Cover image for The new jackals : Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism
Title:
The new jackals : Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism
Author:
Reeve, Simon.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Northeastern University Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
294 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781555534073
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Simon Reeve is a journalist and writer. He worked for The Sunday Times for five years before leaving to finish co-writing The Millennium Bomb, published in 1996. He has since contributed to books on corruption, organized crime and terrorism, and has written investigative feature articles for publications ranging from Time magazine to Esquire. He lives in London. During research for The New Jackals Reeve has eaten ice cream sorbet with Benazir Bhutto, spent hours sitting in stairwells on a London housing estate waiting for a former Lebanese smuggler, met American intelligence officials in suburban burger bars and a Chinese restaurant, and been followed by agents from two different countries during meetings with a renegade Asian spy.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This is a true-crime story of the perp, alias Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Saudi Arabian millionaire-terrorist who the law thinks financed it, Osama bin Laden. Having nailed Yousef, U.S. officials have willingly described their success to Reeve, a freelance investigative journalist working out of London. Reeve replays how authorities were quickly on the case thanks to Yousef's dim-witted accomplice (who tried to claim his deposit on the van destroyed in the blast). Yousef himself was clever, and Reeve sketches out his still-murky biography, which begins with his birth in Pakistan, education in Britain, and unknown activity in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets. Bin Laden also was in that jihad, following a youth devoted to Beirut nightclubs. A proven menace who's demanded that Muslims kill any American by any means, bin Laden's chilling successes, lately in 1998's embassy attacks, will not likely be his last, and, in this worthwhile report, Reeve commendably cautions readers against condemning the Islamic faith because of bin Laden's fanatical violence. --Gilbert Taylor


Library Journal Review

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the United States assisted in training the rebels fighting the Soviets. Little did it know that it was thereby paving the way for future terrorism. Reeve, an investigative journalist and freelance writer, explains how two men who eventually benefited from this military training have terrorized the world during the past decade. He argues that Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the bombing of the World Trade Center, acted from a mixture of political and religious motives and shows that he was captured only through the hard work (and a little luck) of the FBI and other intelligence agencies around the world. Reeve also provides a better understanding of Osama bin Laden, who funds the terrorism movement (he is from an extremely wealthy family) and was responsible for the double U.S. Embassy bombing in Africa in 1998. Reeve argues that even if bin Laden were captured, someone else will take his place: "It is no longer a question of if terrorists will successfully use a weapon of mass destruction, but when." This ought to bring chills to your spine. Well written and researched, this belongs in public libraries.ÄMichael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Authored by a British investigative journalist, this is an intriguing account of terrorism against the US by Ramzi Yousef and Osama Bin Laden. Based on previously unpublished documents and on interviews with FBI agents, Western intelligence sources, and Yousef's victims and associates, the book traces the roots of Islamist terrorism to the "Blowback" from US support for Mujahidin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. A blow-by-blow account details Yousef's actions leading to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, his escape to Pakistan, plots to plant explosives on US airliners, and capture and imprisonment. Included is an in-depth analysis of Yousef's ethnic origins, motivation to commit terrorism, and ties to Bin Laden's terror network. Next the book focuses on Bin Laden, his role in the Afghan war, motivation to establish al-Qaida to fight a holy war against the US, and his role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Yousef and Bin Laden are seen as the first of a new breed of terrorists, seeking weapons of mass destruction and willing to die for their cause. This disheartening book is full of warnings about the future. Recommended at all levels. R. H. Dekmejian; University of Southern California


