On February 26th, 1993 The World Trade Center in New York City experienced a terrorist attack that killed six people, and injured over 1,000, as a truck bomb left a 200 by 100-foot crater in the parking lot. The 1200 lb. bomb was intended to explode under the north tower, which would cause that tower to crash into the south one, killing tens of thousands of people in the process- but luckily things didn’t go according to plan.
As the carnage fully came to light, nearly 50,000 people were evacuated from the area, many of them suffering from smoke inhalation and shock. The building itself suffered nearly $500 million in damages, and the evacuation lasted the entire afternoon, as the FBI frantically tried to understand what had just happened to the most densely populated US city.
Within days the FBI had confirmed that seven radical Islamic terrorists were responsible for the devastating event, and by March 4th they had apprehended the first suspect. Mohammad Salameh was the first to be arrested after he tried to retrieve a $400 deposit on the van used during the explosion, and by the next day authorities had discovered bomb-making materials in Salameh’s possession.
While in his apartment the FBI found names and addresses of two other men believed to be involved in the attack. Ahmad Ajaj and Nidal Ayyad were both arrested just days later after being connected to the construction of the bomb.
Further investigation pointed to Mahmoud Abouhalima, who bought and mixed explosives for the bomb. Abouhalima fled to Saudi Arabia only to be apprehended two weeks later in Egypt. When all four men were back in the US they were tried and convicted during a trial that lasted long enough for all 200 witnesses to testify.
One man who testified, Charles Maikish, director of the Port Authority World Trade Department, shared his experience on that fateful day, “I felt a heaving in the tower itself. I knew we had a very major event.” All four men were sentenced to 240 years in prison–the combined life expectancy of all six murder victims.
The leader of the attack, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, remained at large for nearly two years until he was found hiding in Pakistan by US forces in February of 1995. During his time on the run he planned multiple terrorist attacks including planting a bomb on Philippine Airlines Flight 434, which killed one passenger and injured 10 others. The FBI confiscated his laptop, which had detailed plans for the attacks, including valuable information regarding terrorist groups and the people associated with them.
The plans included a plot to kill Pope John Paul II, and a plan to bomb 15 American airliners within a short 48-hour window. When interviewed by the FBI, Yousef expressed the only regret he had was that the attack on the World Trade Center didn’t go according to plan.
Yousef had two trials, one for the Airline bombing, and one for the World Trade Center attack. Convicted on all counts, Yousef was sentenced to 240 years plus life in prison for his crimes.
The 26-year-old Palestinian who drove the truck into the underground parking garage, Eyad Ismoil, was sentenced to 240 years in prison, combined with a $10 million-dollar restitution in 1997. Judge Kevin Duffy stated the reason for the restitution was to, “make sure that you never make a dime out of this.”
It was determined that the group received funding from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Yousef’s uncle. The only man associated with the bombing that hasn’t been convicted by US authorities is Abdul Rahman Yasin, who helped create the bomb used. The last time he was seen was in March 2002, when journalist Leslie Stahl interviewed him in an Iraqi prison for a segment on 60 Minutes. His whereabouts remain unknown.