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Context of 'September 15-October 1, 2000: Sydney Olympics Officials’ Top Concern: Airliner-Based Al-Qaeda Attack'

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On February 4, 1994, a Libyan named Mohammed Abdullah al-Khulayfi attempts to assassinate Osama bin Laden in Sudan. He and two associates steal automatic weapons from two police stations in Sudan, killing two policemen in the process. Then they fire on worshippers at the mosque bin Laden usually attends, killing 16 and wounding 20 others, but bin Laden is not there. The next day, they shoot at police and one of bin Laden’s offices. That afternoon, the three men go to bin Laden’s house and fire on it. Bin Laden is there, but not in his usual spot which the attackers are targeting. Some of bin Laden’s guests and guards are shot, but none of them dies. Al-Khulayfi is shot and captured by Sudanese police, while his two associates are killed. The three men belonged to a rival Islamist group who apparently believed bin Laden was not fanatical enough. Bin Laden later tells a friend that he believes Egyptian intelligence was behind the attack. The CIA suspect Saudi intelligence was responsible. Within days of the attack, double agent Ali Mohamed flies from California to Sudan and begins training bin Laden’s bodyguards to better protect him. Mohamed also leads an investigation into al-Khulayfi’s past and learns that he had fought with bin Laden and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 45-46; Wright, 2006, pp. 192-193]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ali Mohamed, Mohammed Abdullah al-Khulayfi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.The Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. [Source: BBC]During a raid on a suspected people-smuggling ring in Auckland, New Zealand, police stumble upon evidence of an apparent plot to blow up a nuclear reactor during the upcoming Sydney Olympics (see also September 15-October 1, 2000). A house used by Afghan refugees contains a map of Sydney highlighting a nuclear reactor in the suburb of Lucas Heights and detailing access and exit roads. In another house, police find a notebook with information relating to the counterterrorism tactics used by New Zealand police. [CNN, 8/26/2000; BBC, 8/26/2000; New Zealand Herald, 8/26/2000] The New Zealand Herald reports that some suspects may be linked to Osama bin Laden. [New Zealand Herald, 9/9/2000] However, no one is charged with terror-related crimes and a later report will find that immigration fraud charges against two Afghan refugees have been dropped. [New Zealand Herald, 5/25/2002; New Zealand Herald, 5/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Olympics officials later reveal, “A fully loaded, fueled airliner crashing into the opening ceremony before a worldwide television audience at the Sydney Olympics is one of the greatest security fears for the Games.” During the Olympics, Australia has six planes in the sky at all times ready to intercept any wayward aircraft. In fact, “IOC officials [say] the scenario of a plane crash during the opening ceremony was uppermost in their security planning at every Olympics since terrorists struck in Munich in 1972.” bin Laden is considered the number-one threat. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/20/2001] These security measures are similar to those used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and other events, including Clinton’s second inauguration. Similar planning is already underway before 9/11 for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. [Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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