Ramzi Ahmed Yousef was the terrorist mastermind responsible for the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City that killed six and wounded over a thousand. Yousef and his assistants drove a van full of explosives into the basement of the World Trade Center. Within hours of the bombing, Yousef escaped on a plane to Pakistan.
Yousef resurfaced in the Philippines where he was engaged in developing a complex terrorist plot. Yousef planned to assassinate Pope John Paul II on January 14, 1995 while he was touring the Philippines, and to blow up 12 U.S. airliners in Asia just a few days later. The overall plot was known as “Oplan Bojinka,” a term which, translated into Arabic slang, means “Operation Explosion” or “Operation Big Bang.” Yousef was the clear mastermind behind Oplan Bojinka, but other key players in Oplan Bojinka included Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (Yousef’s uncle and mastermind of the September 11 attacks), and Hambali – all sworn al-Qaida members.
As part of the overall plot, on January 21 and 22, 1995, five terrorists would place explosives aboard 12 U.S. bound airliners with stopovers in East and Southeast Asia during the first leg of each flight and then disembark before the aircraft were simultaneously destroyed over the Pacific Ocean. Each of the five terrorists would be tasked with boarding a second or even a third flight until all 12 airliners had an assembled bomb placed onboard. The projected death toll for this phase of the plan was over 4,000 people.
Fortunately, Yousef and his associates became somewhat careless, which turned out to be their downfall. On January 6, 1995, Yousef and Murad were forced to flee their apartment in Manila when a chemical mixture created a cloud of smoke, which poured out of the apartment window. Yousef asked Murad to return to the apartment to retrieve a laptop computer and other incriminating evidence. When Murad got back to the apartment, however, he was confronted by police who had already arrived at the scene. Yousef, realizing that Murad must have been caught, fled to Pakistan.
In February 1995, an informant, seeing an RFJ matchbook and motivated by the reward, went to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan and provided information leading to Yousef’s whereabouts. On February 7, 1995, Pakistani authorities, assisted by U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security agents, arrested Yousef in Islamabad, Pakistan, and extradited him to the United States. Yousef is currently in prison in Colorado. The other four major operatives involved in Oplan Bojinka have also been arrested.