Al-Qaeda (also al-Qaida or al-Qa'ida or al-Qa'idah) (Arabic: القاعدة al-qāʕida, translation: The Base) is an international alliance of militant Sunni jihadist organizations. Its roots can be traced back to Osama bin Laden and others around the time of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. Al-Qaeda's objectives include the end of foreign influence in Muslim countries and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate.
Al-Qaeda has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland. Its affiliates have executed attacks against targets in various countries, the most prominent being the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Northern Virginia. Following the September 11 attacks, the United States government launched a broad military and intelligence campaign known as the War on Terrorism, with the stated aim of dismantling al-Qaeda and killing or capturing its operatives.
Due to its structure of semi-autonomous cells, al-Qaeda's size and degree of responsibility for particular attacks are difficult to establish. However, this may also be because its size and degree are exaggerated. Although the governments opposed to al-Qaeda claim that it has worldwide reach, other analysts have suggested that those governments, as well as Osama bin Laden himself, exaggerate al-Qaeda's significance in Islamist terrorism. The neologism "al-Qaedaism" is applied to the wider context of those who independently conduct similar acts through political sympathy to al-Qaeda ideology or methods or the copycat effect.
Al-Qaeda (Also Known as Al-Qaida)
Responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks upon the United States, Al-Qaeda (also known as Al-Qaida) was established by Osama bin Ladin (also spelled Usama Bin Ladin or Osama bin Laden) in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Al-Qaeda helped finance, recruit, transport, and train Sunni Islamic extremists for the Afghan resistance. Al-Qaeda's current goal is to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries. Al-Qaeda has issued statement under banner of "The World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders" in February 1998, saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens—civilian or military—and their allies anywhere in the world. The World Islamic Front for Jihad merged with Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Al-Jihad) in June 2001.
Organization activities. On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda suicide attackers hijacked and crashed four U.S. commercial jets, two into the World Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a fourth into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving about 3,000 individuals dead or missing. Al-Qaeda also directed the October, 12, 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, killing 17 U.S. Navy crewmembers, and injuring another 39. Al-Qaeda also admitted responsibility for the bombings in August 1998 of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 301 individuals and injured more than 5,000 others. Al-Qaeda claims to have shot down U.S. helicopters and killed U.S. servicemen in Somalia in 1993 and to have conducted three bombings that targeted U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen, in December 1992.
Al-Qaeda is linked to unrealized plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in late 1994; a plan to kill President Clinton during a visit to the Philippines in early 1995; the planned midair bombing of a dozen U.S. trans-Pacific flights in 1995; and plans to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. They also plotted to carry out terrorist operations against U.S. and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan for millennial celebrations in late 1999. (Jordanian authorities thwarted the planned attacks and put 28 suspects on trial.) In December, 2001, suspected al-Qaeda associate Richard Colvin Reid attempted to ignite a shoe bomb on a transatlantic flight from Paris to Miami.
Al-Qaeda may have several thousand members and associates in cells located around the world, and also serves as a focal point or umbrella organization for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups, some members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Harakat ul-Mujahidin.
Al-Qaeda has cells worldwide and is reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. Coalition attacks on Afghanistan since October 2001 have dismantled the Taliban—once al-Qaeda's protectors—and led to the capture, death, or dispersal of al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda members at large, including as of April 2003, Osama bin Ladin, have vowed to attempt to carry out future attacks against U.S. interests.
Bin Ladin, member of a billionaire family that owns the Bin Ladin Group construction empire, is said to have inherited tens of millions of dollars that he uses to help finance the group. Al-Qaeda also maintains moneymaking front businesses, solicits donations from like-minded supporters, and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations. U.S. efforts to block al-Qaeda funding has hampered their ability to obtain money.
Timeline of al-Qaeda attacks
In Depth: Investigating al-Qaeda
Inside Al-Qaeda: a window into the world of militant Islam and the Afghani alumni
Here is a list of al-Qaida leaders reported killed or captured since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001:
Faces of Terror: al Qaeda's Top Command
Timeline of al-Qaida statements
Messages via audio and video tapes since 1995
Inside al Qaeda
AlQaeda founded in Afghanistan by Osama Bin Laden
As Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan Osama Bin Laden and other Arab fighters in the country form alQaeda which in Arabic means quotthe basequot. The network begins looking for new jihads holy wars.
Bin Laden moves to Sudan where he sets up training camps
Sudan becomes alQaeda's base for business operations and preparations for jihad. From here a number of attacks on Western targets are alleged to have been organised or supported. Bin Laden stays in the African country for five years. During this time it is believed he begins a search for nuclear material.
26 February, 1993
Bomb explodes at the World Trade Center in New York
Six people are killed and more than 1000 injured by a 500kg bomb. AlQaeda's involvement is unclear but some analysts believe that after the attack the group sought out the plotter Ramzi Yousef and offered him money. Yousef is serving a life sentence for the attack. His uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed currently in custody is thought to have helped plan the 11 September attacks.
4 October, 1993
Eighteen US servicemen killed in Somalia
Members of a Somali militia shoot down two Black Hawk helicopters. The US believes that alQaeda fighters helped train those responsible for the incident in which 18 American servicemen were killed.
Bin Laden leaves Sudan and returns to Afghanistan
In the mid1990s Sudan comes under growing international pressure to expel Osama Bin Laden. It is not clear whether he is actually forced to leave the African country but in May 1996 he returns to Afghanistan.
25 June, 1996
US military base in Saudi bombed 19 servicemen killed
A bomb rips through a US military housing complex near Dhahran Saudi Arabia killing 19 Americans. The US believes alQaeda may have been involved in this attack which has been blamed on the militant Hezbollah group.
22 February, 1998
Bin Laden issues fatwa calling for attacks on US citizens
A statement signed by Bin Laden and four of his associates calls for the killing of Americans saying it is the quotindividual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do itquot.
7 August, 1998
US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania bombed
More than 220 people are killed when lorries laden with bombs drove into the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On 20 August the US retaliates with air strikes against alleged training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan. Bin Laden is later indicted by a US court for the bombings in East Africa.
12 October, 2000
Attack on US warship in Yemen kills 17 sailors
Two suicide attackers ram a boat carrying explosives into the USS Cole in Aden port killing 17 American sailors. In 2004 six suspected alQaeda militants are charged in connection with the attack by a Yemeni court.
11 September, 2001
The worst attack on US soil kills about 3000 people
Nineteen alQaeda suspects hijack four planes and fly them into the World Trade Center in New York the Pentagon in Washington and a field in Pennsylvania. Six weeks later the US launches attacks on Afghanistan from where Bin Laden has been operating. After the war hundreds of suspected alQaeda fighters are sent to America's base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba where they are held in US custody.
12 December, 2001
First alQaeda suspect charged over 911 in the US
A French citizen of Moroccan origin is charged with conspiring with Osama Bin Laden and other suspects to kill thousands of Americans in the 11 September attacks. Zacarias Moussaoui was detained in the US on immigration charges in August after he aroused suspicion at a Minnesota flight school where he sought training. He admits being a member of alQaeda but denies involvement in the plot to hijack planes and crash them.
23 December, 2001
Briton held after trying to blow up plane
A British man is arrested on a flight from Paris to Miami after trying to blow up the plane with explosives hidden in his shoes. During his trial in the US Richard Reid pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. He is now serving a life sentence.
22 March, 2002
Senior alQaeda member captured in Pakistan
Abu Zubaydah believed to have served as Osama Bin Laden's field commander and chief recruiter is captured during a raid on a house in Pakistan. Number three on America's list of most wanted alQaeda suspects he is then handed over to the US authorities.
11 April, 2002
Blast at Tunisian synagogue kills 17 people
A fuel tanker is blown up outside a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba killing 19 people including 14 German tourists. An alQaeda spokesman later says the organisation was behind the suicide attack.
11 June, 2002
Dirty bomb plot foiled says US
The US authorities announce the arrest of an American citizen they accuse of planning to build and detonate a bomb containing radioactive material. Jose Padilla was detained on 8 May at Chicago airport after arriving from Pakistan.
11 September, 2002
911 plotter captured in Pakistan
Ramzi Binalshibh is arrested in Karachi on the anniversary of the attacks on America. He is accused of being a leading member of alQaeda and one of the main planners of the 11 September attacks.
12 October, 2002
Bomb attacks on Bali nightclubs kill 202
Two bombs rip through a busy nightclub area in the Balinese town of Kuta killing 202 people most of them foreign tourists. The Indonesian authorities believe the attacks were carried out by the South East Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiah which is said to have links to alQaeda.
22 October, 2002
First 911 trial opens in Germany
Mounir alMotassadek a Moroccan citizen goes on trial in Hamburg accused of membership of a terrorist cell and of being an accessory to the murder of more than 3000 people. He denies any knowledge of plans to launch the attacks. In 2003 he is found guilty of assisting the hijackers and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Another court later orders a retrial.
28 November, 2002
Israeli targets come under attack in Kenya
Sixteen people including three suicide bombers are killed in a blast at an Israeliowned hotel in Mombasa. A missile fired at an Israeli plane misses its target. A message on a website purporting to come from alQaeda says the group carried out the attack.
1 March, 2003
AlQaeda kingpin captured
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed thought to be one of alQaeda's most senior leaders is arrested in a joint PakistaniCIA operation near Islamabad. The US believes he helped plan the 11 September attacks.
12 May, 2003
Dozens killed in Saudi bombings
At least 34 people are killed in a series of bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. The targets are luxury compounds housing foreign nationals and a USSaudi office. AlQaeda is the prime suspect Washington and Riyadh say. It is the first in a string of attacks over successive months in Saudi Arabia.
16 May, 2003
Morocco rocked by suicide attacks
Bomb attacks in Casablanca kill 45 people including 12 attackers. Targets include a Spanish restaurant a fivestar hotel a Jewish community centre and the Belgian consulate. Four men later sentenced to death for the attacks are said by the Moroccan authorities to be members of the Salafia Jihadia widely believed to be linked to alQaeda.
27 June, 2003
Mastermind of Riyadh attacks arrested
The man suspected of masterminding the series of bombings in Riyadh is detained in Saudi Arabia. The arrest of Ali Abdul Rahman alGhamdi also known as Abu Bakr alAzdi is described as a major blow to alQaeda's operations in Saudi Arabia. He was number two on the list of mostwanted suspects in connection with the 12 May attacks.
15 December, 2003
Suicide bombers hit two Turkish synagogues
At least 23 people are killed and more than 300 injured in two devastating suicide attacks on synagogues in Istanbul. The government blames alQaeda for the attacks.
20 December, 2003
Two bomb attacks on British interests in Turkey
Attacks on the British Consulate and the HSBC bank offices in Istanbul leave 27 people dead and more than 450 wounded. There are separate claims of responsibility from two allegedly alQaeda connected groups.
9 February, 2004
US uncovers alQaeda plans for Iraq violence
US officials say they have uncovered what they believe is a plot by an alQaedalinked militant Abu Musab alZarqawi to stir up sectarian violence in Iraq.
11 March, 2004
Madrid rocked by deadly train bombings
Ten bombs explode on four packed earlymorning commuter trains in Madrid killing 191 people and leaving at least 1800 injured. Spanish officials later say their investigations are focusing on the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group which is said to support alQaeda's war against the West.
