businessman and injured 10 other passengers. Despite the blast—which caused a two-square-foot hole in the cabin floor and the severed control cables connected to the steering controls—the pilot managed to land the plane at Okinawa Island, Japan.Raymond Bonner and Benjamin Weiser, “Echoes of early design to use chemicals to blow up airliners – Asia – Pacific – International Herald Tribune,” New York Times, August 11, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/11/world/asia/11iht-web.0811manila.2447764.html;
“Plane terror suspects convicted on all counts,” CNN, September 5, 1996, http://www.cnn.com/US/9609/05/terror.plot/.

The Bojinka plot was thwarted by Philippine authorities in January 1995 after they discovered bomb-making materials in Yousef and KSM’s apartment. Authorities had been called to the apartment due to a fire in the men’s makeshift explosives laboratory. Authorities also uncovered a laptop with detailed plans of the Bojinka plot, and found that Yousef was experimenting with liquid explosives and had invented remote trigger devices.“Plane terror suspects convicted on all counts,” CNN, September 5, 1996, http://www.cnn.com/US/9609/05/terror.plot/. KSM soon fled to Qatar, and Yousef to Pakistan.Raymond Bonner and Benjamin Weiser, “Echoes of early design to use chemicals to blow up airlines – Asia – Pacific – International Herald Tribune,” New York Times, August 11, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/11/world/asia/11iht-web.0811manila.2447764.html;
Terry McDermott, “The Mastermind,” New Yorker, September 30, 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/13/the-mastermind.

On February 7, 1995, Yousef was captured in a joint FBI-ISI raid in Islamabad and swiftly extradited to the United States to face trial. Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy noted that during Yousef’s trial, he “was collecting urea in his jail cell, a main ingredient in the WTC bomb.” Duffy also noted that Yousef had “attempted to obtain the particular type of cheap wristwatch that had been used as the timing device” in bombs intended for airplanes.Richard A. Serrano, “After 15 years in solitary, convicted terrorists pleads for contact with others,” Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/16/nation/la-na-yousef-solitary-20130217. Yousef was found guilty for his roles in the Bojinka plot and the World Trade Center bombing on September 5, 1996, and November 12, 1997, respectively.“Plane terror suspects convicted on all counts,” CNN, September 5, 1996, http://www.cnn.com/US/9609/05/terror.plot/; “United States of America vs. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef…,” Untied States Court of Appeals, April 4, 2003, 8, http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/usyousef40403opn.pdf.

 
Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On July 23, 2016, two suicide bombers targeted members of Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority who were demonstrating in Kabul. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 97 people and injured 260 others. 

View Archive

CEP on Twitter