French authorities are reconstructing suspected shoe bomber Richard Reid's movements in Paris in the days before his alleged attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight last week, believing that any information could lead them to an al Qaeda cell.
Reid was overpowered by flight attendants and passengers after allegedly trying to detonate explosives in his sneaker aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Saturday. French investigators have uncovered information about Reid that seems to indicate the British man was connected to Osama bin Laden's terror network.
Among that information is the evidence that Reid and the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, knew each other and trained in the same al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.
People who knew Reid at the south London mosque where he worshipped after converting to Islam in a British prison say they don't believe the man was capable of coming up with the plot on his own.
Tracking Movements Around the Globe
And French intelligence officials have tracked Reid's movements over the last year, saying he traveled to Israel, Egypt, the Netherlands and Belgium, spending money freely, though he did not seem to have the income to fund the trips.
According to French authorities, Reid spent three weeks in Israel in July, where it is speculated that he was involved in plotting an attack on an El Al flight.
An El Al spokesman told Reuters today that the airline also considered Reid suspicious on the flight he took to Israel in July, but that he was cleared to fly after a check of his luggage and person. The check included Reid's shoes, the spokesman said.
"I can confirm that the shoe bomber flew to Israel in July of this year on El Al. Before check-in he went through a security check," El Al spokesman Nachman Klieman said.
According to Reuters, Israeli security sources said that they were investigating what Reid did during his time in the country. Israeli newspapers reported that Reid spent a week in the Jewish state and then left for Egypt via the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.
Non-Metal Bomb With Explosive Ingredient
Meanwhile, U.S. government officials told The Associated Press that initial testing on the material found in Reid's shoes indicated the presence of PETN, an ingredient in SEMTEX, the explosive used to bring down Pan Am Flight 103. Tests also indicated that there was no metal in the shoes and that the bombing may have been foiled partly because the fuse may have been too moist.
Reid spent a few days in Egypt earlier this month, the authorities say, before going to Amsterdam. On Dec. 7, he went to Brussels, where he got a new British passport that had no record of his travels. On Dec. 14 he went back to Amsterdam, where he bought the shoes used in the alleged bombing attempt.
On Dec. 16, the French say, Reid took a train to Paris and the next day he paid cash for the Paris-to-Miami flight on American Airlines.
He had tried to take the same flight a day earlier — Friday, Dec. 21 — but was stopped at the airport because he raised a red flag in the profiling system: He had a one-way ticket, paid for in cash, no checked luggage, and carried a small carry-on bag.
He raised further suspicions when the airline ran a passport check. It was issued Dec. 7 at the British Embassy in Brussels, and appeared to be counterfeit. French police questioned him extensively and eventually approved him to travel, but he missed the flight.
Reid spent the night in an airport hotel, and then tried to board a flight the next day. He again raised red flags, and was scrutinized, but with assurances from French police from the day before, he was allowed to board.
Officials also told The Associated Press that FBI agents are exploring whether Reid was stopped by officials this summer when he tried to board a plane to Israel because of suspicion about his shoes.
A Mother Shocked, Concerned
In a statement released through a Bristol, England, law firm on her behalf, Richard Reid's mother says she is "deeply shocked" by the allegations against her son.
The woman, identified as Lesley Hughes, says through the law firm that she doesn't know anything about her son's activities other than what has been in the media.
"Other than what my client has heard or read in the media, she has no knowledge of this matter," the statement said. "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."
Fell Under Militant Influence
Between 1996 and 1998, Reid was a frequent visitor to a mosque in Brixton, South London — the same one frequented around the same time as Moussaoui, the first person charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Reid converted to Islam while in prison and came to the Brixton mosque for rehabilitation classes.
ABCNEWS has learned that European law enforcement officials have evidence of contact between Reid and Moussaoui in late 2000 and that the two men spent months training together in explosives and demolition at the same al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.
A senior Pentagon official told ABCNEWS that U.S. forces have shown pictures of Reid to al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan and some of them said they recognized the 28-year-old British man as having trained at camps there. However, the official said that it is not yet clear how credible the accounts are.
Abdul Haqq Baker, the chairman of the Brixton mosque, said he believes that Reid was a "gullible" young man who fell under the sway of extremists who have tried to use the mosque as a recruiting ground.
"At the end of Zacarias Moussaoui being in the community and spouting off his views, it was true that Mr. Reid was attending at the same time," Baker said. "I'm pretty confident they were attending the extreme scholarship classes being held by some of the extremists who could not attend our center.
"He was one who was easily led — the way the whole thing was bungled is because of his naivete," Baker said. "The way he tried to commit this act shows his gullibility. He was sent as a tester though he was not to know that. We are confident he was not acting alone."
Baker suggested Reid might have had contact with more radical mosques such as the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, home of militant Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. However, Al-Masri told the BBC he did not know Reid.
Preparing for Bail Hearing
Reid is scheduled for a bail hearing on Friday. He is under suicide watch at the Plymouth County Correctional Center. Prosecutors have accused Reid of interfering with a flight crew through assault and intimidation, a charge that carries a term of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Attorneys Owen Walker and Tamara Birckhead have been appointed to represent him. They met with Reid on Wednesday, and in a statement released afterwards, they said they were unaware of any alleged links between their client and terrorist groups.
"We are unaware of any evidence to support a link between the offense charged and any terrorist organization or individual," Birckhead said in the statement. "We urge the public to maintain open minds as the criminal justice system proceeds, beginning with the detention probable cause hearing scheduled for Friday."
ABCNEWS' Richard Gizbert in London, Pierre Thomas and Barbara Pinto in Washington, Ron Claiborne in Boston, and Lisa Stark and David Wright contributed to this report.