Trial starts in 1993 World Trade Center bombing

By Daniel Trotta
Mon 26 Sep 2005 6:45 PM ET

NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - A long-awaited civil trial over the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center began on Monday with victims charging that authorities failed to heed their own warnings about an attack on the symbolic site.

Hundreds of victims are suing the owners of the Twin Towers over security procedures before Feb. 26, 1993, when Islamist militants exploded a truck bomb in an underground parking garage, killing six and wounding more than 1,000.

Several people are serving life prison terms for the attack, and the trial in New York state civil court will determine whether the owners -- the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- can be held liable. If so, separate suits from hundreds of victims and business owners could go forward.

The plaintiffs say the Port Authority failed to act for years on numerous warnings that the World Trade Center was vulnerable to attack long before the bombing. The Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, when Muslim militants crashed two hijacked airliners into them.

Plaintiff lawyer David Dean said the public underground parking garage was left unguarded even though presidential limousines and the Secret Service's ammunition were stored there.

"The Port Authority predicted exactly what happened. Why didn't they do something about it?" said Dean, citing security assessments by the Port Authority and outside consultants.

The Port Authority received no specific threat or intelligence report to anticipate the blast, defense lawyer Marc Kasowitz countered in opening arguments.

"The 1993 World Trade Center attack was unprecedented. It was the first attack by foreign terrorists on American soil," Kasowitz said.

"These terrorists were obsessed with attacking the World Trade Center and they were going to do it one way or another," he said.

The first World Trade Center attack was overshadowed by the one eight years later, and victims of the 1993 bombing are seeking the right to sue for damages.

"The whole emphasis is on 9/11. This was the first attack. There has been a lot of suffering, a lot of trauma. We just don't want to be forgotten," said Sydney Spencer, a caterer who was on the 55th floor on the day of the bombing.

Walter Stokes, an engineer who was in the basement and suffered severe injuries, said he was frustrated by the legal delays.

"I hope it finishes soon ... The Port Authority should be held responsible. I have dealt with these people. They just don't care," Stokes said.

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