Today in History: The 1993 Bombing of the World Trade Center
by M.C. Millman
Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Bombing of the World Trade Center, which took place at 12:17 p.m. on February 26, 1993.
The bomb in a van parked underneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center, which went off in the parking garage, left a 100-foot crater several stories deep. Six dead on the spot, while more than one thousand were injured in the ensuing panic as smoke and flames filled the building from the bottom up.
Seven hundred FBI agents working in tandem with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigating what they believed was a terrorist attack. After pulling out a vehicle identification number on a piece of wreckage that seemed to have been suspiciously obliterated before the explosion, a search of criminal records reported that the number belonged to a rented van stolen the day before the attack. The truck had been rented by an Islamic fundamentalist named Mohammad Salameh. He was arrested on March 4 by an FBI SWAT team when he tried to get his $400 deposit back.
Three more suspects were taken into custody: Nidal Ayyad, Mahmoud Abouhalima, and Ahmed Ajaj. The apartment where the bomb was built, and a storage locker with dangerous chemicals was also discovered. The storage locker had enough cyanide gas to wipe out a town.
The four terrorists were sentenced to life in prison. At the same time, Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, was still free to plan more attacks, including the plans to simultaneously bomb a dozen U.S. international flights.
It wasn't until February 1995 that Yousef was captured in Pakistan. He was extradited to America and convicted of the World Trade Center bombing along with Eyad Ismoil, the driver of the van. Abdul Yasin, the seventh member of the terrorist cell, remains at large.
In court, Yousef expressed his regret that his Trade Center plot hadn't succeeded as planned. His goal had been to topple one tower, with the collapse bringing down the second tower. It was Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda, who managed to fulfill Yousef's dream and bring down the twin towers, but not until September 11, 2001.