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Authorities track e-mails sent by alleged shoe bomber

Richard Reid
Richard Reid  

PARIS, France (CNN) -- Investigators are sorting through a trail of e-mails sent by alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid, hoping to learn more about suspected accomplices involved in a foiled plot to blow up a U.S. commercial jet crossing the Atlantic.

One e-mail, according to French police sources, was sent to someone in Pakistan after Reid couldn't get on the first American Airlines flight from Paris, France, to Miami, Florida, shortly before Christmas. He missed the flight after extensive questioning from security personnel and was put up for the night at a luxury hotel near the airport.

From the business center there, sources said, Reid sent an e-mail to an unidentified person in Pakistan, asking what he should do. That person replied that Reid should try to get on the next plane to Miami.

Reid did just that the following day, boarding Flight 63 on December 22. Reid, according to passengers and crew members, tried to light explosives in one of his shoes, but was wrestled to the ground before he succeeded. The flight was escorted to Boston, Massachusetts, by F-16 fighter jets.

CNN's Jim Bittermann says accused shoe bomber Richard Reid left a trail of e-mail messages across France and Belgium (January 21)

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Timeline: The shoe bomber case 

Reid is in the custody of U.S. authorities in Boston, and he was arraigned last week on nine terrorism-related charges. A 28-year-old British citizen and convert to Islam, Reid pleaded not guilty in federal court to those charges, which include attempted murder and attempted destruction of an aircraft. If convicted of all charges, he could face five life sentences.

The Justice Department has not ruled out the possibility of filing additional charges against Reid.

Investigators have determined Reid was constantly using e-mails for communications, not only from Paris, but elsewhere in France and in Belgium. They said that Reid was in touch with at least 10 people.

In another e-mail that he thought would be received after his death, Reid wrote his mother in Britain, explaining his reasons for targeting the jet and urging her to convert to Islam. The French police sources said that Reid appeared to be saying good-bye to his mother

French media have reported that in this e-mail, Reid claimed responsibility for the attack, apparently believing it would succeed and would be read after his death.

That e-mail was sent from a cyber cafe in Paris. The owner of that cafe told CNN that Reid was there no more than two days before December 22.

Police have carted off all eight of the Cyber Cafe's computer hard drives as evidence.

The discovery of the e-mails -- especially the one sent to Pakistan -- buttresses the belief of investigators that Reid did not act alone.

European investigators and intelligence sources have told CNN they think Reid is a member of a previously unknown Islamic terrorist network that may have links to al Qaeda. These sources said that they don't believe Reid made the explosive himself and that the shoe-bomb maker remains at large.

-- Freelance reporter Claude Moniquet in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report




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