Yousef used Najy Awaita Haddad, Paul Vijay, Adam Sali, Doctor Richard Smith, and 17 other aliases to obscure his identity.
His nationality is disputed. Both Yousef and his uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, are believed to be from the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. Yousef was probably raised in Kuwait. The man thought to be the father was a guest worker. Guest workers were treated as second-class citizens in Kuwait.
After his capture, he had ranted extremist statements. His behavior afterwards suggested to U.S. officials that he was not a terrorist due to religious zeal. He expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause. He never visited Palestine.
Introduction into international terrorism
Yousef attended college in the United Kingdom. He studied electrical engineering there. Starting in the late 1980's, Yousef took spring break trips to Pakistan.
In 1992, Yousef entered the United States with a false Iraqi passport. His partner, Ahmed Ajaj, who also had a false passport, was arrested on the spot after his passport was proven false and instructions for making bombs was found in his luggage. INS holding cells were overcrowded, so Yousef was told to come back in one month. He travelled around New York and New Jersey and called Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a controversial Muslim preacher, via cell phone. Yousef got the manuals back from his partner. He got conspirators and tried obtaining mixing chemicals to make a bomb. After a hospital stay from a car accident, Yousef got back the manuals from his car, which was in a police impound.
He then rented a Ryder van. On February 26, 1993, the van was loaded with explosives and driven into the garage of the World Trade Center, where it exploded (in a later interrogation Yousef told investigators that the plan had been to take out structural members in the foundation and make one tower collapse into the other). He escaped to Pakistan hours later. After meeting up with terrorist friends, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he stayed in safe houses funded by Osama Bin Laden.
While staying in those safe houses, he attempted more terrorist attacks. His attack in Iran worked, but his plot to kill then-president Benazir Bhutto did not work. In a meeting with Mohammed and Abdul Hakim Murad, an old friend, they discussed airplanes and training to fly aircraft.
The trio were sent to Manila, Philippines. Yousef made assassination plots to kill Pope John Paul II and United States President Bill Clinton. The second plan was dismissed. The first became part of Operation Bojinka, but would not get implemented since the plot got exposed.
While he was in the Philippines, Yousef courted local women in clubs and went on scuba trips. Yousef met his girlfriend, Carol Santiago, at a 7-11 store on Adriatico Street. Santiago was introduced to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed at the store. She knew him under the name Salem Ali. Mohammed claimed to be a Saudi businessman.
While in Manila, his first bombing was at a mall in Cebu City, which detonated several hours after Yousef placed it in the generator room. Nobody was hurt.
On December 11, Yousef boarded Philippine Airlines Flight 434, which was on a Manila-Cebu-Tokyo route. Yousef assembled a bomb and planted it under his seat on the first leg of the flight. He left the plane at Cebu. The bomb exploded on the second leg, killing one passenger. The plane made an emergency landing in Okinawa, Japan.
Yousef and Mohammed had already started crafting Operation Bojinka. The plot would have had catastrophic consequences if it was carried out. The plot was abandoned after an apartment fire occurred in Manila, Philippines.
The fire was started when one of Yousef's friends started a chemical fire in his apartment. Yousef's plan was discovered on a notebook personal computer inside his apartment, two weeks before it would have been implemented. Murad was sent to the apartment to retrieve the computer after the fire department left, but he was arrested and later tortured. He confessed to being part of the Bojinka plan.
On February 7, 1995, Yousef was arrested by a group of FBI, US Diplomatic Security Service, and Pakistani police officers at the Su-Casa Guest House in Islamabad, Pakistan before he could rebase himself in Peshawar. He had been betrayed by a man he tried to recruit. Yousef was found with fingers with chemical burns on them.
In 1997, Osama bin Laden said that he never personally knew Ramzi Yousef in an interview.
In court, Yousef said, "I am a terrorist, and I am proud of it."
His friend Khalid Sheik Mohammed would succeed in launching the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, which were built from parts of Operation Bojinka. He too would be arrested after the United States campaign in Afghanistan.