Moussaoui: I was meant to fly fifth 9/11 jet

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - Zacarias Moussaoui admitted today he was supposed to fly a fifth airplane into the White House as part of the September 11 plot and knew two other planes were to fly into New York's World Trade Center.

Taking the stand at his sentencing trial, Moussaoui - the only person charged in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks - said "shoebomber" Richard Reid was to join him as part of the crew in the suicide mission.

Reid failed in an attempt to blow up an American Airlines plane from Paris to Miami in December 2001 after passengers and crew tackled him as he tried to ignite explosives in his shoe. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2003.

Moussaoui's claim contradicted what he said last year in pleading guilty: that he was not supposed to be part of the September 11 hijackings but was meant to be in a second wave of al Qaeda attacks and fly an airplane into the White House.

Moussaoui said he did not know the precise date of the planned attacks when he was arrested in Minnesota on August 16, 2001, and had only scant details of the overall plan.

"I had knowledge that the two towers would be hit but I didn't have the detail," said Moussaoui, dressed in a green prisoner jumpsuit and white cap.

Moussaoui is on trial now to determine if he will be executed.

Asked by Gerald Zerkin, one of his court-appointed attorneys, if he was meant to be part of the September 11 attacks, Moussaoui said: "I was supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House."

 

Moussaoui, who appeared very calm and spoke in a matter-of-fact manner in contrast to earlier courtroom outbursts, said he was asked in 1999 if he wanted to be a suicide pilot in an attack on the United States but he initially declined.

He agreed to take part in the plan in 2000 after having a dream, which he talked about with Osama bin Laden.

"My knowledge of the operation was very gradual. I didn't know from the start," Moussaoui said. "I wasn't part of the operation at the beginning because I declined to be part of the operation."

Moussaoui said he had not seen any of the other hijackers in the United States. But he said he knew - at least by face - nearly all of the 19 hijackers including ringleader Mohamed Atta.

Federal prosecutors are trying to prove that Moussaoui lied to FBI agents when he was arrested three weeks before the hijackings after raising suspicions at a flight school. They say the lies led to the deaths on September 11.

Moussaoui said during the testimony that he had lied to FBI agents in order to help make sure the attack would go ahead.

His defence attorneys, who he has barely acknowledged during the trial, had tried to keep Moussaoui from testifying on the grounds al Qaeda teaches its members to lie when caught. US District Judge Leonie Brinkema turned them down.

When he was arrested, Moussaoui was taking simulator lessons at a flight school to learn to fly a jumbo jet.

"You were in a rush to get through jet simulator training so you would be ready as a pilot to fly a fifth plane into the White House?" prosecutor Robert Spencer asked.

"That is correct," Moussaoui said.

When asked if the reason for the attack was to kill Americans, Moussaoui again replied:

"That is correct."

Moussaoui denied Spencer's claim that he was a "big shot" in al Qaeda and said that he was just an "intermediate level" member of the organization.

- REUTERS

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