New Insights Into Bomb Probe Emerge : Blast: Complaint against Palestinian shows trade center fingerprint inquiry is paying off. Associate is tied to manuals on explosives.


A 27-year-old Palestinian activist was arraigned Friday on conspiracy charges in the World Trade Center bombing, and prosecutors said he came to the United States carrying bomb-making manuals on the same flight as an indicted fugitive in the case.

The complaint against Mohammad Ahmad Ajaj, who was born in Jerusalem and who had been imprisoned by Israeli authorities for participating in protests, contained fresh insights into the investigation of the worst act of domestic terrorism in the nation’s history.

It showed that an extensive program of fingerprint recovery by police and federal agents is paying dividends, and it provided glimpses of the government’s case against five other suspects directly charged in the bombing. The complaint said planning for the trade center explosion began as early as last July 1.


According to court documents, Ajaj entered the United States aboard a flight from Pakistan with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, another defendant in the case. Yousef still is at large and authorities now believe he played a major role in the plot, perhaps directing the team of bombers.

Ajaj and Yousef arrived at New York’s Kennedy International Airport last Sept. 1 aboard a Pakistan International Airlines flight. Both men traveled under assumed names, prosecutors charged.

Ajaj’s ticket bore the name Kharram Khan. Yousef was issued a consecutively numbered ticket under the name Azam Mohammad. Prosecutors said Ajaj attempted to use a false passport and was arrested at Kennedy Airport when he sought to enter the country.

According to the complaint, authorities at the airport seized 12 manuals from Ajaj containing instructions on making a bomb of the type detonated in the basement garage of the trade center on Feb. 26. Prosecutors said two of the manuals bore Yousef’s fingerprints.

Yousef’s fingerprint also was recovered from inside a shed in Jersey City, N.J., where explosives for the trade center bomb were processed, the court papers said.

The shed was rented under the assumed name of Kamal Ibraham by Mohammed A. Salameh, the first suspect arrested in the bombing. The court papers revealed that at least one employee of Space Station Storage has identified Salameh from photographs as the shed’s renter. Prosecutors charge that Salameh also rented the van used to carry the explosive device to the trade center.


The complaint against Ajaj charged that in the early morning hours of the day of the bombing, Salameh was observed driving the van with Yousef in the passenger’s seat.

Ajaj, after his arrest at Kennedy Airport, was in custody when the bomb detonated at the trade center, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000. He was released on March 1, only to be rearrested eight days later at a federal parole office in Brookyn.

At the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was held before Friday’s hearing, Ajaj was classified as a high-security prisoner because he was a trade center suspect.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Leonard Bernikow rejected arguments from Lynne Stewart, one of Ajaj’s lawyers, that the case against him should be dropped because there was insufficient evidence that he participated in the bombing.

“It is certainly a weak case,” Stewart charged. “It is almost a defense lawyer’s dream.”

But Bernikow denied the motion, refusing to grant Ajaj bail for fear he would flee the country.