US officials received intelligence that al-Qaida operatives had been 45 days from releasing a deadly gas into New York City subways when the plan was called off by Osama bin Laden's second-in-command in 2003, according to a book excerpt released Sunday on Time magazine's Web site.
According to the investigative report by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind, an informant close to al-Qaida management told US officials that Ayman al-Zawahri canceled the plan in January 2003, despite the likelihood that the strike would have killed as many people as the Sept. 11 attacks.
The informant said that operatives had planned to use a small, easily concealed delivery system to release hydrogen cyanide into multiple subway cars. US officials had already discovered plans for the device in the computer of a Bahraini jihadist arrested in February 2003, and they had been able to construct a working model from the plans.
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