New York Times
December 28, 2001


Dutch Authorities Track Movements of Bomb Suspect


By ALAN COWELL

LONDON -- The Netherlands joined efforts today to establish the movements of Richard C. Reid in the days and weeks before he apparently tried to use explosives hidden in his black suede basketball sneakers to blow up a plane flying from Paris to Miami..

In a statement, the Dutch security service said it was investigating reports that Mr. Reid had visited the Netherlands eight days before the attack to obtain the shoes he wore on the Dec. 22 American Airlines flight.

But the Dutch authorities declined to identify the origin of the reports.

Mr. Reid, a 22-year-old Briton, has been described by a Muslim cleric here as a small-time criminal who converted to Islam in prison and was later recruited by Islamic extremists.

An Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, said Mr. Reid visited Israel last June while a French newspaper, Le Parisien, said he travelled between Egypt, Brussels and Amsterdam before the attack, picking up a British passport in Brussels and the shoes in Amsterdam.

Nachman Klieman, a spokesman for Israel's El Al airline said today that "the shoe bomber flew to Israel in July of this year on El Al." He underwent a security check of his luggage, person and shoes because his behavior seemed suspicious, but he was allowed to board the flight, officials said.

Abdul Haqq Bakr, chairman of south London's Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center, said Wednesday that Mr. Reid joined prayers at the mosque in late 1995 after serving time for street crimes. Britain's Home Office refused today to specify Mr. Reid's crimes.

Authorities said that Mr. Reid dropped from public view in 1998 after adopting radical Islamic views.

The cleric said Mr. Reid's mother, Lesley Hughes, had said that her son had left for Pakistan.

In a statement today, however, Mrs. Hughes said she would not discuss her son's movements. A statement from her lawyers said she had no knowledge of his activities other than what she had "heard or read in the media."

"As any mother would be she is deeply shocked and concerned about the allegations made against her son, but has no further comment to make," the lawyers' statement said.

Mr. Reid's arrest after he was overpowered aboard the American Airlines flight has again focused attention on the activities here of Islamic extremists recruiting British Muslims in the name of a holy war against the west. Several known Islamic radicals have denied knowledge of Mr. Reid. Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohamed, leader of the Al Muhajiroun movement that has been barred from recruiting followers on some British college campuses, said he had no knowledge of Mr. Reid.

Mr. Bakr, the mosque chairman, said he had been warning the British authorities for up to five years that Islamic extremists were preying on young Muslims. But the police authorities had promised only to "monitor" the situation, Mr. Bakr told British radio.

Peter Herbert, a senior figure in London's Metropolitan Police Authority, said today it was possible that mistakes had been made in monitoring Islamic extremism.

"The police and other authorities have sometimes not known enough about who to listen to and certainly there are many moderate voices in the Islamic community which have been identifying causes for concern for a good number of years both in the United States and here," he said.

Copyright 2001, New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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