15 April, 2004
Bin Laden offers Europe truce
An audio tape purported to be from Osama Bin Laden is broadcast. In it he offers Europe a truce if it quotstops attacking Muslimsquot and withdraws all its troops from Muslim countries.
17 May, 2004
Top Iraqi official killed in suicide attack
Ezzedine Salim head of the Iraqi Governing Council is killed when a bomber blows himself up near the headquarters of the USled coalition in Baghdad. A group linked to alQaeda suspect Abu Musab alZarqawi says it carried out the attack. US officials believe Zarqawi is behind a number of attacks in Iraq and was responsible for the beheading of a US hostage.
29 May, 2004
Militant shooting spree and siege kill 22 in Saudi Arabia
Gumen allegedly from a group linked to alQaeda attack company offices in the eastern city of Khobar killing a number of people. The militants then move to the Oasis housing compound where they seize several dozen people mostly expatriates. The 25hour crisis ends on 30 May when Saudi commandos storm the housing complex.
18 June, 2004
US engineer beheaded in Saudi Arabia
Suspected AlQaeda militants in Saudi Arabia behead Paul Johnson after holding him hostage for a week. The purported head of alQaeda in the country Abdul Aziz alMuqrin is later killed by security forces.
30 July, 2004
Embassy bombings suspect arrest announced
The arrest of a key suspect in the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa in 1998 is announced by Pakistani officials. Days after Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani's capture Pakistan confirms the arrest of another man believed to be an alQaeda computer and communications expert.
26 September, 2004
Pakistan alQaeda suspect killed
Pakistani police shoot dead suspected alQaeda militant Amjad Farooqi in a twohour gun battle. Farooqi was wanted in connection with the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl and attempts to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He was said to be a close associate of Abu Faraj alLibbi described as the operational chief of alQaeda in the region.
29 September, 2004
US warship bombers given death sentence
A Yemeni court sentences Abd alRahim alNashiri and Jamal Mohammed alBadawi to death over the bomb attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 people in 2000. Four others are given between five and 10 years in jail for the attack.
29 October, 2004
Bin Laden video threatens US
Four days before presidential elections in the US alJazeera TV airs a videotape in which Osama Bin Laden threatens fresh attacks on the US. The alQaeda leader says the reasons behind the events of 11 September 2001 still exist.
14 April, 2005
A UK court convicts alQaeda suspect Kamal Bourgass
AlQaeda suspect Kamal Bourgass who stabbed to death a policeman is jailed for 17 years for plotting to spread ricin and other poisons on the UK's streets. Bourgass 31 was already serving a life term after being convicted of murdering Detective Constable Stephen Oake during a 2003 raid in Manchester.
20 April, 2005
Judge allows 911 suspect Moussaoui to enter guilty plea
A US judge rules that Zacarias Moussaoui the only person to be charged in the US in connection with the 911 attacks can enter a guilty plea. Mr Moussaoui a French citizen of Moroccan origin tried to plead guilty in 2002 but retracted the plea a week later.
22 April, 2005
Alleged 911 planners go on trial in Madrid
Immad Yarkas Driss Chebli and Ghassub alAbrash Ghaylun appear in court in Spain charged with assisting in the planning of the 11 September attacks. The three are charged variously with assisting with planning and logistics of the attacks and reconnaissance of the World Trade Center and other US targets.
4 May, 2005
Pakistan says it has caught alQaedas alleged number three
Pakistan announces it has arrested Libyan alQaeda suspect Abu FarajalLibbi thought to be third in the network's hierarchy. Pakistani investigators say detrmation from suspects caught in 2004 led them to identify Libbi as a target and capture him. US President George Bush describes him as a quotmajor facilitator and chief plannerquot for alQaeda.
7 July, 2005
Rushhour bomb attacks strike the heart of London
At least 50 die and 700 are injured as bombs explode on three underground trains and one bus in central London. Analysts say the attacks bear the hallmarks of groups linked to or at least inspired by alQaeda. A previously unknown group calling itself the Secret Group of alQaeda of Jihad Organisation in Europe claims to have carried out the attacks in a statement on an Islamist website.
Who's who in al-Qaeda
Shortly after the 11 September attacks, the US issued a list of al-Qaeda suspects. Some have now been captured or killed, and some new names have been added to those still at large.
Few details about key figures have been officially released. BBC News Online pieces together what little is known about some of the key al-Qaeda suspects.
Osama Bin Laden is the man the US accuses of masterminding the 11 September suicide hijackings and other attacks on US interests.
He has been indicted for the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa and the attacks on the USS Cole in October 2000.
He founded al-Qaeda in 1979, originally as a guesthouse in Peshawar for Arab fighters.
Despite an extensive military operation in Afghanistan it is still not known where he is or even if he is definitely still alive.
Egyptian in origin, al-Zawahri is believed to serve as Bin Laden's spiritual adviser, and doctor. He is also the architect of the al-Qaeda ideology.
In 1998, he was the second of five signatories to Bin Laden's notorious "fatwa" calling for attacks against US civilians.
He was a key figure in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group, which later merged with al-Qaeda.
Al-Zawahri has appeared alongside Bin Laden in al-Qaeda videotapes released since 11 September. His wife and children were reported killed in a US air strike in late November or early December 2001.
He has been indicted in the US for his role in the US embassy bombings in Africa, and was sentenced to death in Egypt in absentia for his activities with the Islamic Jihad group in the 1990s.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Arabic: خالد شيخ محمد; also transliterated as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, inter alia, and additionally known by as many as twenty-seven aliases) (b. March 1, 1964, or April 14, 1965) is a prisoner in U.S. custody for acts of terrorism, including mass murder.
In March 2007, after four years in captivity, including six months of detention at Guantanamo Bay, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — as it was claimed by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing  in Guantanamo Bay — confessed to masterminding the September 11th attacks, the Richard Reid shoe bombing attempt to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean, the Bali nightclub bombing in Indonesia, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and various foiled attacks.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalid_Shaikh_Mohammed
Saif Al-Adel (or Seif Al Adel, or Seif al-Adl) (Arabic: سيف العدل , meaning sword of justice) is one of the aliases of a certain Egyptian senior member of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation. It is possible, but disputed, that he is a former colonel by the name Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi ( محمد إبراهيم مكاوي ). Al-Adel has also used the alias Ibrahim Al-Madani ( إبراهيم المدني ) and the alias Omar al-Sumali ( عمر الصومالي ). Two dates of birth used by al-Adel are April 11, 1960 and April 11, 1963.
Al-Adel is under indictment for his part in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Africa. According to the indictment, al-Adel is a member of the majlis al shura of al-Qaeda and a member of its military committee, and he provided military and intelligence training to members of al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan, and to anti-UN Somali tribes. It is possible that his trainees included the Somalis of the first Battle of Mogadishu. It is now known (from captured letters) that al-Adel established the al-Qaeda training facility at Ras Kamboni in Somalia near the Kenyan border. (See also Battle of Ras Kamboni.)
Since al-Qaeda's military chief Mohammed Atef was killed in 2001, it has sometimes been said that al-Adel would be his natural successor in that role. But it is no longer clear whether al-Qaeda still has a person with that title.
In his native Egypt al-Adel was suspected, but not convicted, of involvement in the assassination of President Sadat. Al-Adel's fellow Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, founder of EIJ, has been sentenced to death for his part in that crime. Al-Adel left Egypt in 1988 and joined the anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan in some capacity. (See Soviet-Afghan War.)
There has been speculation that al-Adel and other al-Qaeda members fled Afghanistan to Iran and are still there. The others include Kuwaiti-born spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, and Saad bin Laden, son of al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.
Al-Adel has been on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists since its inception in 2001. The State Department's Rewards for Justice Program is offering up to US$5 million for information on his location.
An Egyptian in his late 30s, al-Adel is Bin Laden's security chief.
He is believed to have assumed many of the late Mohammed Atef's duties in al-Qaeda.
He was a colonel in the Egyptian army but joined the mujahideen fighting to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan.
He is also suspected of teaching militants to use explosives and training some of the 11 September hijackers.
He has been linked to the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The US further accuses him of training the Somali fighters who killed 18 US servicemen in Mogadishu in 1993.
In 1987, Egypt accused Adel - whose real name is Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi - of trying to establish a military wing of the militant Islamic group al-Jihad, and of trying to overthrow the government.
Abu Mohammed al-Masri:
Also Egyptian, he is believed to frequently use the name Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and to be about 40 years old.
He ran al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, including the al-Farooq camp near Kandahar.
He is also believed to have been involved in the Africa embassy bombings.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith:
Abu Ghaith: Stripped of Kuwaiti citizenship
Nominal al-Qaeda spokesman, Abu Ghaith is a Kuwaiti and believed to be in his mid-30s.
A former religious studies teacher, he left Kuwait in 2000.
He was stripped of his citizenship after an appearance on Qatar-based al-Jazeera television in which he vowed retaliation for US air strikes against Afghanistan.
Bin Laden can be seen poking fun at him in one of the videotapes released since 11 September.
Thirwat Salah Shirhata:
Also Egyptian, Shirhata is al-Zawahri's deputy in Egyptian Islamic Jihad group.
He has received two death sentences in absentia in Egypt for alleged terrorist activities.
Abu Musab Zarqawi:
Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian also known as Ahmed al-Khalayleh, has been sentenced to death in his own country for planning bombings.
The head of Germany's international counter-terrorism unit, Hans-Josef Beth, has warned that he is trained in the use of toxins and could be planning an attack on Europe.
He is believed to have travelled extensively since the 11 September attacks, including in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
Abu Zubaydah, who is thought to have served as Bin Laden's field commander, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002.
Abu Zubaydah: Captured in Pakistan
The Americans describe him as a "key terrorist recruiter and operational planner and member of Osama Bin Laden's inner circle".
The 30-year-old, who is believed to have been born to Palestinian parents in Saudi Arabia, is also known as Zayn al-Abidin Mohammed Husain and Abd al-Hadi al-Wahab but has used dozens of other aliases.
He has strong connections with Jordanian and Palestinian groups and was sentenced to death in his absence by a Jordanian court for his role in a thwarted plot to bomb hotels there during millennium celebrations.
US officials believe he is also connected to a plan to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo, and a plot to attack the US embassy in Paris.
For full profile click here
Captured in Pakistan in September 2002, the Yemeni national is allegedly one of the most senior al-Qaeda members to be arrested.
Ramzi Binalshibh: Captured in Karachi
Binalshibh, who is 30, is said to have become a key member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, after seeking asylum there in the late 1990s.
According to officials, he met Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Hamburg cell and one of the alleged masterminds of the 11 September attacks, through a local mosque in 1997.
Intelligence officials say Mr Binalshibh may also have been involved in the attacks on the USS Cole and a Tunisian synagogue.
Mohammed Haydar Zammar:
US investigators believe that Syrian-born Mohammed Haydar Zammar recruited Mohammed Atta - the suspected ringleader of the 11 September suicide attacks.
Mohammed Haydar Zammar: Sent to Syria
Zammar, a German citizen, was arrested in Morocco after he left Germany in the wake of the attacks. Moroccan authorities later sent him to Syria.
Zammar is believed to have been in Hamburg with Atta and other members of Atta's cell - including hijackers Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.
German authorities have said they interviewed him after the 11 September attacks.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri:
In November 2002, the US said it had captured a senior al-Qaeda member, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - believed to be leader of the network's operations in the Gulf.
