RIGA - The terrorist group Al-Qaida planned to attack London Heathrow Airport in February, 2003 by hijacking an airplane from either Estonia, Latvia or Poland, the British paper The Sunday Times reported in its Oct. 9 issue, citing security sources.
The information was particularly striking as it surfaced hours after U.S. President George W. Bush's speech before the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C.. Shortly after the speech, aides handed out a list of 10 planned Al-Qaida terrorist attacks that had been thwarted by America and its allies since the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings.
Heathrow was one of them.
The threat of the attack on one of the world's busiest airports was considered so serious that, at the time, British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent military personnel to the airport, and even considered closing it down. It was the first time that British forces had been deployed to Heathrow since 1994. The incident, however, was not fully explained to the public at the time.
The paper stated that MI5, the British intelligence agency, received detailed information of an imminent attack in response to the country's decision to support the American-led war in Iraq.
The assault would also have reputedly included a mortar attack on a departing airliner.
The report also claimed that reconnaissance work had been carried out possibly in Estonia, Latvia and Poland to find an airport with weaker levels of security.
The alleged architect of the planned airplane hijacking was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the World Trade Center attacks four years ago. Mohammed was apprehended in Pakistan two years ago.