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One The Twin Towers JUST BEFORE 4 a.m. on 26 February 1993, a yellow Ford Econoline van bearing the markings of the Ryder hire company emerged from a driveway beside a scruffy apartment block at 40 Pamrapo Avenue, New Jersey, and turned slowly on to the deserted streets of Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from the bright lights of Manhattan. With a dark blue Lincoln and a red Chevrolet following closely behind, the three vehicles drove the short distance down J. F. Kennedy Boulevard to the Shell petrol station at the junction with Route 440 and pulled up by the pumps.     From the passenger seat of the Ford van, a dark-haired man called Ramzi Yousef watched as Willie Hernandez Moosh, the forecourt attendant working the graveyard shift, left his small booth between the pumps. Yousef lowered his window as Moosh approached.     `What do you want?' asked Moosh.     `Fill it up,' replied Yousef.     As Moosh began filling the tank, the passenger door opened, and Yousef slid out on to the forecourt, bracing himself against the cold. Yousef was a tall, wiry man with large ears and a bulbous nose. His eyes flicked over the cars behind and then swept up and down the street. Then, as if a nagging thought was preying on his mind, he began inspecting the yellow van. Moosh removed the petrol cap and watched idly as Yousef began checking the sides and glancing underneath.     Yousef knew the van was designed to hold 2,000lbs in its 295 cubic feet of space. It had been carefully selected as the perfect size for carrying a massive terrorist bomb to attack a target on American soil. Yousef had travelled thousands of miles and spent six months in America plotting and then building a 1,200lb bomb, which was resting in the back of the van with several heavy tanks of hydrogen. But was the cargo pushing the van low on its springs? Nothing could be left to chance.     Moosh was too busy watching Yousef to notice anything suspicious about the van. He had a long, pointy face, thought Moosh. The face of a horse surrounded by a beard.     The 22-gallon tank on a yellow Ford Econoline van takes a few moments to fill, and Moosh left the nozzle in the tank and walked back to the Lincoln. `Fill it up,' said Mahmud Abouhalima from the warmth of the driving seat. A tall, stocky, red-headed man, Abouhalima had no desire to brave the bitter cold. Ramzi could handle any final inspection -- after all, he was in charge.     Moosh pumped petrol into the vehicle, then walked back to the van to ask who was paying. Mohammad Salameh, a lean young man with a straggly beard, turned to Moosh from the driving seat and motioned to the Lincoln behind.     `He will pay,' said Salameh.     The Lincoln's window lowered again to let in the icy air, and Abouhalima handed Moosh a $50 note -- $18 worth of petrol for the van and around $13 for the car. Abouhalima took the change, gave Moosh a $2 tip, then Yousef jumped back into the van and the drivers of all three vehicles gunned their engines.     There were few cars on the streets that night, and Moosh watched the convoy as it pulled slowly out of the forecourt. Suddenly the lead van jerked to a halt. A white Jersey City police car was coming into view, driving slowly along J. F. Kennedy Boulevard. The van quickly swung round into a parking space behind the petrol station's office, with the two cars close behind, and Yousef and Salameh jumped out and opened the bonnet.     `Can you bring us some water?' Yousef shouted to Moosh, pretending there was a problem with the van. Moosh grabbed a jug of water and walked over to the two men. Yousef and Salameh were peering into the engine bay and shooting glances at the police car cruising slowly along the street. It must have been a nerve-racking few moments for the men.     Earlier that night Salameh had calmly rung the police from near the Pathmark supermarket at the Route 440 shopping plaza and told them the Ryder van had been stolen from the car park. It was a clever ruse to avert suspicion: Yousef was planning a heinous act of terrorism -- he did not want detectives investigating his handiwork to trawl around rental centres and discover a group of Arabs had failed to return a large van. Yousef decided they would report it as stolen and give police a false licence-plate number. But even without a stolen vehicle report, many police officers might consider a three-vehicle convoy driving slowly around Jersey City before dawn vaguely suspicious.     Yousef and Salameh held their breath, but the car cruised by. Perhaps the officers did not see the small convoy. Perhaps they had not been given the report of a stolen yellow Ryder van. Moosh noticed a man in the red car motioning to the others and pointing at the road. Yousef and Salameh left the water untouched, slammed the bonnet shut, climbed back into the van, and the convoy turned back on to the streets of Jersey City.     By 8 a.m. the van was nosing through the New York rush-hour towards Manhattan. With Yousef giving directions the van arrived at a hotel in midtown Manhattan where an old friend of his called Eyad Ismoil, a baby-faced Jordanian college student, was staying for a few days. `They were knocking on the door at 9 a.m. and saying "Hurry up, we are going to be late",' said Ismoil. `I took a bath and went with them and he [Yousef] asked me [to] drive; he said, "You are a taxi driver and a driving expert in the street." I laughed and told them I was willing to drive.' Ismoil climbed behind the wheel of the van, and the group drove towards southern Manhattan. `In the middle of a major street we stopped at a traffic light; he [Yousef] said "Go to the right from here" in the direction of an underground tunnel,' said Ismoil. `I did and we went down underground. I was surprised ... He said "Park here" ...' At the southern tip of Manhattan island, dominating the New York skyline, the twin towers of the World Trade Center stand proud, symbolizing commercial power and the core American values of hard work and success. New Yorkers are rightly proud of the vast buildings, which rise 107 storeys or a third of a mile into the sky and are served by 250 different lifts. Tower One hosts a huge antenna which pushes the total height to 1,710 feet above sea level. The entire World Trade Center complex comprises seven huge buildings, and even the underground basement boasts impressive statistics: a subterranean world of cooling pipes, parking garages and offices, bigger than the Empire State Building, it houses a small army of 300 mechanics, electricians, engineers and cleaners who keep the towers alive for the daily working and visiting population of nearly 150,000.     