Mr Nashiri, also known as Abu Asim al-Makki, is suspected of masterminding the October 2000 attack on the American warship USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, in which 17 sailors died.
US authorities have also linked Mr Nashiri to the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Anas al-Liby was one of the FBI's list of most-wanted. He was captured in eastern Afghanistan in January 2002.
The 38-year-old Libyan had been living in the UK and is linked by the Americans to the US embassy bombings in Africa.
Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti, was arrested in June.
He had been living in a village an hour from Jakarta in Indonesia where he had married a local woman and seemed to have blended successfully into the community.
Investigators fear that men like al-Faruq have been linking al-Qaeda to other militant Islamic groups in south-east Asia.
In November 2002, security officials in Kuwait arrested the man thought to be a senior member of al-Qaeda.
Identified only as Mohsen F, a 21-year-old Kuwaiti national, local press said he had been plotting to blow up a hotel in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a 34-year-old French citizen of Moroccan origin, is charged with six counts of conspiracy and faces a possible death sentence for alleged involvement in the attacks on New York and Washington.
Zacarias Moussaoui: Trial starts in 2003
So far, he is the only person charged in the US in connection with the 11 September attacks.
He is believed by US officials to be the "20th hijacker" - prevented from carrying out his mission only because he was already under arrest.
Mr Moussaoui has denied involvement in the attacks although he has admitted to being a member of the al-Qaeda network.
His trial has been delayed until June 2003.
For full profile click here
Mounir al-Motassadek, a Moroccan, is the first man to stand trial over the 11 September attacks.
He is accused of being an accessory to more than 3,000 murders in New York and Washington, and of belonging to an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg.
Mr Motassadek has insisted that he knew nothing about the attacks, and knew the hijackers only socially.
His trial began in Germany in October 2002.
British-born Richard Reid has admitted trying to blow up an airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Richard Reid: Admits trying to blow up a plane
The so called "shoe-bomber" changed his plea to guilty on all eight charges against him and declared himself a follower of Osama Bin Laden.
Mr Reid was arrested after a disturbance on an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight on 22 December 2001.
Mr Reid had previously said his guilty plea was conditional on the government removing references in two of the charges that link him with al-Qaeda. His trial continues.
In the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings (August 7, 1998), hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous car bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capital cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The attacks, linked to local members of the al Qaeda terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden, brought bin Laden and al Qaeda to international attention for the first time, and resulted in the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation placing bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted list.
Along with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the Embassy Bombing is one of the major anti-American terrorist attacks that preceded the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Somalis: U.S. strike kills suspect in '98 embassy bombings
A U.S.-led airstrike in Somalia has killed the suspected orchestrator of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, Somali officials said Wednesday.
A Somali official said the United States confirmed that al Qaeda's Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was killed and no civilians were harmed. However, U.S. officials would not confirm to CNN that Mohammed was killed or that Americans were involved in the airstrikes.
Backed by U.S. air support, Ethiopian and Somali government forces battled Islamist fighters and al Qaeda operatives Wednesday in the southern town of Dhobley, near the Kenyan border, according to Col. Abdirizaq Afgadud, a senior Somali military commander, and Abdirashid Hidig, a lawmaker.
Mohammed, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, was accused of planning the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people. A $5 million reward had been offered for his capture.
Media reports suggested additional U.S. airstrikes had been carried out, but a Pentagon duty officer said he was not aware of any operations.
However, a Pentagon official said the U.S. sent an AC-130 gunship on a second mission targeting al Qaeda members in southern Somalia on Tuesday but that the airstrike was aborted when the gunship lost track of the targets.
Villagers reported aerial bombardments in the region Tuesday, but it was not clear whether Ethiopian or U.S. aircraft were responsible.
On Sunday night a U.S. aerial gunship carried out an airstrike on suspected al Qaeda targets in the same area, Pentagon and White House spokesmen said. (Watch how intelligence on al Qaeda operatives prompted the launch )
Sunday's strike was the first overt American action in Somalia since the U.S. military pulled out of the capital of Mogadishu in 1994. The departure came months after militia fighters loyal to a Somali warlord shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, killing 18 members of the U.S. Special Forces.
Ethiopia's air force has conducted airstrikes in support of Somalia's interim government forces against Islamist fighters.
A senior Pentagon official said Sunday's U.S. airstrike targeted five al Qaeda operatives who fled to southern Somalia last month after Ethiopian-backed Somali troops forced Islamist militants out of Mogadishu. (Watch how al Qaeda operations in Somalia have alarmed U.S. officials )
Additionally, the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has moved within striking distance of Somalia, but its jets have not been put to use, the Pentagon official said.
Senior U.S. military officials said the Eisenhower and four other U.S. ships will stay in the area for some time to watch for al Qaeda operatives trying to get out of Somalia.
U.S. officials have accused the Islamic Courts Union -- which wrested control of Mogadishu from a U.S.-backed coalition of warlords in June -- of harboring al Qaeda terrorists, including the suspects in the 1998 bombings. The Islamists have denied the allegations.
The Defense Department offered no details on whether Sunday's airstrike was successful, or whether the U.S. military has carried out more.
American officials said they expect more U.S. military action. There are 1,800 U.S. troops in the Horn of Africa region as part of an anti-terrorism task force.
A senior Somali government official told The Associated Press a small U.S. team has been giving military advice to Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
In Washington, a U.S. official said it would be virtually unheard of for the United States to be involved in an operation of this size without "eyes on the ground," the AP reported.
Two senior Pentagon officials said they hadn't heard of plans to put any sizable contingent of Americans on the ground in Somalia, according to the AP. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, the AP said.
White House spokesman Tony Snow confirmed a U.S. military operation occurred overnight Sunday in Somalia but referred specific questions to the Pentagon. Snow added that the U.S. Congress was not consulted.
The operation, carried out by an Air Force AC-130, reportedly was launched based on intelligence that al Qaeda operatives were in the area.
Somalian interim President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had few details but said he supported its goals.
"I don't know that airstrike was in two places or not, but if it's confirmed, I agree with the Americans to target those who were behind the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa," Ahmed said.
USS Cole bombing
The USS Cole bombing was a suicide bombing attack against the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) on October 12, 2000 while it was harbored in the Yemeni port of Aden. 17 sailors were killed. This attack was often seen as a precursor to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
On October 12, 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, set in to Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 09:30. Refueling started at 10:30. At 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small craft approached the port side of the destroyer, and an explosion occurred, putting a 35-by-36-foot gash in the ship's port side. The blast hit the ship's galley, where crew were lining up for lunch. The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control by the evening. Divers inspected the hull and determined the keel was not damaged.
Seventeen sailors were killed and thirty nine others were injured in the blast. The injured sailors were taken to the United States Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany, and later to the U.S. The attack was the deadliest against a US Naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark (FFG-31) on May 17th, 1987.
The attack, organized and directed by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization, was carried out by suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa.
On March 14, 2007, a federal judge in the United States ruled that the Sudanese government was liable for the bombing. The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed against the Sudanese government by relatives of the victims, who claim that Al-Qaeda could not have carried out the attacks without the support of Sudanese officials. The judge stated "There is substantial evidence in this case presented by the expert testimony that the government of Sudan induced the particular bombing of the Cole by virtue of prior actions of the government of Sudan.
After the attack
The first naval ship on the scene to assist the stricken Cole was the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, HMS Marlborough, under the command of Capt Anthony Rix, RN. She was on passage to the UK after a six-month deployment in the Gulf. Marlborough had full medical and damage control teams on board and when her offer of assistance was accepted she immediately diverted to Aden.
The first U.S. military support to arrive was a small group of U.S. Marines from the IMCSF Company, Bahrain. The Marines were flown in by P-3 a few hours after the ship was struck. These Marines were followed by a U.S. Marine platoon with the 2nd Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company (FAST), based out of Yorktown, Virginia. The Marines from 4th Platoon, 2nd FAST arrived on the 13th from a security mission in Doha, Qatar. The FAST platoon secured the USS Cole and a nearby hotel that was housing the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.
USS Donald Cook and USS Hawes made best speed to arrive in the vicinity of Aden that afternoon providing repair and logistical support. Catawba, Camden, Anchorage, Duluth, and Tarawa arrived in Aden some days later, providing watch relief crews, harbor security, damage control equipment, billeting, and food service for the crew of the Cole. LCU 1666 provided daily runs from the Tarawa with hot food and supplies and ferrying personnel to and from all other Naval vessels supporting USS Cole. In the remaining days LCU 1632 and various personnel from LCU 1666 teamed up to patrol around the Cole while the MV Blue Marlin was preparing to take up station to receive the Cole.
In a form of transport pioneered in 1988 by the USS Samuel B. Roberts aboard the Mighty Servant 2, Cole was hauled from Aden aboard the Norwegian heavy semi-submersible salvage ship MV Blue Marlin (see Figure 2). She arrived in Pascagoula, Mississippi December 24, 2000.
Rules of engagement
The destroyer's rules of engagement, as approved by the Pentagon, kept its guards from firing upon the small boat loaded with explosives as it neared them without first obtaining permission from the Cole's captain or another officer. Petty Officer John Washak said that right after the blast, a senior chief petty officer ordered him to turn an M-60 machine gun on the Cole's fantail away from a second small boat approaching. "With blood still on my face," he said, he was told: "That's the rules of engagement: no shooting unless we're shot at." He added, "In the military, it's like we're trained to hesitate now. If somebody had seen something wrong and shot, he probably would have been court-martialed." Petty Officer Jennifer Kudrick said that if the sentries had fired on the suicide craft "we would have gotten in more trouble for shooting two foreigners than losing seventeen American sailors."
Consequences and after-effects
President Bill Clinton declared, "If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a despicable and cowardly act. We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable". Some critics have pointed out that, under U.S. law, an attack against a military target does not meet the legal definition of terrorism  (see: 22 USC § 2656f(d)(2)).
On January 19, 2001, The Navy completed and released its Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation of the incident, concluding that Cole's commanding officer Commander Kirk Lippold "acted reasonably in adjusting his force protection posture based on his assessment of the situation that presented itself" when Cole arrived in Aden to refuel. The JAGMAN also concluded that "the commanding officer of Cole did not have the specific intelligence, focused training, appropriate equipment or on-scene security support to effectively prevent or deter such a determined, preplanned assault on his ship" and recommended significant changes in Navy procedures.
On November 3, 2002, the CIA fired a AGM-114 Hellfire missile from a Predator UAV at a vehicle carrying Abu Ali al-Harithi, a suspected planner of the bombing plot. Also in the vehicle was Ahmed Hijazi, a U.S. citizen. Both were killed. This operation was carried out on Yemeni soil.
On September 29, 2004, a Yemeni judge sentenced Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Jamal al-Badawi to death for their roles in the bombing. Al-Nashiri, believed to be the operation's mastermind, is currently being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Al-Badawi, in Yemeni custody, denounced the verdict as "an American one." Four others were sentenced to prison terms of five to 10 years for their involvement, including one Yemeni who had videotaped the attack.
On February 3, 2006, 23 suspected or convicted Al-Qaeda members escaped from jail in Yemen. This number included 13 who were convicted of the USS Cole bombings and the bombing of the French tanker Limburg in 2002. Among those who reportedly escaped was Al-Badawi. Al-Qaeda's Yemeni number two Abu Assem al-Ahdal may also be among those now on the loose.
