The world changed on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, forever altering America. Due to the violent impact the event had on the nation, it can be easy to forget the first terrorist attack on New York’s iconic Twin Towers: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The first World Trade Center attack happened almost a decade prior to the attacks of 2001, but the two terrorist plots are linked in several ways. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center can be looked at as a sort of trial run to 9/11. The goal – to topple the Twin Towers – was the same, as was the motivation and international power behind it. In fact, some of the very same individuals who plotted the 1993 attack managed to maintain their freedom long enough to be involved in 9/11.
The 1993 attack was, for the most part, a failed operation, but it helped set the stage for the horror and destruction that would occur eight years later.
1993’s Attack Was Also Carried Out By Al-Qaeda
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was primarily an operation of Al-Qaeda. The terrorists involved received training, funding, and advice from major Al-Qaeda figures, many of whom were in Afghanistan at the time.
Not all Al-Qaeda support came from overseas, however. Conspirators also received aid from Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric who lived in New York City. Rahman was eventually arrested for his role in various terrorist plots and conspiracies. The 1993 bombing was the first time Al-Qaeda took direct action against the United States on U.S. soil.
The Man Behind 9/11 Also Funded And Planned The ’93 Attacks
One of the chief architects of the 1993 World Trade Center attack was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He was uncle to Ramzi Yousef, the man who planted the bomb, and an active member of Al-Qaeda. He not only funded the conspirators via money transfer, but also directly advised his nephew over the phone on how best to pull off the attack.
Later, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would gain worldwide notoriety when he was acknowledged as the principal planner behind the 9/11 attacks. He remained free until 2003, when the United States finally caught up with him.
The Plan Was To Topple Both Towers
The ultimate plan in the 1993 bombing was to topple the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. Only one tower, Tower 1, was targeted, but the terrorists hoped the blast would toppled it at such an angle as to knock over Tower 2. As the attack was aimed at the tower’s foundation, it would have brought the towers down more quickly than the 2001 attack. This would have meant an even higher death toll. Fortunately, the attack was unsuccessful in meeting its goal.
One Conspirator Was Caught Upon Arrival In The U.S….And Then Released
Some of the co-conspirators involved in the 1993 bombing were caught before they had even perpetrated the crime. Ahmed Ajaj traveled to the United States from Pakistan with a forged Swedish passport and bomb-making materials in his bag. He was caught and arrested, but his arrest served as a diversionary tactic to allow Ramzi Yousef, the primary bomber, to make it through security on the same flight.
Ironically, Yousef was caught for using a fake Iraqi passport, but he claimed political asylum upon arrest. He was set free and given a future hearing date, allowing him the freedom to carry out the plan.
The Bomber Explained His Actions And Demands In A Letter To Newspapers
Ramzi Yousef had a clear agenda in attacking the United States. He sent letters to a few prominent New York newspapers before the bombing, outlining a series of demands if the Americans wanted to avoid further attacks.
Yousef wanted the United States to cut all ties with Israel, including aid and diplomatic relations, and to pledge to stop any and all interference in the affairs of the Middle East. Yousef referred to his plans as terrorism, but noted that his actions were in response to “the terrorism that Israel practices.”
The Whole Bombing Was Foiled By The Difficulty Of NYC Parking
The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center failed in its primary goal by something that all New Yorkers struggle with: parking. The yellow rental van housing the bomb was driven to the WTC’s underground parking garage, but Yousef failed to park it close enough to the concrete foundations of Tower 1.
Had he found a closer parking spot, his plan may have succeeded. Instead, most of the damage was done to the parking garage itself. His plan an abject failure, Yousef escaped to Pakistan hours later.
Smoke Was So Thick It Traveled To The 93rd Floor
Though the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center failed to bring down the Twin Towers, it was incredibly scary for those involved. The blast shook the entire building and caused mass panic inside. Smoke from the bomb reached as high as the 93 floor and smoke inhalation was responsible for a large portion of the injuries received that day. All power to the tower was cut, leaving several people stuck in elevators for hours, including a class of kindergartners.
Six Were Killed, Over 1000 Were Injured
The bombing resulted in six deaths, including five Port Authority employees and a businessman who was parking his car. One of the Port Authority employees killed was a pregnant woman. More than 1000 other people were injured, including WTC employees and first responders. Most injuries resulted from smoke inhalation, fire, and the mass exodus of evacuating both towers.
A Chemical Weapon Was Planned That Would Have Been Even Deadlier
The bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 killed six people, but it could have been far deadlier. The investigation into the attack revealed that the conspirators had a large stockpile of cyanide they acquired while planning. It appears that at one point the van was meant to be loaded with cyanide, but that part of the plan was later abandoned.
If the cyanide had been included, the blast would have produced a chemical weapon spread via gas. As the smoke of the bomb reached as high as the 93 floor, it’s easy to imagine just how many people this would have reached.
The Attack Took NYC Off The Air For A Week
The 1993 attack cut all power to Tower 1 and a few buildings around it. This had a massive impact on New York media outlets, many of which were located at or near the WTC. Most of the New York radio and television stations lost their over-the-air broadcast signals for a full week and were only able to broadcast via satellite or cable channels. Most of Manhattan also lost their telephone service for a number of days.
Most Of The Perpetrators Got Away, Initially
The 1993 bombing wasn’t a suicide attack, so its perpetrators fled and initially were undiscovered. The first conspirator to get caught was Mohammed Salameh. Salameh rented the van used in the bombing and then reported it stolen. Once Salameh was in custody, police were led to Abdul Rahman Yasin, the bomb maker. He was released due to lack of evidence and escaped.
Ramzi Yousef was at large until 1995, which gave him time to get involved in other terrorist acts before finally caught and imprisoned by authorities.
More NYC Locations Were Targeted For Attacks
In the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, a larger plot was uncovered. Investigators uncovered plots to attack several civilian targets such as the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as military targets like the United Nations Headquarters.
Followers of Sheikh Abdel Rahman – who also aided the WTC bombers – were responsible for these plans. Abdel Rahman and nine of his followers were caught before any of them could be carried out.
The Port Authority Was Slapped With Legal Liability
The aftermath of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing involved a massive legal drama that would prove quite controversial. The Port Authority, responsible for security in the underground parking, were slapped with legal liability by a court, who ruled in favor of the bombing victims.
The decision claimed that the Port Authority was 68% responsible and the terrorists were only 32% responsible. The decision was obviously appealed, but it was upheld by the New York Supreme Court. The legal battles would continue for almost two decades.