On 26 February 1993, Monica Smith was one of those working in a small office on level B-2 in the town under the ground. Monica was a pretty, dark-haired, 35-year-old woman from Ecuador, a secretary whose main responsibility was scrutinizing time-sheets submitted by cleaning contractors. She had met her husband Eddie in the World Trade Center when he had gone to the building for a sales meeting, and now she was seven months pregnant with little Eddie, their first child. Her colleagues adored Smith, fussing around her attentively from the moment she announced her pregnancy. Just a few days previously Stephen Knapp, a 48-year-old maintenance supervisor, had even asked his wife Louise to bake Monica a special dish of aubergine parmigiana.     At noon the room next to Smith's office was being taken over for lunch. A meeting about maintenance services had finished with the arrival of Robert Kirkpatrick, the 61-year-old bespectacled chief locksmith for the towers, closely followed by Bill Macko, a 47-year-old maintenance worker. Kirkpatrick always sat in the same large oak chair for lunch and no meeting would get in his way. Macko unfolded a newspaper, pulled out a knife from his pocket and slowly began peeling an orange. Stephen Knapp, the next to join the group, cracked open an illicit beer from a refrigerator in the corner of the room and flopped wearily into a chair.     Bill Lavin, who worked for the chief maintenance contractor for the Trade Center, eyed his friends, then decided he wanted to see daylight, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the snow forecast on the television that morning. It was falling lightly outside, dusting Manhattan in white. Lavin told the others he would be back in a few minutes and walked down the corridor towards the elevators.     A solid concrete wall separated the lunchroom from a ramp to the public car park. It was supposed to be a no-parking zone, with signs warning off anyone tempted to stop, but it was so close to the offices that nobody took any notice of the rules. As Knapp, Macko and Kirkpatrick ate their lunch, a yellow Port Authority van was parked in the zone. One of the basement army, a purchasing agent leaving the maintenance meeting, grabbed a set of keys to the van and drove off to buy some lunch. There were no windows through which the three workers could see another yellow van glide slowly down the ramp and into the same space. Nobody saw the driver and passenger slide out a few minutes later and disappear. There was no one to stop them, no one to question them, and certainly no one to tell them they were illegally parked. Even if a guard had seen them, he would have assumed the van was owned by a maintenance company. Yellow vans were often left on the ramp while heavy boxes were loaded or unloaded.     Nobody was planning to unload the contents of this yellow Ford Econoline bearing the markings of the Ryder hire company. In the back, Ramzi Yousef used a cheap cigarette lighter to ignite four 20ft-long fuses. They would take just 12 minutes to burn down to his massive bomb. Yousef clambered out of the van, jumped into the red car that had followed him into the garage, and then drove carefully out towards West Street. Then he had a shock: another van was blocking the exit, barring his escape from the car park. Yousef must have felt like a character in a Hollywood disaster movie, with the seconds ticking down to oblivion. The van driver shouted to Yousef he would move in a few moments, and within two minutes Yousef was out of the Trade Center and back on the crowded streets of southern Manhattan.     In her office Monica Smith was carefully checking time-sheets. Next door the lunching workers were indulging in a little verbal sparring, joking and gently teasing each other. In the back of the Ryder van the fuses, encased in surgical tubing to limit smoke, were burning down at the rate of an inch every two and a half seconds. The critical moment came at 12.17 and 37 seconds. One of the fuses burnt to its end and ignited the gunpowder in an Atlas Rockmaster blasting cap. In a split second the cap exploded with a pressure of around 15,000lbs per square inch, igniting in turn the first nitro-glycerine container of the bomb, which erupted with a pressure of about 150,000lbs per square inch -- the equivalent of about 10,000 atmospheres. In turn, the nitro-glycerine ignited cardboard boxes containing a witches' brew of urea pellets and sulphuric acid.     In the split second that followed the huge explosion blasted in all directions, tearing the van to shreds and ripping through the nearest office, stamping the patterned imprint of Monica Smith's green sweater into her shoulder. It killed little Eddie, tore apart her lungs, arteries and internal organs, fractured her pelvis and broke her leg. Concrete blocks pummelled her head. She died instantly, `blunt impact trauma' extinguishing her life.     Bob Kirkpatrick was the next to die. A veteran of the Korean war, just six months from retirement, he was hurled across the room, his skull rent apart by a piece of piping; the left side of his body flattened on impact.     