Both the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration have been criticized for failing to respond militarily to the attack on the USS Cole before September 11, 2001. The 9-11 Commission Report cites one source who said in February 2001, "[bin Laden] complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked [in response to the Cole]... Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger."
Evidence of al-Qaeda's involvement was inconclusive for months after the attack. The staff of the 9-11 Commission found that al-Qaeda's direction of the bombing was under investigation but "increasingly clear" on November 11, 2000. It was an "unproven assumption" in late November. By December 21 the CIA had made a "preliminary judgment" that "al Qaeda appeared to have supported the attack," with no "definitive conclusion."
Accounts thereafter are varied and somewhat contradictory.
Then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told the Commission that when the administration took office on January 20, 2001, "We knew that there was speculation that the 2000 Cole attack was al Qaeda... We received, I think, on January 25th the same assessment [of al-Qaeda responsibility]. It was preliminary. It was not clear."
Newsweek reported that on the following day, "six days after Bush took office," the FBI "believed they had clear evidence tying the bombers to Al Qaeda." The Washington Post reported that, on February 9, Vice President Dick Cheney was briefed on bin Laden's responsibility "without hedge."
These conclusions are contrasted by testimony of key figures before the 9/11 Commission, summarized in the 9/11 Commission Report. Former CIA Director George Tenet testified (page 196) that he "believed he laid out what was knowable early in the investigation, and that this evidence never really changed until after 9/11." The report suggests (pages 201 - 202) that the official assessment was similarly vague until least March of 2001:
On January 25, Tenet briefed the President on the Cole investigation. The written briefing repeated for top officials of the new administration what the CIA had told the Clinton White House in November. This included the "preliminary judgment" that al Qaeda was responsible, with the caveat that no evidence had yet been found that Bin Ladin himself ordered the attack... in March 2001, the CIA's briefing slides for Rice were still describing the CIA's "preliminary judgment" that a "strong circumstantial case" could be made against al Qaeda but noting that the CIA continued to lack "conclusive information on external command and control" of the attack.
According to Dr. Rice, the decision not to respond militarily to the Cole bombing was President Bush's. She said he "made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al Qaeda one attack at a time. He told me he was 'tired of swatting flies.'" The administration instead began work on a new strategy to eliminate al-Qaeda.
Cole bombing suspect says he confessed under torture
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen said he was tortured into admitting responsibility for that attack and others, according to a hearing transcript the Pentagon released Friday.
Abd al Rahim Hussein Mohammed al Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian detainee held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denied participating in the Cole attack.
Al Nashiri said he "was tortured into confession, and once he made a confession his captors were happy and they stopped questioning him," according to a statement read at his hearing. "Also, the detainee states that he made up stories during the torture in order to get [it] to stop."
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department would investigate al Nashiri's torture allegation if the military was holding him at the time. If another agency was detaining him then, Whitman said that agency would be responsible for the investigation.
The transcript was the ninth the Pentagon has released since the combatant status review tribunals began this month for 14 detainees whom the CIA once secretly held.
The hearings will determine whether a detainee should be classified as an "enemy combatant." If so, they then can be charged and tried under the military commissions law that President Bush signed in October.
Suicide bombers on a boat attacked the guided missile destroyer USS Cole on October 12, 2000, in the harbor at Aden, Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and 39 injured.
The U.S. military's summary of evidence against al Nashiri said an FBI source identified him as an important person in al Qaeda and "heard" he helped arrange the Cole bombing.
The evidence said al Nashiri bought a boat and explosives used in the Cole attack with his own money.
Al Nashiri said he is not a member of al Qaeda, according to the transcript. However, he said he knew those who bombed the Cole because he had business dealings with them in the fishing industry.
"He did not even hear about the USS Cole bombing until many hours after it had occurred and was surprised by the incident," according to the transcript.
Eight other review hearings have occurred for the 14 labeled as "high-value" detainees, including one for the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Mohammed told a military panel he was responsible for those attacks and more than 30 others, according to a transcript released by U.S. military officials.
The September 11, 2001 attacks (often referred to as 9/11—pronounced "nine eleven") consisted of a series of coordinated terrorist suicide attacks by Islamic extremists on that date upon the United States of America.
That morning nineteen terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. Each team of hijackers included a trained pilot. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners (United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11) into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower (1 WTC and 2 WTC), resulting in the collapse of both buildings soon afterward and irreparable damage to nearby buildings. The hijackers crashed a third airliner (American Airlines Flight 77) into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft (United Airlines Flight 93) attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In addition to the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died as an immediate result of the attacks, and the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to WTC dust. Another 24 people are missing and presumed dead. The victims were predominantly civilians.
Long before 9/11, the White House debated taking the fight to al-Qaeda. By the time they decided, it was too late. The saga of a lost chance
Al Qaeda recoups post-9/11 losses
Leaks of a US intelligence report show Al Qaeda's operating capabilities are at their strongest since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The report suggests the network has rebuilt itself despite a six-year campaign to dismantle it.
The classified National Counter-Terrorism Centre paper identifies Pakistan's western tribal areas as the group's safe haven and examines threats posed to the US and its allies.
The White House is set to discuss the five-page threat assessment document, Al Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West, today.
Top intelligence analysts also told Congress yesterday that Al Qaeda's training activities, funding and communications had increased as the militant network had settled into new bases in remote, ungoverned areas of Pakistan.
When asked about the intelligence assessment, US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he could not discuss any classified report but reiterated concerns Al Qaeda activity was expanding around the world.
"We're concerned about the increased scope," he told CNN TV.
"We saw a bombing in Algeria yesterday. We see bombings in North Africa and activities in Somalia and Pakistan.
"All of these things are creating heightened concern on our part as we move forward."
He said Al Qaeda's threat to the US had not returned to levels seen just before September 11, 2001.
"I wouldn't put it at that level," he told American ABC's Good Morning America.
"I do think we've accomplished an awful lot in dismantling their activities overseas and in building our own defences, but I do think the level of intent on the part of the enemy remains very high."
Mr Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune this week that his "gut feeling" was that the US faced a heightened risk of attack this summer.
But he told NBC today: "We don't have any specific information about an imminent or near-term attack on the homeland."
"We're looking at the strategic picture over the next six months to a year. We're evaluating where that is," he said.
He said his concern the US could be entering a period of heightened risk was based on greater Al Qaeda activity in Pakistan and Africa, an increase in public messages from militant figures, including Osama bin Laden's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri, and a history of summer attacks.
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were alleged by some U.S. Government officials to have established a highly secretive relationship between 1992 and 2003, specifically through a series of meetings reportedly involving the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). In the lead up to the Iraq War, U.S. President George W. Bush alleged that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and militant group al-Qaeda might conspire to launch terrorist attacks on the United States, basing the administration's rationale for war, in part, on this allegation and others. The consensus of intelligence experts has been that these contacts never led to an operational relationship, and that consensus is backed up by reports from the independent 9/11 Commission, declassified Defense Department reports as well as by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, whose 2006 report of Phase II of its investigation into prewar intelligence reports concluded that there was no evidence of ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Critics of the Bush Administration have said Bush was intentionally building a case for war with Iraq without regard to factual evidence. On April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes that the Bush Administration "could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is a Khawarij and terrorist group which is playing an active role in the Iraqi insurgency. The group was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi until his death in 2006, and it is now believed to be led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri).
The group is a direct successor of the al-Zarqawi's previous organization known as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad ("Group of Monotheism and the Holy Struggle"). Since its official statement declaring allegiance to the Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network in October 2004, the group identifies itself as Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) ("Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers").
AQI is among Iraq's most feared militant organisations and is widely regarded as the United States' most formidable enemy in Iraq. Others suggest that the threat posed by AQI is exaggerated and that the opinion among many scholars is that a "heavy focus on al-Qaeda obscures a much more complicated situation on the ground." According to the U.S. government report, this group is most clearly associated with foreign terrorist cells operating in Iraq and has specifically targeted international forces and Iraqi citizens. AQI's operations are predominately Iraq-based, but the US State Department alleges that the group maintains an extensive logistical network throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, South Asia, and Europe. AQI's top leaders are usually foreigners; it is also estimated that foreigners make up at least 70 percent of AQI's 1,000 to several thousand fighters. Other estimates suggest AQI numbers around 850, about 3 to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency
Bush stands by al Qaeda, Saddam link
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush repeated his administration's claim that Iraq was in league with al Qaeda under Saddam Hussein's rule, saying Tuesday that fugitive Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ties Saddam to the terrorist network.
"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda," Bush told reporters at the White House. "He's the person who's still killing."
U.S. intelligence officials have said al Qaeda had some links to Iraq dating back to the early 1990s, but the nature and extent of those contacts is a matter of dispute.
Critics have accused the president and other administration officials of falsely inflating the links between Iraq and al Qaeda in the months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Monday in Florida, raised eyebrows by reasserting claims that Saddam "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."
Bush said Tuesday that Saddam also had ties to Palestinian militant groups and was making payments to the families of suicide bombers in Israel.
"We did the absolute right thing in removing him from power, and the world is better off with him not in power," he said.
Bush has tried to portray the war in Iraq as the "central front" in the war on terrorism that began with al Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
In September, after Cheney asserted that Iraq had been "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11," Bush acknowledged there was no evidence that Saddam's government was connected to those attacks.
U.S. officials blame Zarqawi for a series of attacks on U.S. forces, Iraqi civilians and others since the American-led invasion of Iraq, including the April beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg and the August 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
Before the invasion, U.S. intelligence reports suggested Zarqawi had his leg amputated in a Baghdad hospital after being wounded fighting American forces in Afghanistan. The allegation was part of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003, laying out the U.S. case for war.
But in April, a senior U.S. official said that report had been called into question: Zarqawi was still thought to have received medical treatment in Baghdad, but reports that he had his leg amputated appeared to have been incorrect, a U.S. official said.
Earlier this year, U.S. officials touted what they said was an intercepted letter from Zarqawi to al Qaeda leaders seeking their help in provoking a civil war in Iraq, where the U.S.-led occupation authority is scheduled to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government at month's end.
The principal reason cited for the coalition invasion was that Iraq was violating U.N. resolutions requiring it to give up chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and efforts to build a nuclear bomb. The U.N. did not give a final vote to approve the war but the U.S. pointed to previous resolutions that called for "serious consequences" if Iraq did not disarm.
Since then, inspectors have turned up some evidence of undeclared weapons research and two chemical artillery shells, but none of the stockpiles that Iraq was accused of maintaining.
A total of 833 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion -- more than 500 of them in guerrilla attacks since Bush's May 1, 2003, declaration that "major combat" was over.
Bush acknowledged that creating a free society in Iraq is "hard work."
"But we'll get there," he said. "And we'll get there because people want to be free. That's why we'll get there. People long to live in freedom."
Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed
The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.
Along with the contention that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials have often asserted that there were extensive ties between Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network; earlier this year, Cheney said evidence of a link was "overwhelming."
But the report of the commission's staff, based on its access to all relevant classified information, said that there had been contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no cooperation. In yesterday's hearing of the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a senior FBI official and a senior CIA analyst concurred with the finding.
The staff report said that bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq" while in Sudan through 1996, but that "Iraq apparently never responded" to a bin Laden request for help in 1994. The commission cited reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1996, adding, "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
The finding challenges a belief held by large numbers of Americans about al Qaeda's ties to Hussein. According to a Harris poll in late April, a plurality of Americans, 49 percent to 36 percent, believe "clear evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found."
