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February 23, 2004

Explosives Recipes Tie OKC to al Qaeda Manuals


Intelligence officials are now investigating possible connections in global bomb designs as evidence of terrorist cooperation, an avenue that has significant ramifications for the Oklahoma City bombing.

A U.S. intelligence forensic expert told the New York Times this week that "linkages have been made in devices that have been used in different continents. We know that we have the same bomb maker, or different bomb makers are using the same instructions."

INTELWIRE has analyzed much of the available material on al Qaeda bomb manuals in the U.S. during the early 1990s and found numerous potential links between those manuals and the Oklahoma City bombing.

A 2002 indictment alleged that an alias used by Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was found on one of several bomb-making manuals brought into the U.S. in 1992 by an accomplice of Ramzi Yousef. Those manuals included detailed instructions about how to build improvised explosives, including recipes for urea nitrate (used in the World Trade Center attack) and ammonium nitrate (used in Oklahoma City), according to trial records.

The manuals included instructions on the use and handling of every major component currently believed to have been part of the Oklahoma City bomb, including ammonium nitrate, nitromethane, PETN, blasting caps and instructions on creating shaped charges for use in destroying buildings.

The manuals also contained entries on using hydrogen peroxide and aluminum powder. Ammonium nitrate, hydrogen peroxide, aluminum powder, diesel fuel and blasting caps were found at the Michigan farm of James Nichols, brother of Terry, during an FBI search around April 21, according to a criminal complaint filed in April 1995 but subsequently dropped.

The Bojinka airline-bombing plot, exposed by an accidental fire in Yousef's Manila apartment in early January 1995, resulted in the arrest of Abdul Hakim Murad (who later claimed responsibility in the Oklahoma bombing).

A spiral-bound notebook seized when Murad was arrested contained a page of instructions on the properties of nitromethane, one of the Oklahoma City bomb components, according to evidence presented at Murad's trial. Murad had used the notebook to record instructions on bomb-making provided by Yousef, who is universally considered an explosives genius.

The notation on nitromethane is located in a section of the notebook that can be dated to late December 1994, at which time Terry Nichols was staying in the Philippines, according to trial testimony.

The entry on nitromethane appears to differ from other content in the notebook, which consisted largely of shopping lists for the Bojinka plot and notes on the manufacture of chemicals specifically used in that plan, as described at length during Murad's trial. Nitromethane was used in the Bojinka plan, but not as a primary explosive material, according to trial testimony and classified documents cited in Seeds of Evil, a 2004 book on al Qaeda by CNN correspondent Maria Ressa.

The basic idea for the Oklahoma City bomb is widely thought to have been inspired by the racist novel "The Turner Diaries," which describes white supremacists using an ammonium nitrate-fuel oil bomb to blow up FBI headquarters. According to Peter Lance, author of 1000 Years for Revenge, Ramzi Yousef employed a similar ammonium nitrate-diesel fuel oil bomb in a thwarted attempt to destroy the Israeli embassy in Bangkok just a few months earlier, in March 1994.

McVeigh and Nichols followed the "Turner" blueprint closely, but the choice to replace fuel oil with nitromethane was a deviation that made the bomb more powerful. The specific recipe appears to have been first used in Oklahoma City.

Subsequent to the Oklahoma City bombing, ammonium nitrate bombs became a favorite weapon of al Qaeda, and have frequently been used in attacks connected with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the Manila plotters.

A bomb manual found in Afghanistan contained a recipe for an ammonium nitrate-based bomb marked with the handrwritten notation "Was used in Oklahoma," according to the New York Times.

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