Bill Macko, another ex-military man, was sitting next to Kirkpatrick: small chunks of concrete, moving faster than speeding bullets, ravaged the left side of his face. The blast ripped apart his vertebrae, tore his intestines from the side of his abdomen, and ruptured his arteries, spleen and kidneys. Before Stephen Knapp had time to close his eyelids tiny particles of concrete peppered his eyes, then his body was thrown backwards.     One floor above, Wilfredo Mercado, the 37-year-old receiving agent for the Windows on the World restaurant (that sits a quarter of a mile above the basement at the top of One World Trade Center), had been having a quiet snooze. Mercado studied engineering in his native Peru before moving to New York, and his short nap was a daily ritual, a brief moment of rest in a busy day. For most of the week Mercado worked in the twin towers checking that all the fruit and vegetables for the restaurant were delivered correctly. The other two days he returned to the building to work as a security guard. His wife Olga and two young daughters were his life. Mercado probably never woke from his brief slumber. Like a giant hand rising from below, the explosion plucked the Peruvian out of his room and sucked him down five floors. He landed head first, still in his chair, and his body was crushed under tonnes of concrete.     Back in the car park 45-year-old John DiGiovanni, a dark-haired, olive-skinned dental products salesman from Valley Stream, New York, had just parked near an underground ramp when the bomb went off. He was thrown around 30 feet, his body crumpled and bloodied. Paramedics eventually reached him and took him to St Vincent's Hospital, but it was already too late. John DiGiovanni died of traumatic cardiac arrest, caused by the extreme nature of his injuries and deep smoke inhalation.     Timothy Lang had been waiting to get into the car park behind DiGiovanni. A successful young stock-trader, Lang parked his car underground just moments before the explosion. Now he found himself dazed and barely conscious. He crawled through piles of rubble, his neck bleeding profusely, his lungs hacking from the smoke, and collapsed. Such are the vagaries of life. DiGiovanni had cut in front of Lang as their cars entered the building. Lang survived; DiGiovanni died.     The blast-wave roared upwards, passing through five reinforced concrete floors and severing all power. For a brief moment the buildings were plunged into darkness. In an underground station below the twin towers commuters screamed as the blast blew out a hole 180ft by 12ft in the side of the wall on level 2. Concrete and twisted metal flew through the air, ripping through legs and arms, and lacerating spines.     Outside on the street, several hundred feet from `ground zero', the centre of the blast, the back window of a car waiting at traffic lights on West Street blew out. The shockwave spread out from its source, and within seconds tourists one mile away on Liberty and Ellis Islands in New York harbour felt the ground shudder gently. Many New Yorkers thought there had been an earthquake.     `There was a big boom, the building shook and I looked out of the window across the Hudson River to see if New Jersey had disappeared,' said Lisa Hoffman, a worker in the nearby World Financial Center. The first call to the emergency services came within five seconds of the explosion.     `Police operator five. Is this an emergency?' queried the operator.     `Yes, there is an emergency,' said a male caller at precisely 12.17 and 42 seconds. `Something just blew up underneath the parking garage tunnel between World Trade Center Tower One and the World Financial Center, across the street.'     `Okay, it's in the World Trade Center?'     `No, it's an underground parking garage, the entranceway down there.'     `Hold on a minute,' said the operator. `What street is it on?'     `On West Street.'     `And what?'     `West,' said the caller, `near Vesey, just toward the FDR from Vesey.'     `Okay, hold on for the Fire Department, you're in Manhattan, right?'     The operator decided the caller was genuine and transferred him to the Fire Department operator.     `Fire Department, Fletcher, 191.'     `Hi,' said the man, `there was a big explosion in the underground entranceway to the parking lot on West Street between World Trade Center Tower One and the World Financial Center across the street on West.'     `Okay, would that be, like, by the Vista Hotel?'     `Exactly.'     `Okay, and it's what number are you calling from?'     `I'm calling from 298 6020.'     `Okay, Fire Department is on our way, sir.'     The Fire Department were already there. Lieutenant Matt Donachie, 36, was standing just around the corner on Liberty Street, watching Fire-Engine 10 backing into its bay, when he heard the explosion. Donachie jumped up into the front seat of the tender and radioed his dispatcher. A 12-year veteran, Donachie was convinced it was an electricity transformer explosion -- a routine call. The tender drove around the corner and slowed to look for signs of damage. As it cruised past the 22-storey Vista Hotel, which stood between the twin towers, Donachie saw a wisp of smoke curling out into the street from a ramp leading down to the underground car park. He radioed for more units. While the Fire Department moved into action, workers on the upper floors of the towers were already smelling smoke in their offices. Car fires in the basement were pumping out thick, acrid smoke, which spiralled up through stairways, elevator shafts and ventilation pipes as if the towers were giant chimneys.     During construction of the building safety and union officials had wanted the stairways pressurized, so the air pressure inside would be higher, preventing smoke entering during a fire. Their advice was ignored: now tens of thousands of people had to escape from one of the world's tallest buildings through thick smoke and down blackened stairwells.     