As recently as Monday, Cheney said in a speech that Hussein "had long-established ties with al Qaeda." Bush, asked on Tuesday to verify or qualify that claim, defended it by pointing to Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has taken credit for a wave of attacks in Iraq.
Bush's Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), sought to profit from the commission's finding. "The administration misled America, and the administration reached too far," Kerry told Michigan Public Radio. "I believe that the 9/11 report, the early evidence, is that they're going to indicate that we didn't have the kind of terrorists links that this administration was asserting. I think that's a very, very serious finding."
A Bush campaign spokesman countered that Kerry himself has said Hussein "supported and harbored terrorist groups." And Cheney's spokesman pointed to a 2002 letter written by CIA Director George J. Tenet stating that "we have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade" and "credible information indicates that Iraq and al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression." Cheney's office also pointed to a 2003 Tenet statement calling Zarqawi "a senior al Qaeda terrorist associate."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the commission finding of long-standing high-level contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq justified the administration's earlier assertions. "We stand behind what was said publicly," he said.
Bush, speaking to troops in Tampa yesterday, did not mention an Iraq-al Qaeda link, saying only that Iraq "sheltered terrorist groups." That was a significantly milder version of the allegations administration officials have made since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In late 2001, Cheney said it was "pretty well confirmed" that Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official before the attacks, in April 2000 in Prague; Cheney later said the meeting could not be proved or disproved.
Bush, in his speech aboard an aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003, asserted: "The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."
In September, Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press": "If we're successful in Iraq . . . then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
Speaking about Iraq's alleged links to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks, Cheney connected Iraq to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by saying that newly found Iraqi intelligence files in Baghdad showed that a participant in the bombing returned to Iraq and "probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven." He added: "The Iraqi government or the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s."
Shortly after Cheney asserted these links, Bush contradicted him, saying: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th." But Bush added: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties."
In January, Cheney repeated his view that Iraq was tied to al Qaeda, saying that "there's overwhelming evidence" of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. He said he was "very confident there was an established relationship there."
The commission staff, in yesterday's report, said that while bin Laden was in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, a senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan, and that he had a meeting with bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden was reported to have sought training camps and assistance in getting weapons, "but Iraq never responded," the staff said. The report said that bin Laden "at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan."
As for the Atta meeting in Prague mentioned by Cheney, the commission staff concluded: "We do not believe that such a meeting occurred." It cited FBI photographic and telephone evidence, along with Czech and U.S. investigations, as well as reports from detainees, including the Iraqi official with whom Atta was alleged to have met. On the 1993 trade center bombing, the staff found "substantial uncertainty" about whether bin Laden and al Qaeda were involved.
At yesterday's hearing, commissioner Fred F. Fielding questioned the staff's finding of no apparent cooperation between bin Laden and Hussein. He pointed to a sentence in the first sealed indictment in 2001 of the al Qaeda members accused of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; that sentence said al Qaeda reached an understanding with Iraq that they would not work against each other and would cooperate on acquiring arms.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, now a U.S. attorney in Illinois, who oversaw the African bombing case, told the commission that reference was dropped in a superceding indictment because investigators could not confirm al Qaeda's relationship with Iraq as they had done with its ties to Iran, Sudan and Hezbollah. The original material came from an al Qaeda defector who told prosecutors that what he had heard was secondhand.
The staff report on Iraq was brief. Though not confirming any Iraqi collaboration with al Qaeda, it did not specifically address two of the other pieces of evidence the administration has offered to link Iraq to al Qaeda: Zarqawi's Tawhid organization and the Ansar al-Islam group.
In October 2002, Bush described Zarqawi, a Palestinian born in Jordan, as "one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks."
Zarqawi wrote a January 2003 letter to bin Laden's lieutenants, intercepted at the Iraqi border, saying that if al Qaeda adopted his approach in Iraq, he would swear "fealty to you [bin Laden] publicly and in the news media."
In March, in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tenet described Zarqawi's network as among groups having "links" to al Qaeda but with its own "autonomous leadership . . . own targets [and] they plan their own attacks."
Although Zarqawi may have cooperated with al Qaeda in the past, officials said it is increasingly clear that he has been operating independently of bin Laden's group and has his own network of operatives.
The other group, Ansar al-Islam, began in 2001 among Kurdish Sunni Islamic fundamentalists in northern Iraq, fighting against the two secular Kurdish groups that operated under the protection of the United States. At one point, bin Laden supported Ansar, as did Zarqawi, who is believed to have visited their area more than once. Tenet referred to Ansar as one of the Sunni groups that had benefited from al Qaeda links.
Report: Al Qaeda Plans New Iraq Offensive
Politicians, GIs Targeted, Islamic Web Site Says; Meanwhile, Iraq's Parliament Heads Back To Work
A Sunni insurgent coalition that includes al Qaeda in Iraq said Tuesday it was forming several battalions to intensify suicide attacks against U.S. and Iraqi government targets.
The warning came as Iraq's parliament got back to work after a month-long summer break, but it was not immediately clear whether lawmakers would quickly take up key benchmark legislation demanded by Washington.
In a statement posted on an Islamic Web site, the Islamic State of Iraq said the "War Ministry" decided to form special battalions for martyrdom seekers "to pound the bastions of the crusaders and their renegade tails" in Iraq.
"These battalions, with God's help, will perform their duties in an excellent manner during the month of Ramadan and the enemies of God will suffer a lot," the statement said. Last Ramadan, al Qaeda also urged its followers to step up attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the month of Ramadan has seen a spike in violence - especially suicide attacks - in part because some Islamic extremists believe those who die in combat for a holy cause during the period are especially blessed.
The statement said "most of the martyr seekers of these blessed battalions will be from the Ansar (Iraqi) brothers."
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was published by an Islamic Web forum that usually carries announcements by militant groups.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is blamed for some of the deadliest suicide bombings against Shiite Muslim civilians, as well as numerous attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and police.
The announcement is believed to be aimed at countering what the statement described as "media reports that the mujahideen have been weakened and their attacks were curtailed."
Sunni tribal leaders in some major towns, angry over the movement's attempt to monopolize power and mandate a strict Islamic lifestyle, have turned against al Qaeda and, with U.S. support, have defeated the militants forcing them out of their areas.
Local Sunnis taking up arms against al Qaeda, particularly in Anbar Province, has been cited by President Bush as evidence of military success in Iraq.
Mr. Bush told CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric Monday during a surprise visit to Iraq that if such success continues, it may be possible to start reducing U.S. troop levels. (Read more)
Speaking Tuesday to CBS Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., responded to Mr. Bush's hint at possible troop level changes.
"If he's talking about bringing down troops to the pre-surge level, to 130,000, that's not withdrawal. The withdrawal would be getting us out of the middle of that civil war," said Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In other developments:
An Iraqi appeals court on Tuesday upheld death sentences imposed against "Chemical Ali" al-Majid and two other Saddam Hussein lieutenants convicted of crimes against humanity for their roles a massacre of Kurds, a judge said. Al-Majid, Saddam's cousin and former defense minister, gained the nickname "Chemical Ali" after poison gas attacks on Kurdish towns in the 1980s.
The former top U.S. official in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has released a series of letters between himself and President Bush that shows Mr. Bush was aware of plans to disband the Iraqi Army in 2003, according to a report in the New York Times. Bremer reportedly handed the letters over the newspaper after reading a quote by Mr. Bush in a new book, which makes it seem like the move came as a surprise to the White House, and was not part of the plan.
Iraq's parliament shrugged off calls in July from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to cancel, or at least shorten, the traditional summer pause saying after putting the break off for a month that there was no point waiting any longer for the premier to deliver the legislation.
The session opened with 158 members of 275 present - enough to form quorum, but the agenda was not immediately announced.
The American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due in Washington to report to Congress next week on progress in Iraq since the introduction of 30,000 more American troops, including whether advances are being made toward national reconciliation.
While parliament was in recess, al-Maliki attempted to break the impasse with major Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders in a high-level meeting just over a week ago. It brought al-Maliki together fellow Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the head of the northern autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani and President Jalal Talabani, who is also a Kurd.
They said they agreed in principle on some issues that the U.S. has set as benchmarks for progress, among them holding provincial elections, releasing prisoners held without charge and changing the law preventing many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from holding government jobs and elected office.
Any agreements reached at the secret meeting will be harder to implement in the diverse 275-member parliament, with the specter of sectarian violence a stark reality just outside the doors.
Mr. Bush told Couric Iraq's parliamentarians are "very clear on the current government structure. What they're having trouble getting to is passing laws. They passed 60 laws last year. They passed a significant budget. They understand we expect them to pass more laws."
However, Sen. Biden told Smith on The Early Show "there is virtually no political progress being made".
"You don't hear any progress about how Sunnis and Shiites, the ones in the midst of the civil war, are beginning to live well with one another.
"Prior to the surge, people were fleeing their neighborhoods at 50,000 people a month. Since the surge, they've been fleeing their neighborhoods at 100,000 per month," Biden said.
FACTBOX: Major Al-Qaeda related attacks since Sept 11
Here is a list of some of the deadliest attacks linked to al Qaeda since around 3,000 people were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
-- October 12, 2002: Some 202 people are killed, including 88 Australians, in blasts on the tourist island of Bali. Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militants are blamed.
-- March 11, 2004: Ten bombs on four Madrid commuter trains kill 191 people, and injure more than 2,000 people, in the deadliest al Qaeda-related attack in Europe.
-- November 9, 2005: Three Iraqi suicide bombers strike three hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing at least 60 people and injuring nearly 100. Al Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility.
-- May 12, 2003: At least five suicide bombs kill 45 people, including 12 bombers, in Casablanca, Morocco. The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, known by its French acronym GICM, and accused of supporting al Qaeda, is suspected.
-- April 11, 2007: Bombs rip through the Algerian prime minister's office and a police station, killing at least 30 people and wounding about 160 in Algiers. The attacks are claimed by the new al Qaeda wing in Islamic North Africa.
The 2004 Madrid train bombings (also known as 3/11 and -in Spanish- as 11-M ) consisted of a series of coordinated bombings against the Cercanías (commuter train) system of Madrid, Spain on the morning of 11 March 2004 (three days before Spain's general elections), killing 191 people and wounding 2,050. The official investigation by the Spanish Judiciary determined the attacks were directed by an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist cell, although no direct al-Qaeda participation has been established. Spanish nationals who sold the explosives to the terrorists were also arrested. It is the only Islamist terrorist act in the history of Europe, according to the European Strategic Intelligence And Security Center, where non-Muslims collaborated with Muslims.
The authorship of the bombings remains controversial to some groups in Spain due to the high political price paid by the Partido Popular (PP), who were then in power. The aftermath of the terrorist attacks were marked by bitter arguments between the two main political parties (PSOE and PP), who accused each other of concealing or distorting evidence for electoral reasons. If it was proven that the March 11 attacks had been carried out by ETA, political analysts believe it would have strengthened the PP's chances of being re-elected, as this would have been perceived as the death throes of a terrorist organisation reduced to desperate measures by the strong anti-terrorist policy of the Aznar administration. On the other hand, an Islamist attack would have been perceived as the direct result of Spain's involvement in Iraq, a massively unpopular war  that had not been approved by the Spanish Parliament.
