Television

NGC is terror struck this September

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MUMBAI: Five years have passed since America got the shock of its life on 9 September 2001 when hijacked planes crashed into the twins towers in New York.

The National Geographic Channel (NGC) will air a series of specials in September under the initiative Terror Struck Month.

Aircrash Pal 434 airs on 3 September at 11:30 pm. It shows how on 11 December 1994, an international terrorist sneaks bomb ingredients past airport security and assembles them inside the bathroom of Pal flight 434. He calculates to make sure that his seat lies directly over the plane’s fuel tank, and plants the bomb under his seat before disembarking at a stopover in the Philippines.

The plane takes off a second time and is headed toward Tokyo when an explosion jolts the plane, creating panicked chaos as the blast kills one, injures ten, and leaves a gaping hole in the plane’s floor. Not knowing the extent of the damage, 292 passengers pin their hopes of survival on their captain, who expertly manipulates the damaged steering system and manages a masterful landing despite all odds.

But when new evidence links the Pal culprit to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, investigators realize that the danger is far from over. Alarming documents reveal that Pal 434 was only practice for a more deadly plan, and that the safety of thousands rests on the success of a worldwide manhunt for the globe-trotting terrorist.

The special Al Qeada Calling on 4 September 2006 at 10 pm notes that since 9/11, terrorism has gone global. Al Qaeda is now a brand name or logo used by anti-American Muslim extremists around the world. They don't need Osama Bin Laden's organisation any more to finance or organise mass attacks on civilians. And their methods don't need to be high tech, very complex or ambitious to have a lethal impact.

Ubiquitous technology - the mobile phone - has become a weapon of choice for some of today's terrorists. The small handset does not only allow them to communicate, take reconnaissance pictures, but also to trigger bombs simultaneously, causing indiscriminate killing on a mass scale. Al Qaeda Calling looks in detail at the Madrid train bombings of March 2004, when 10 explosive devices triggered by mobile phones on four busy trains killed 191 commuters, only three days before the general election.

Against the stories of survival and loss from relatives and witnesses, the special follows the frantic efforts by the police in tracking down the perpetrators of March 11th. Their key evidence: a mobile phone found in a bag in the wreckage wired up to explosives. The tiny sim card found inside soon leads police to track down the terror cell.

The film examines the indiscriminate killing on a mass scale that Al Qaeda pioneered with simultaneous explosions in the 1990s as well as the post-9/11 terrorist cell by looking at other attacks that have shocked the world. Unique interviews with the Bali bombers illuminate the meticulous precision with which these attacks are planned, mostly with the help of mobile phones.

As survivors and relatives come to grips with their loss and trauma, the film looks to the future, in which mobile phones will be able to do much more than detonate bombs. Soon terrorists using mobile phones will be able to become their own broadcasters - recording and transmitting live the atrocities they have engineered.

Zero Hour on 7 September at 10 pm recounts what happened on 9/11. In the early hours of this historic morning, 19 Al Qaeda soldiers pass through airport security, ready to enact Osama bin Laden’s carefully orchestrated “Plane’s Operation".

The group is led by four men who have received extensive flight training and are prepared to crash passenger jets into chosen targets. Once the hijackers board and take control of their four separate planes, they begin their descent on what they perceive to be symbols of American oppression.

At 8:46 am American Flight 11 crashes into the upper portion of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Less than twenty minutes later, United Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower, making it clear that this is an intentional attack.

Hundreds of lives are lost and injuries sustained as the disaster escalates—and it is about to further intensify as the other two hijacked planes rapidly approach the Pentagon and the capital city, Washington, DC.

At 10 pm on 10 September, the channel will air Triple Cross. The two-hour documentary shows how Mohamed survived more than 14 years as Al Qaeda’s chief “mole” inside the US, helped his boss, Bin Laden, to move in and out of Afghanistan and how he helped plan the operation in Somalia that downed two US Blackhawk helicopters.

Also shown will be how he helped plan the 1998 African embassy bombings, and even wrote part of the Al Qaeda terror manual. And finally, how Mohamed confessed to his crimes, cut a deal with the US government that has never been explained to the public and soon after, just plain disappeared. To this day Mohamed’s whereabouts are a complete mystery.  

Before these specials, the channel will have a Second World War Week in August. One special Pearl Harbour: Legacy of Attack will air on 6 August at 10 pm. 60 years after fire and death rained from the skies as Japanese warplanes attacked American forces, NGC takes a contemporary look at the surprise raid that signalled America's entry into World War II.

Underwater explorer Bob Ballard combs the waters off Pearl Harbour for the remains of a secret Japanese midget submarine that could have changed history. Pearl Harbor survivors share their painful and poignant stories. National Geographic and the National Park Service also capture the first images from inside the sunken battleship U.S.S. Arizona and examine the ecological risk the sunken ship and the half a million gallons of oil that may still be contained inside it.

On 8 August at 10 pm the channel will air a documentary on Bridge On The River Kwai. This tells the story of the greatest engineering project of World War II - the building of the Thailand to Burma railway by Allied POWs of the Japanese. While Allied soldiers slaved in miserable conditions to construct this 260 mile railway through near-impossible terrain, under the most savage working conditions and with only primitive tools, the Americans were developing a bomb called Azon - the first Allied "precision guided munition".

This bomb wouldn't simply be dropped - it would be carefully guided by radio control towards the target to ensure maximum accuracy and destruction. The Azon bomb was used to destroy the remote railway and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. The event became famous in part because of a classic film made by David Lean.

Death Before Surrender airs on 9 August at 10 pm. This two-hour special examines the final year of World War II in the Pacific, including the rationale for using the atomic bomb, and features the first-hand recollections of both American and Japanese civilians and soldiers - even a kamikaze pilot who survived his fated mission. It gives a rare glimpse at Japanese decision-making in the waning months of the war. Emperor Hirohito had to intervene twice to break deadlocks in his war cabinet.

The channel will also air the two part special 10 Days To Victory at 10 pm on 11 and 13 August. 10 days, 10 characters, 10 overlapping stories - coming from all points of the compass - bearing down to the same moment: the end of the biggest war the world has ever known. Combining large-scale reconstructions with traditional documentary storytelling, 10 Days to Victory evokes the climactic last moments of the Second World War. The program interweaves the stories of ten very different people caught up in the liberation of Europe from the grip of Nazi terror.

Their diaries, letters and interviews provide an insight into the dramatic events of the days leading to the end of the war. For these individuals, as for millions of others, the German surrender on 8 May 1945 marks the end of everything that had consumed their lives for six years.

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