Many people were crushed underfoot as panic began to spread. Hysterical men and women punched and kicked their way down the stairs. In a country fed a regular diet of disaster movies, it was almost inevitable that many would think they were facing death. Denise Bosco, a secretary, was working on the 82nd floor when the bomb exploded: `The whole building shook. The lights flashed on and off, the computers went down. Then, instantly, there was smoke. I was terrified. People panicked. They started pushing and shouting to get out. Some of them were throwing up. I said, "Oh, dear God, what is it? Is it my time? Is this the way?"'     Many of those in the towers evidently thought so. Rescue workers on the ground saw people hanging out of windows, apparently considering whether to jump. One man threw a hastily written note from one of the upper storeys addressed to his family. It said simply: `I love you and will always love you.'     Amid the panic there were great acts of heroism. Two men carried a female lawyer in a wheelchair down 66 storeys. Debbie Matut, a pregnant transmitter technician, was plucked off the roof of one tower by a police helicopter hovering 50ft above in powerful crosswinds. But for most there was just a seemingly endless ordeal.     Peter Stanhope, a British banker working on the 85th floor, was trapped for hours. Many of his colleagues tried to escape down the stairs, only to find the lighting had been turned off to prevent electrical fires. `We had very little communication from the outside world, bar what came in on the emergency telephone line,' he said. `We closed the doors and put wet towels across the bottom of them.' More than 200 five-year-old children were caught in the panic. One group of 70 children from a Brooklyn school was trapped in darkness in lifts for five hours before rescue arrived. Anna Marie Tesoriero, their teacher, sang `This Old Man' and used her cigarette lighter to keep spirits high while children wept and vomited with fear.     Calls flooded into emergency control rooms, television stations and radio programmes. The thousands of workers stuck in the towers were terrified. Was the basement on fire? Should they stay where they were? Should they brave the smoke and try to navigate the pitch-black stairways? In a panic, many smashed windows, showering lethal shards of glass on to the emergency services hundreds of feet below, and feeding the fires inside the building with oxygen. Flames began to roar out of control at the base of the building. The New York City Fire Department sent a total of 750 vehicles to the explosion, and did not leave the scene for the next month. It took hundreds of firefighters two hours to extinguish the blazes and more than five hours to evacuate both towers.     Christopher King walked down dozens of flights of stairs from the Dean Witter brokerage. `Once we made that decision [to leave], some panic set in,' he admitted. `There were no lights, so we put our hands on the person in front of us to see and made a human chain. As we headed down the stairs, it became hotter and hotter and you never knew if, when you turned a corner, there would suddenly be a wall of flames. Towering Inferno was in our minds all the way. When I reached the ground, my face was dark and sooty from the smoke, I was drenched in sweat, but all I cared about was being alive.'     Among the last to leave was Peter Gseslad, a 26-year-old trader at Sumitomo Bank on the 96th floor. `We were still trading after the explosion,' he said. `We thought it was just lightning. We were told by the brokers we were doing deals with; they said, "Hey, there's smoke coming out of your building."' Gseslad and his colleagues struggled down the stairs, some of them talking and conducting deals on their cellular phones on the way, but by the time they reached the 60th floor, `people started freaking out': `Lots of them just couldn't breathe. By the time we got down to 24 it was like a race. We just ran for it.'     Gasping for breath, their faces blackened by soot and muck, thousands of workers and visitors staggered out on to the street and collapsed into the snow, many of them hacking up blood from their lungs.     The bombing took six innocent lives. It also caused 1,042 injuries and more hospital casualties than any other event in domestic American history apart from the Civil War. Many of those who escaped without apparent physical injury will be scarred mentally for life, and yet it is almost miraculous that in such a huge bomb attack even more were not killed or injured. More certainly would have perished had the bomb not been detonated during lunchtime, when many workers had left the twin towers. If it had exploded in the early evening, as thousands were returning to their cars in the underground garage, many hundreds might have died.     A persisting mystery is why the terrorists did not drive straight to the twin towers after leaving Willie Moosh's gas station and detonate the bomb earlier in the morning. Several of the gang were religious Muslims, indoctrinated by mullahs preaching hatred and murder, and some American investigators believe they went to another safehouse -- one that has never been uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) -- to pray and prepare. Another theory is that Yousef tried to attack the headquarters of the United Nations, further up the east bank of Manhattan from the World Trade Center, but was prevented from getting close to the building by security officers. The gang instead turned to their fall-back target -- the twin towers.     