A controversy appeared regarding the handling and representation of the bombings by the government of José María Aznar and alleged unresolved issues around the bombings.
After 21 months of investigation, judge Del Olmo ruled Moroccan national Jama Zougam guilty of physically carrying out the attack , ruling out any ETA intervention. Nation-wide demonstrations and protests followed the attacks. Many analysts coincide on the view that the Aznar administration lost the general elections as a result of the handling and representation of the terrorist attacks, rather than the bombings per se.
Al Qaeda Claims Credit for Madrid Blasts
MADRID, Spain — Al Qaeda has reportedly claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Madrid Thursday that left at least 198 people dead and more than 1,400 wounded.
"March 11, 2004, now holds its place in the history of infamy," Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (search) said of the multiple attacks that targeted trains and train stations in the Spanish capital.
The bombing came three days ahead of Spain's general election on Sunday. A major campaign issue was how to deal with ETA (search), the Basque militant group.
Campaigning for the election was called off and a mourning period of three days was declared.
The Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi said Thursday it had received a claim of responsibility for the Madrid train bombings issued in the name of Al Qaeda (search), the terror organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Earlier Thursday Spanish officials accused the Basque separatist terror group ETA of the bombings and have yet to comment on the Al Qaeda claim.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) said Friday he could not confirm whether Al Qaeda had a hand in the bombings.
"There is no specific information" available that would point to the identities of the perpetrators, he told reporters during a visit to Thailand. "There is a lot of speculation."
The five-page e-mail claim, signed by the shadowy Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (search), was received at the paper's London offices. It said the brigade's "death squad" had penetrated "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance, Spain."
"This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam," the claim said.
The paper's editor, Bari Atwan, told Fox News the alleged letter from Al Qaeda "looks authentic" and consistent with letters the paper has received from the terrorist organization in the past.
Asked about the claim of responsibility, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said, "we've seen the news reports and we're going to determine what the facts are."
A van containing several detonators and an Arabic-language tape of Koranic verses was found near Madrid, Interior Minister Angel Acebes said later Thursday, announcing that new lines of investigation into the bombings were being opened.
Until that point, suspicion had focused on Spain's primary domestic terrorists, ETA (search).
"In this moment of pain, all Spaniards are called more than ever to end terrorism and violence," Spanish King Juan Carlos (search) said during a televised address to the nation. "Let there be no doubt: Terrorism will never prevail."
After an emergency Cabinet meeting, a somber Aznar called the attacks "mass murder" and vowed to hunt down the attackers. He reaffirmed his policy of not negotiating with ETA.
"No negotiation is possible or desirable with these assassins who so many times have sown death all around Spain," Aznar said.
Police were looking for at least two people seen jumping on and off one of the trains at a station in Madrid.
The bombers used titadine (search), a kind of compressed dynamite, a source at Aznar's office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
On Feb. 29, titadine was among the explosives found packed into a van that had been pulled over outside Madrid. Two alleged ETA members were arrested, but their identities were withheld.
The February plan was to "generate a massacre in coming days, if possible, in the center of Madrid," Justice Minister Jose Maria Michavila said then.
Francisco Javier Ruperez, Spain's ambassador to the United States, told Fox News he had "no doubt" that ETA was behind Thursday's attacks.
Ruperez, who was kidnapped by ETA in 1979, admitted there was "no smoking gun" linking Al Qaeda with ETA, but added that "at the end of the day," terrorist organizations "tend to share the same sympathies ... the same aims."
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "it's too early to tell" who was behind the Madrid blasts, adding that "we're not ruling anything out."
Mansoor Ijaz, a foreign-affairs analyst for Fox News, said the attacks had many of the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation. He said it was evidence the pan-Islamic terror organization may be "joining hands with local terrorists."
"This represents a dangerous mutated version of what Al Qaeda has been doing in other parts of the world," Ijaz explained, "hitting three simultaneous targets, not necessarily in the same city but in the same area, with multiple explosions at each location."
Ijaz said Madrid was part of "an emerging pattern," citing recent multiple bombings in Iraq that may have been Al Qaeda-inspired. He noted that Spain has been a staunch supporter of U.S.-led military efforts in Iraq.
Arnold Otegi, leader of Batasuna (search), an outlawed Basque political party linked to ETA, denied the domestic terror group was behind the blasts and suggested "Arab resistance" elements were instead responsible.
Otegi told Radio Popular in San Sebastian that ETA always phoned in warnings before it attacked. Spain's interior minister said there had been no warning before Thursday's explosions.
"The modus operandi, the high number of victims and the way it was carried out make me think ... it may have been an operative cell from the Arab resistance," Otegi said.
'I've Seen Horror'
"We are living in difficult times but we're happy to see that anonymous individuals are offering their services, helping to transport individuals, helping to donate blood and acting with great dignity," Aznar said in his address to the country around 9 a.m. EST.
President Bush called Aznar to express solidarity with the Spanish people and to offer his condolences, condemning "this vicious attack of terrorism in the strongest possible terms," McCormack said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he spoke with his Spanish counterpart and offered sympathy and solidarity in the war on terrorism.
"The United States stands resolutely with Spain in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and against the particular threat that Spain faces from the evil of ETA terrorism," Powell said.
A total of 10 bombs, nearly all in backpacks, exploded in a 15-minute span along nine miles of the commuter line — running from Santa Eugenia to the Madrid hub of Atocha — killing 190 people and injuring more than 1,400.
Police found and detonated three other bombs.
The blasts began about 7:40 a.m., tearing through trains or platforms on the commuter line running to the Atocha station. At least two of the bombs went off in trains at that station.
Worst hit was a double-decker train at the El Pozo station, where two bombs killed 70 people, fire department inspector Juan Redondo said. El Pozo is about six miles from Atocha.
People in tears streamed away from the station as rescue workers carried bodies covered in sheets of gold fabric. People with bloodied faces sat on curbs, using cell phones to tell loved ones they were alive. Hospitals appealed for blood donations. Buses had to be pressed into service as ambulances.
Rescue workers were overwhelmed, said ambulance driver Enrique Sanchez.
"There was one carriage totally blown apart," he said. "People were scattered all over the platforms. I saw legs and arms. I won't forget this ever. I've seen horror."
Shards of twisted metal were scattered by rails in the Atocha station at the spot where an explosion severed a train in two.
"I saw many things explode in the air, I don't know, it was horrible," said Juani Fernandez, 50, a civil servant who was on the platform waiting to go to work.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (search) called the attacks terrorist atrocities and a "disgusting assault on the very principle of European democracy."
European Parliament President Pat Cox (search) said the bomb attacks amounted to "a declaration of war on democracy."
"No more bombs, no more dead," Cox said in Spanish before a hushed legislature in Strasbourg, France. "It is an outrageous, unjustified and unjustifiable attack on the Spanish people and Spanish democracy."
More than eight in 10 Spaniards said in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken last month that they are worried about the threat of terrorism in their country. That was the highest level of concern about terrorism in five European countries polled — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
ETA had been blamed for more than 800 deaths in its decades-old campaign to carve an independent Basque homeland out of territory straddling northern Spain and southwest France.
Until now, the highest death toll in an ETA attack was 21 killed in a supermarket blast in Barcelona in 1987.
Madrid bombing probe finds no al-Qaida link
Two-year investigation concludes that terrorists were homegrown radicals
MADRID, Spain - A two-year probe into the Madrid train bombings concludes the Islamic terrorists who carried out the blasts were homegrown radicals acting on their own rather than at the behest of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, two senior intelligence officials said.
Spain still remains home to a web of radical Algerian, Moroccan and Syrian groups bent on carrying out attacks — and aiding the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq — a Spanish intelligence chief and a Western official intimately involved in counterterrorism measures in Spain told The Associated Press.
The intelligence chief said there were no phone calls between the Madrid bombers and al-Qaida and no money transfers. The Western official said the plotters had links to other Islamic radicals in Western Europe, but the plan was hatched and organized in Spain. “This was not an al-Qaida operation,” he said. “It was homegrown.”
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity, the first because Spanish security officials are not allowed to discuss details of an ongoing investigation, the second due to the sensitive nature of his job.
The attack has been frequently described as al-Qaida-linked since a man who identified himself as Abu Dujan al-Afghani and said he was al-Qaida’s “European military spokesman,” claimed responsibility in a video released two days later.
Calls for more progress
Ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the March 11, 2004 blasts — which killed 191 people and wounded 1,500 — victims’ groups have been clamoring for more progress in the investigation.
Gabriel Moris, whose 30-year-old son died in the bombings, said: “These past two years have done nothing to clear up what happened. My questions are simple: Who ordered the massacre? Who killed my son and the other innocent victims?”
The intelligence official said authorities know more than they have revealed, including the suspected ideological and operational masterminds of the attack.
“We haven’t explained it well enough to the victims because we can’t reveal judicial secrets,” he said, adding the investigation is nearly complete.
Authorities believe the ideological mastermind was Serhan Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a Tunisian who blew himself up along with six other suspects when police surrounded their apartment three weeks after the bombings, and that Jamal Ahmidan, a Moroccan who also died that day, was the “military planner.”
Law enforcement had focused on another man, Allekema Lamari, as the head of the group. But the official said evidence, particularly from wiretapped phone conversations, indicated it was Ahmidan who gave the military orders. Lamari also died in the apartment blast in a Madrid suburb as authorities closed in.
Some 116 people have been arrested in the bombings, and 24 remain jailed. At least three others — Said Berraj, Mohammed Belhadj and Daoud Ouhane — are sought by authorities, though all are believed to have fled Spain long ago. The intelligence official said the top planners are all either dead or in jail.
While the plotters of the Madrid attack were likely motivated by bin Laden’s October 2003 call for attacks on European countries that supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there is no evidence they were in contact with the al-Qaida leader’s inner circle, the intelligence official said.
Most of the plotters were Moroccan and Syrian immigrants, many with criminal records in Spain for drug trafficking and other crimes. They paid for explosives used in the attack with hashish.
That is a far cry from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — allegedly planned by al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and funded directly by the terror network through international wire transfers and Islamic banking schemes.
Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, said the model used in Madrid, and likely for the July 7 London transport bombings fits in well with al-Qaida’s business plan.
“Al-Qaida is not and never was a topdown organization that did everything in terms of attacks around the world. They have a key role in ideological terms ... but they rely on local cells and those that are inspired to carry out these attacks,” he said.
After the fact, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are happy to claim responsibility because they recognize the carnage as inspired by their movement.
Still, Wilkinson cautioned that just because no direct link has been established between the Madrid plotters and al-Qaida, it doesn’t mean none exists. “If security officials knew everything that was going on, we would have caught Osama bin Laden by now,” he said.
‘A lot of moving parts’
Both the Spanish intelligence chief and the Western official said there is reason for concern despite the lack of a direct al-Qaida connection.
“There were a lot of moving parts to the March 11 plot, but we were still not able to detect it, and that is scary because a similar thing could happen again,” said the Western counterterrorism official. “Since March 11, there have been plans for other significant attacks that the Spanish have disrupted.”
Those plans include a scheme in late 2004 to bomb buildings in Barcelona, including the 1992 Olympic village and office towers known as the city’s World Trade Center complex. Police also thwarted a 2004 plot by Moroccan and Algerian militants to level Madrid’s National Court — a hub for anti-terrorism investigations — with a 1,100-pound truck bomb.