As it was, some of the most serious casualties were found in the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) station underneath the Trade Center. One victim had three inches of bone exposed as rubble penetrated his back. `We crawled under pipes when we arrived and everything was on fire,' said Edward Bergen, one of the first firefighters to enter the station. `Suddenly a guy came walking out of the flames like one of those zombies in the movie Night of the Living Dead . He was a middle-aged man and his flesh was hanging off.' Neil E. Herman, the 46-year-old senior FBI Supervisory Special Agent in charge of the FBI-led Joint Terrorist Task Force (JTTF), was at his desk on the 28th floor of the FBI's New York headquarters when Yousef's bomb exploded. A veteran anti-terrorist specialist with the appearance and demeanour of a seasoned poker player, Herman was brought up in St Louis, Missouri, briefly followed his father into journalism after leaving college, and then joined the FBI during a recruiting drive in the early 1970s. He spent 14 weeks at the FBI training academy in Quantico before transferring at the age of 25 to the Bureau's office in Miami, Florida -- the `Super Bowl of Crime'. A year later Herman was transferred up the eastern seaboard to New York, and arrived in the city the day President Richard Nixon resigned from office.     New York has always been a theatre for terrorism. Within a few months of Herman's arrival in the Big Apple a wave of bomb attacks rocked the city, most perpetrated by the Puerto Rican independence movement. `One thing led to another and I pretty much stayed in this programme [anti-terrorism] my whole career,' he said.     Herman worked on terrorism cases throughout the 1970s, but it was not until May 1980 that a decision was taken to form a special Joint Terrorist Task Force to pool the resources of the FBI and New York Police Department (NYPD). The reason was simple: `We were getting the hell kicked out of us,' said Herman. `Basically we were competing with and against the NYPD, instead of working with them. It wasn't cost effective.'     The JTTF was formed with 25-30 investigators, originally just from the FBI and NYPD. Herman took over as supervisor in 1990, and by the time of the World Trade Center bombing the squad numbered 40-50 and comprised agents from the FBI, NYPD, the State Department, the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the New York State Police and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.     The team was permanently on call from its Manhattan offices. `We had police radios with us at all times and within about five to ten minutes of the [World Trade Center] blast we began to hear a series of communications,' said Herman. `There was a flurry of activity that indicated there might have been a fire or a transformer explosion or something like that. Within about 15 minutes the activity began to increase. I walked down to the World Trade Center -- about six or seven blocks away -- with about half a dozen investigators, to determine the extent of the damage and see what happened.'     Herman arrived at the scene around 12.45 p.m., less than half an hour after the explosion. `It was a total madhouse,' he said. Hundreds of fire-trucks, police cars, ambulances, Port Authority vans and cars were blocking the roads around the massive complex. Herman and his team pushed through the crowds, flashed their identification, and conducted a quick survey of the scene. He could see that the Vista Hotel had been badly damaged, and that the road had buckled outside the complex. Gut instinct told him it was more than a transformer explosion, and within an hour of the blast he had issued instructions to open the command centre at FBI headquarters in the massive federal government building at 26 Federal Plaza.     Herman's boss James Fox, the FBI Assistant Director in charge of the New York bureau, had been eating swordfish and chips for lunch at Harry's restaurant, a short walk to the north-east of the World Trade Center complex, when his pager began to bleep. The veteran agent was walking to a public phone to respond when a friend who happened to be in the same restaurant told him a PATH train had derailed under the WTC. His office at 26 Federal Plaza gave him a few more details: they initially thought it was a transformer explosion.     Fox was a wily character. The lawyer son of a Chicago bus driver, he had spent most of his FBI career working in Counter-Intelligence and battling the KGB. He moved from smaller FBI offices in New Haven, Connecticut and San Francisco, to the larger bureaux, Chicago and Washington, before joining the New York bureau in 1984. `Some guys get into FCI [Foreign Counter-Intelligence] and it gets in your blood. It got in mine. Others want to break down doors and put handcuffs on people and get scumbags off the streets,' he said.     Fox had spent so much time working in the shadows that the high-profile role of heading the FBI's New York bureau must have come as a shock. But he was still a reassuring figure, best known to New Yorkers for his comments the previous April on the conviction of John Gotti, the legendary mobster who strutted around New York in silk suits. Gotti, known as the `Teflon Don', because prosecutors could never get anything to stick to him, was finally convicted on charges of murder and racketeering. `The Teflon is gone,' Fox had told the cameras. `The Don is covered with Velcro, and all the charges stuck.'     Like Herman, Fox was instantly suspicious of the reports that a transformer had exploded under the World Trade Center. `I thought, "If this was a transformer explosion, it's the biggest one I've heard of." In this business, you wonder if it is an accident, or is it terrorist inspired?'     Yet even among senior FBI agents there was still a natural reluctance to believe New York had joined the roll-call of international cities synonymous with terrorism. `This sort of thing just doesn't happen in New York' seemed to be the prevailing wisdom. But violent death had hardly been a stranger in the city over the preceding couple of decades. Two weeks before the bombing six residents of the Bronx were lined up in an apartment block and shot through the head. A seventh victim of the same feud was shot dead outside the Bronx courthouse. Nor were terrorists strangers in southern Manhattan. Forty people died and more than 200 were injured when a bomb exploded during lunchtime on Wall Street in September 1920.     Fox wasn't taking any chances. He left his lunch in Harry's, walked quickly to his car, switched on its flashing red strobe-light, and drove the short distance to the World Trade Center. By the time he arrived the scene was already cluttered with dozens of fire-engines and ambulances. Fox decided the FBI command centre at 26 Federal Plaza would be the best place for him to direct the agency's response. Neil Herman had also made his way back to FBI headquarters and took a lift up to the command centre on the 26th floor. Although an adjoining operations centre is open all the time, the command centre, with video screens lining a wall and banks of desks and telephones, is only activated during a major crisis. From that moment the FBI command centre was manned 24 hours a day for the following six weeks.     As reports of the explosion circulated on TV and radio news, a spate of copycat hoax phone-calls were made to the police and FBI. At 4.25 p.m. a bomb warning sent police cars scurrying to the Empire State Building. Tens of thousands of visitors and workers were evacuated and the police spent hours checking for bombs. The state National Guard was put on full alert, and security was tightened at the United Nations, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which received a `general bomb scare' at 5.45 p.m., and New York's three airports -- Newark, JFK and La Guardia. On a `normal' day in New York City, the police expect to receive less than 10 bomb threats. Between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on 26 February 1993, they received 69.     Herman monitored the situation for several hours from the command centre, then rallied a group of senior agents and bomb technicians and headed back down towards the twin towers to try to examine the site. The damage was enormous: great slabs of masonry the size of small cars were still falling into a massive crater at the bottom of the complex, and by early Friday evening Herman had still seen only the periphery of the explosion.     Yet by 5 p.m. the FBI and NYPD were confident the damage had been caused by a bomb. Leslie E. Robertson, the original structural engineer of the World Trade Center, had been rushed down to the complex by police car from his office on East 46th Street, and was certain it was sabotage. Agents from the JTTF had also studied plans of the complex; there was nothing in the area of the explosion that could possibly have caused such devastation. There was no electrical transformer, no hidden gas-storage depot. It was a public parking area -- it must have been a bomb. But nobody could be absolutely sure, because getting to the heart of the explosion was `like finding a route down to hell'.     The JTTF swung into action. A moment wasted could have given the bombers precious time to escape. Herman's investigators began by analysing the calls claiming responsibility for the bombing. At first there were rumours one had been received from the Serbian Liberation Front (SLF) a few minutes before the explosion, but when time-sheets were checked agents discovered the call was received at 1.35 p.m. -- more than an hour later. A man with a foreign accent had rung the NYPD First Precinct, which houses the twin towers within its boundaries, and said the SLF was responsible. Out of more than 20 calls claiming responsibility in the hours following the attack, this was the only one treated seriously, partly because of the speed with which it was received (at that time the emergency services still thought there had been a transformer explosion) and partly because the caller took the trouble to ring a police station rather than the 911 emergency line.     There were other reasons to suspect Balkan involvement: the Pentagon had just announced it would start parachuting aid supplies into Bosnia, and America had been targeted before by Balkan extremists taking their internecine war across the Atlantic. Between 1968 and 1993 Croatian extremists conducted 26 separate attacks within the United States in support of their claim for independence from Yugoslavia.     However, each call still had to be considered and analysed. Another 17 callers to 911 during Friday evening and Saturday morning claimed to know who was responsible, with blame attached to everyone from the Black Liberation Front to Colombian drug cartels. Neil Herman's team was not short of help; even Nita Lee, a `psychic counsellor' from Oklahoma, contacted the authorities to offer details of `mental images' she claimed to have about the bomb and the suspects.     