And agents specializing in Islamic terrorism have arrested dozens of suspects — all allegedly working to recruit potential suicide bombers for the Iraq insurgency.
At least two Spanish citizens — including March 11 suspect Mohammed Afalah — are believed to have blown themselves up in Iraq, and an investigation by the respected El Pais daily revealed some 80 others have traveled to the country in recent months intending to do the same.
The intelligence official said the March 11 attacks were a wakeup call, and authorities are much better prepared now to stop Islamic terrorism. But he said the bombings show how easy it is for those bent on terrorism to carry out attacks.
He said authorities believe the Madrid bombers learned how to construct the bombs — all connected to Mitsubishi Trium T110 mobile phones — from Internet sites linked to radical Islamic groups. The devices were similar to ones used in the 2002 Bali bombing, he said, evidence that militants in both countries got information on the same radical Web sites.
Spanish authorities were monitoring several of the bombers in the months before the attack — and actually stopped Ahmidan’s car on a highway in late February, unaware he was leading a caravan of other terrorists transporting the explosives used in the blasts.
The intelligence official said authorities had never imagined a group of petty drug traffickers were capable of planning such a massive attack.
“Had we been told a day before (the bombing) that this is what was going on, we would have dismissed it,” he said.
Madrid Train Bombing Trial
The 7 July 2005 London bombings (also called the 7/7 bombings) were a series of coordinated terrorist bomb blasts that hit London's public transport system during the morning rush hour. At 8:50 a.m., three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus nearly an hour later at 9:47 a.m. in Tavistock Square. The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four suicide bombers, injured 700, and caused a severe day-long disruption of the city's transport and mobile telecommunications infrastructure countrywide.
Bomb suspect: 'No al Qaeda links'
Bombs 'meant to draw attention to anger over war in Iraq'
ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The failed July 21 bombings in London were not linked to the lethal attacks of July 7 or al Qaeda, a bombing suspect in Italian custody has told his interrogators, a source who was present during the interrogations told CNN Sunday.
Hussain Osman, who is also known as Hamdi Issac, said the four men who partially detonated backpack bombs before running from their targets on July 21 were not working with the July 7 bombers who killed themselves and 52 travelers on three London Underground trains and a bus, the source said.
Osman also claimed the July 21 group was not working for al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist organization behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, last year's Madrid train bombings and numerous atrocities worldwide.
Further, the source said, Osman told authorities the bombs were meant to draw attention to anger over the war in Iraq and not to kill anyone.
"I am against war," the source quoted Osman as saying. "I've marched in peace rallies and nobody listened to me. I never thought of killing people."
The Italian Interior Ministry declined to comment on the published statements, which first appeared in two Italian newspapers, La Repubblica and Corriere della Serra.
Osman was arrested in Rome on Friday after investigators traced his travels by monitoring cell phone activity from England to France to Italy. He left from London's Waterloo train station on July 26, five days after the failed attacks, according to Italian authorities.
Osman, 27, is a naturalized British citizen from Ethiopia, according to the Italian Interior Ministry and his court-appointed defense attorney, Antonetta Sonnessa.
Scotland Yard has accused him of being the would-be bomber at the Shepherd's Bush Underground station, the man seen in closed-circuit television images wearing a backpack at a nearby tube station before he boarded the train, and later, wearing a tank-top T-shirt as he fled on a bus.
Osman was arrested at his brother's apartment in Rome. That brother, Ramzi Issac, was also arrested on charges of possessing false documents. He owns an Internet cafe and phone-calling center in Rome.
Late Saturday, Italian police arrested another of Osman's brothers, Fati Issac, in the northern Italian province of Brescia, officials announced Sunday. Fati Issac was charged with destroying documents sought by investigators.
An Italian judge Sunday validated Osman's arrest and detention under Britain's extradition request, meaning that he must remain in jail until the court decides if the extradition can proceed.
But Osman's court-appointed defense attorney, Antonetta Sonnessa, told CNN that Osman would refuse the extradition, which would throw the extradition into a lengthy appeal process and prevent any possible transfer to London for months.
Britain is seeking Osman's rapid extradition under a newly available fast-track European arrest warrant. He is being held at the Regina Coeli prison in central Rome, and his interrogations are being videotaped. He speaks in "comprehensible" but not fluent Italian, according to Italian anti-terrorism officials.
The other three suspected bombers -- Ibrahim Muktar Said, accused of an attempt to bomb a double-decker bus; Ramzi Mohammed, accused of attempting to bomb a train in the Oval Station in South London; and Yasin Hassan Omar, who has been accused of attempting to detonate a bomb in the Warren Street rail station -- have been arrested.
Omar was the first July 21 suspect taken into custody, arrested on Wednesday in Birmingham, 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of London.
British police are also holding a fifth suspected July 21 bomber who was arrested in a raid Friday in the Notting Hill neighborhood, about a 1.5 kilometers (one mile) away from where Ibrahim and Mohammed were arrested.
On July 23, police recovered a fifth undetonated device, identical to the plastic container-held explosives used by the other men in custody, in a west London park called Little Wormwood Scrubs that is in the neighborhood of Friday's arrests.
Scotland Yard would not comment on British media reports that the fifth man was Mohammed's brother.
The four alleged bombers in British custody are being held at the high-security Paddington Green police station in London.
British police have arrested more than 35 people in connection with the July 21 bombing, including seven more Sunday. Eighteen are still in custody in Britain.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said no armed officers were present as police Sunday executed search warrants in Sussex, a county south of London. She gave no other details of the arrests.
The July 21 devices, like the July 7 ones, were homemade bombs believed to contain white peroxide-based explosive, a description consistent with the highly volatile TATP, which stands for triacetone triperoxide.
Britain is a seeking extradition of a suspected facilitator of the July 7 cell, Rashid Haroon Aswat, who was arrested in Zambia on July 20. Aswat entered the country from neighboring Zimbabawe on July 6, according to Zambian officials.
Aswat, 30, a British citizen of Indian descent from the Leeds area, is a suspected al Qaeda operative. He has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of plotting to organize a "jihad" terror training camp in the U.S.
Zambian officials were in discussions with U.S. and UK officials about which nation should take custody of Aswat. A spokesman for the British Foreign Ministry said Sunday the UK was seeking consular access to him in Zambia.
The Myth of Al Qaeda
Before 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s group was small and fractious. How Washington helped to build it into a global threat.
The capture of Ibn Al-Shaykhal-Libi was said to be one of the first big breakthroughs in the war against Al Qaeda. It was also the start of the post-9/11 mythologizing of the terror group. According to the official history of the Bush administration, al-Libi (a nom de guerre meaning "the Libyan") was the most senior Al Qaeda leader captured during the war in Afghanistan after running a training camp there for Osama bin Laden. Al-Libi was sent on to Egypt, where under interrogation he was said to have given up crucial information linking Saddam Hussein to the training of Al Qaeda operatives in chemical and biological warfare. His story was later used publicly by Secretary of State Colin Powell to justify the war in Iraq to the world.
The reality, as we have learned since—far too late, of course, to avert the war in Iraq—is that al-Libi made up that story of Iraq connections, probably because he was tortured by the Egyptians (or possibly Libyan intelligence officers who worked with them). But there's even more to this strange tale that hasn't been revealed. According to Numan bin-Uthman, a former fellow jihadi of al-Libi's who has left the movement and is based in London, al-Libi was never a member of Al Qaeda at all. Moreover, Uthman says, he's "90 percent sure" that al-Libi, who he says is dying of tuberculosis, has been released by the United States to Libya. (A CIA spokesman said he could not comment.) According to Uthman, al-Libi was a small-time member of a broader movement of jihadists who—inspired by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian killed during the CIA-backed mujahedin fight against the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan—came to fight the Soviets in the 1980s and later, trained, to redirect jihad back to their home regimes. The so-called Khaldin camp that al-Libi helped run dated from this movement. "I know him personally. He's not a member of Al Qaeda," Uthman, an anti-Kaddafi political activist who is considered credible by other Libyan exiles, told NEWSWEEK by phone from London.
It seems very likely that the Khaldin camp hosted Al Qaeda figures to whom al-Libi was linked but perhaps in the loose way that Uthman describes. (Others who trained at Khaldin, like Abdurahman Khadr, a 20-year-old Canadian released from Guantánamo in 2003, have given testimony backing up Uthman's description of the camp.) Certainly al-Libi is looking less and less like the fearsome "bin Laden lieutenant" he was made out to be. And we find this sort of debunking has occurred with many Al Qaeda "lieutenants" whose gauzy reputations are reduced to pill-sized smallness once the culprits themselves fall into our hands.
Another one of these key figures was said to be Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. As NEWSWEEK first reported in “The Debate Over Torture” more than 18 months ago, the CIA's difficult interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was resisting standard questioning methods, set in motion a long train of Justice Department and White House legal memos justifying harsh treatment of terror suspects. This legal discussion ultimately contributed to the tougher interrogation standards applied at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Was all this effort at extracting information worth the blight to America's honor and reputation? Probably not when it comes to Abu Zubaydah. As former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind writes in his new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," the person whom George W. Bush characterized as a "top operative plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States" was discovered to be more of a low-level messenger man, and a slightly daft one as well. "It was like calling someone who runs a company's in-house travel department the COO," one CIA official said, according to Suskind.
Some U.S. officials are disputing Suskind's account. But it is true that the more we learn about Al Qaeda, the more we have to conclude that the group contained a lot more Abu Zubaydah types than it did Muhammad Attas. In contrast to the truly terrifying Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, and 9/11 master strategist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—both of whom took terrorism to new levels of competence—most Al Qaeda operatives look more like life's losers, the kind who in a Western culture would join street gangs or become a petty criminals but who in the jihadi world could lose themselves in a "great cause," making some sense of their pinched, useless lives. Like Richard Reid, who tried to set his shoelace on fire. Or Ahmed Ressam, who bolted in a panic from his car at the U.S. border during an alleged mission to bomb the L.A. airport. Or Iyman Faris, who comically believed he could bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Or the crazed Zacarias Moussaoui, who was disowned even by bin Laden. Then you've got the hapless Lackawanna Six, and, more recently, the Toronto 17, who were thinking about pulling off an Oklahoma City-style attack with ammonium nitrate—or perhaps just beheading the prime minister—but hadn't quite gotten around to it.
Were these people potentially lethal? Yes. One doesn't have to graduate at the top of one's class to set off explosives in a satchel on a subway. Were most of them capable of hatching a minutely timed scheme to obtain and detonate a nuclear bomb in a city, or launch a biowarfare attack? No. "In an open system like a network, the bumbler level is always going to be high because of the ease of entry," says John Arquilla, an intelligence expert at the Naval Postgraduate School. "That's how someone like [American Taliban supporter] John Walker Lindh can walk into the high councils of Al Qaeda and meet bin Laden. And recently the bumbler factor has gone up considerably." Ironically the most competent "Al Qaeda" leader in recent years, at least since the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003, was Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who came close to subverting the American project and creating a sectarian war in Iraq. But he did that largely on his own, facilitated by the fortuitous conjoining of Iraq with the war on terror. Before the Iraq war Zarqawi was a nobody, hiding out in northern Iraq, largely unconnected to Saddam's regime even though Colin Powell, in his infamous Feb. 5, 2003, United Nations Security Council speech, claimed that Saddam had given Zarqawi "harbor." And he was not part of bin Laden's group. Would he have attacked U.S. interests at some point, somewhere? Almost certainly. But the Iraq invasion gave Zarqawi a chance to blossom on his own as a jihadi.