The agents assembled in the FBI's command centre began to formulate theories. Perhaps the explosion was a botched presidential assassination attempt, suggested some agents. The US Secret Service, which guards the President, has its New York headquarters in the World Trade Center. Three Secret Service agents were injured -- one of them, Pamela Russillo, was literally blown out of her shoes -- and several Secret Service cars, including the bullet-proof limousine used by President Clinton during visits to New York, were destroyed. President Clinton had travelled in the car when he had visited the United Nations headquarters in eastern Manhattan the previous Monday. Perhaps, suggested one FBI agent, it was a device planted in the car that had detonated at the wrong time.     The theory was dismissed as the scale of the devastation became clear. The bomb would have been huge and conspicuous -- it could never have been missed in security checks. There must have been another vehicle. Perhaps Mario Cuomo, New York's Governor, had been the target, suggested one agent. He had been due to leave his state car in the garage on level B-2 on Friday, but had cancelled a meeting in the Center only hours before the explosion.     `What about the Macedonians?' suggested another agent with a grasp of Balkan politics. An anonymous claim of responsibility had been received from a group acting `for a former-Yugoslav republic'. That was part of the new name for Macedonia.     Later it was proposed that the bombing was a quick retaliation for the US bombing of the Al Rashid hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, on 17 January 1993. The Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had invited a number of Islamic fundamentalist leaders from around the world to the hotel for a conference when the building was struck by a US missile. The Pentagon apologized for the attack and said it had been an accident, but CIA analysts thought one of the fundamentalists staying in the hotel could have decided to exact revenge and sent supporters to bomb the Vista Hotel. `They suggested the real target had been the actual hotel, and not the [twin] towers,' said a retired CIA official.     Officials from the CIA and the State Department were soon channelling other theories into the FBI's command centre. On the same day as the World Trade Center explosion a bomb had been placed in a small coffee shop in Cairo, killing four people. It was one of the worst acts of political violence in the Egyptian capital for years -- perhaps there was an Egyptian connection.     Another possibility, barely perceived in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, was that the motive might have been purely criminal. The bomb blew open the underground vaults of the Bank of Kuwait. An FBI agent tasked with checking this theory soon dismissed it: unless the robbers had been hopelessly inept such a device would never have been designed to break open a vault. Perhaps then, suggested another agent, it was just the building that was the target. The New York police were taking no chances. They began questioning Port Authority workers to see if anyone had a serious grudge against his or her employer.     Then there were Islamic militants, responsible for massive bomb- ings in the Middle East. `The modus operandi of the bombing was very similar to what we'd seen with Islamic extremists overseas, but we really didn't know. We looked at several different groups that we thought were capable of doing something like this,' said Neil Herman. `We started to get a series of investigative leads, none of which really took us anywhere. And we were also analysing classified intelligence from overseas.'     The FBI was initially drawn to the theory that Balkan extremists were responsible, and the hypothesis was bolstered when Herman's command centre was informed by agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, part of the State Department, that a bomb had been found in front of the American embassy in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, five hours before the World Trade Center explosion. The prevailing evidence was enough to establish a tenuous link to the Balkans. Friday night four agents from the JTTF were sent to upstate Rockland County to watch the homes of Balkan activists already known to the FBI. Phone records were checked by `pattern-searching' computers. JTTF agents back in Manhattan began trawling through a special computer database, containing more than 185,000 names of men and women from around the world suspected of involvement in terrorism.     Within 12 hours of the explosion the investigation was mushrooming, but technicians had still not found forensic evidence that confirmed the cause was a bomb. `The massive amounts of communications and paper were almost overwhelming,' said Herman. `Then there were regular briefings to people in Washington and of course to the White House.' Managing the investigators became a priority. `One of the big mistakes in some of these investigations is that you have to be careful. You can burn people out very quickly. You have to put people in shifts and send them home. It has to be seen as a marathon -- as a long run. On the first night by 4 a.m. we decided we wanted people to go home, change -- if not get any sleep, and then be back by 6 or 7 a.m. People were wearing suits and ties, and they needed to be dressed down.'     Herman himself rang his wife from his mobile phone to tell her he would be home `when he could', then finally drove at around four in the morning to his home just outside Manhattan. He had a quick shower, changed, and was back in his office by 6 a.m. His marathon was only just beginning. Copyright © 1999 Simon Reeve. All rights reserved.