Another figure named by Powell in that U.N. speech, Abu Atiya, was said to be the Zarqawi and Al Qaeda link to terror networks in Europe. But according to a French investigation documented in Le Figaro newspaper, he turned out to be a minor figure. "If he was so important, then why was he returned to his home country, Jordan, and released at one point?" says John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, who has closely tracked the fate of high-level "ghost" detainees. "He does not fit the profile of high-level Al Qaeda terrorists. Neither do any of these supposed Al Qaeda operatives that were trumped up by administration officials in 2002 and 2003. Every single one of these stories, when subjected to the harsh light of public scrutiny, has collapsed." Those of us who have been on the war-on-terror beat since 9/11 have been reluctant to write about Al Qaeda this way, although some of us have suspected for a long time the group was never all that it was cracked up to be. Especially in the immediate wake of the horrific but brilliantly coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, it seemed absurdly risky—if not downright unpatriotic—to suggest that perhaps Muhammad Atta was the best bin Laden had, his Hail Mary pass, so to speak.
But there was substantial evidence showing that, up to 9/11, Al Qaeda could barely hold its act together, that it was a failing group, hounded from every country it tried to roost in (except for the equally lunatic Taliban-run Afghanistan). That it didn't represent the mainstream view even in the jihadi community, much less the rest of the Muslim world. This is the reality of the group that the Bush administration has said would engage us in a "long war" not unlike the cold war—the group that has led to the transformation of U.S. foreign policy and America's image in the world. The intelligence community generally agrees that the number of true A-list Al Qaeda operatives out there around the time of 9/11 was no more than about 1,000, perhaps as few as 500, most in and around Afghanistan. It is also fairly well established that bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were engaged in a fierce pre-9/11 struggle with their own meager band of followers over whether it was wise to take on the "far enemy"—the United States—when many jihadis really wanted to engage the "near enemy," their national regimes, like Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The ultimate tragedy of the Iraq war was not only that it diverted the U.S. from the knockout blow against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan—the deaths of bin Laden and Zawahiri would likely have persuaded most jihadis it was wiser to focus on the near enemy—but that Iraq also altered the outcome of Al Qaeda's internal debate, tipping it in bin Laden's favor. "Iraq ended that debate because it fused the near and the far enemy," as Arquilla puts it succinctly. America ventured into the lands of jihad and willingly offered itself as a target in place of the local regimes. And as a new cause that revived the flagging Al Qaeda movement. It is, no doubt, bin Laden's greatest victory.
Al Qaeda Rebuilds Along Afghanistan Border
Al Qaeda Rebuilds Along Afghanistan Border
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
WASHINGTON — Usama bin Laden and his No. 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri, are rebuilding the Al Qaeda terror group along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but the bases are smaller and lieutenants are less experienced, a U.S. official said Monday.
The American official was confirming a story reported in Monday's New York Times that said a band of training camps has popped up in Pakistan along the Afghan border and the leadership chain of command has been re-established despite an "erosion" of leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"Old hands have been picked off and the new people are less capable and less seasoned," the official said. But "no one suggests Al Qaeda no longer has a command structure or a haven ... though [we] wouldn't call it a safe haven."
In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute last week, President Bush said that across Afghanistan last year, "the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled and suicide bombings grew nearly five-fold.
"These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country."
Last year Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the 2005 London bus and subway bombings and produced a statement by one of the bombers. He is said to be in charge of directing the terror camps.
"I think one assumes that Zawahiri has been more of an operational head and bin Laden has been more of a figurehead and financier over the last several years. [Bin Laden] has not been known for having a detail-oriented operational command," Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan said, adding that knowing the source of the intelligence is the only way to know the extent of bin Laden's participation.
U.S. officials have concluded that tribal leaders in the mountains are protecting bin Laden and his followers instead of going after them as promised in a deal cut by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the local leaders after a failed Pakistani army offensive.
Jordan told FOX News that Musharraf's failure to stop the buildup of terrorists has complicated U.S. efforts, particularly as NATO forces consider the options for disbanding the camps.
"The Pakistanis are very, very angry every time we launch an air strike and there are civilian casualties, so we're walking a tightrope with President Musharraf. He has not been very helpful in this regard. He has made deals with the warlords up there that have turned out not to be very good deals, so there are very few really good options, and air strike may be the choice of last resort," Jordan said.
Since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in October 2001, 297 troops have died in the region. On Sunday, an additional eight were killed and 14 others wounded when a Chinook helicopter went down. Terrorists tried to take credit for the downing of the plane, but U.S. military officials said nothing indicated an attack on the chopper, and more likely a technical failure caused the crash.
In his speech last week, Bush announced that a NATO-led offensive would begin this spring in the mountains of Afghanistan. The U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division also conducted two offensives against the Taliban during the winter.
Bush asked NATO countries to send more troops to Afghanistan, announcing the United States will up its force by 3,200 and go after Al Qaeda and the Taliban when the snow melts in the mountain passes.
"This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy — relentless in our pressure," he said.
The cross border attacks are souring relations between Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Musharraf.
In September, Bush tried to smooth over differences between the two. Karzai said he wants the United States to put more pressure on Musharraf, which U.S. officials fear could be counterproductive. The spring offensive appears to be their alternative.
Alleged American Al Qaeda Warns of U.S. Attacks
Azzam the American: 'Streets of America Will Run Red With Blood'
A man describing himself as an American member of al Qaeda says a new wave of terror attacks against the United States could come "at any moment," according to a videotape obtained by ABC News.
The tape was acquired by ABC News last Friday from a source known to have Taliban and al Qaeda contacts in the tribal region of Pakistan. ABC paid the source $500 in transportation fees.
While CIA officials say they have not been able to authenticate the 75-minute tape, an agency spokesman says it "appears to have been produced by al Qaeda's media organization, al Sahab productions." The tape is marked with the same logo and graphics seen on previous videos released by al Qaeda.
The man on the tape is identified only as "Azzam the American." U.S. officials say they had not previously known of the nom de guerre. His face is never fully visible and he makes no reference to where in the United States he might have lived.
"No, my fellow countrymen you are guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. You are as guilty as Bush and Cheney. You're as guilty as Rumsfeld and Ashcroft and Powell," he says in what he calls his message to America. "After decades of American tyranny and oppression, now it's your turn to die. Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood matching drop for drop the blood of America's victims."
Senior administration officials told ABC News tonight that copies of the tape are being provided to all 13 current and former administration figures mentioned by name in the tape, and that the tape is being shown to captured al Qaeda leaders in U.S. custody to see if they can identify the man on the tape.
"A member of al Qaeda who professes to be a U.S. citizen was always coveted and looked for by the al Qaeda," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent who interviewed a number of captured al Qaeda members and is now an ABC News consultant. Cloonan said he believed the tape to be authentic.
Law enforcement officials and linguistic expert Gerald Lampe, deputy director of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, believe English was not Azzam's first language. They speculate he may have learned English as a child in a household of non-native speakers.
U.S. officials believe there are several Americans working with al Qaeda, including Adam Gadahn, a former Southern California student who is wanted for questioning by the FBI. U.S. intelligence officials say the voice on the tape does not match Gadahn's or that of any Americans suspected of being part of al Qaeda.
Azzam makes references to several American officials, including 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, and even refers to the controversial remarks made by comedian Bill Maher about the cowardice of the United States launching cruise missiles compared with terrorist suicide attacks.
And he warned that Sept. 11 was only the beginning.
"People of America, I remind you of the weighty words of our leaders, Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri, that what took place on Sept. 11 was but the opening salvo of the global war on America," said Azzam. "And that Allah willing, the magnitude and ferocity of what is coming your way will make you forget all about Sept. 11."
Al-Qaeda planning fresh attacks on US: CIA chief
CIA director Michael Hayden warned Friday that Al-Qaeda was plotting fresh attacks on the United States aimed at sowing death and destruction on a massive scale.
His comments came just days ahead of the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and as the US government said it was analyzing a copy of the latest video message said to have been made by elusive Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
"Our analysts assess with high confidence that Al-Qaeda's central leadership is planning high impact plots against the American homeland," Hayden told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"Al-Qaeda is focusing on targets that would produce mass casualties, dramatic destruction and significant economic aftershocks," he added.
The Bin Laden video, first reported Thursday by US officials monitoring militant websites, would be the first such appearance by the militant leader since October 2004, when he threatened new attacks on the United States.
"I want to be as clear as I can about the threat we face," Hayden said, saying the Central Intelligence Agency would use "every inch we're given" by the US government to wage the "war on terror" and hunt down militants.
"We bear responsibility for standing watch on this threat," he said. "Our nation is in a state of armed conflict with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It's a conflict that is global in scope," he added.
"It's very hard to see this thing as anything less than war" criticizing the media for references such as a "so-called war on terror."
The danger the United States faced, he said, was "more real than anything our citizens at home have confronted since our Civil War."
"This is a form of warfare unlike any other in our country's history. It's an intelligence war as much as a military one, actually maybe it's an intelligence war more than it's a military one."
US still at risk six years after 9/11: security chiefs
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States remains at risk from attack even though it may be better prepared to fight the "war on terror," US security chiefs warned Monday on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11 strikes.
The warning comes after elusive Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden vowed an escalation in the war in Iraq in a new video released to mark Tuesday's anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"While we have successfully raised our barrier against terrorist attacks, the fact remains that we are still a nation at risk," said Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security that was set up immediately after 9/11 to protect the United States from future attacks.
"We continue to face a persistent threat to our homeland over the next several years," he told a congressional hearing Monday on "confronting the terrorist threat to the homeland six years after 9/11."
Despite maintaining a constant alert for possible Al-Qaeda attacks, authorities could not discount dangers posed by homegrown terrorists and isolated radical individuals or groups that initiated their own plots, he said.
"While no one can guarantee we will not face another terrorist strike in the next six years, if we allow ourselves to step back from the fight, if we allow our progress to halt, if we don't continue to build the necessary tools to stay ahead of terrorist threats, then we will most certainly suffer the consequences," he warned.
Chertoff announced proposed regulation requiring general aviation aircraft entering the United States to provide comprehensive passenger manifest information to US authorities prior to departure.
"This will help us prevent private aircraft from being used to bring potentially dangerous people or weapons into the United States," he said.
Also, by the end of the year, the United States will be scanning virtually every container that came into the country by sea, he said.
Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, warned that the United States would "face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years," citing the Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah groups as key concerns.
"We judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment," McConnell said.
While Al-Qaeda would remain the "most serious terrorist treat," the Hezbollah militant group could stage an attack on the United States if it believed the US posed a direct threat to the group or to its alleged backer Iran, he said.
Iran, which is at loggerheads with the United States over its nuclear ambitions, is a vocal supporter of Hezbollah, considered a "terrorist" group by Washington.
Asked by lawmakers whether Al-Qaeda was as strong as it was in 2001, McConnell said, "they have regained a significant level of their capability but not as strong" as six years ago.
He expressed concern that the international cooperation which had constrained Al-Qaeda's ability to attack the United States could fizzle out as the September 11 attacks become a distant memory.
"Perhaps the gravest danger the United States faces is complacency as the years since 9/11 pass," warned FBI chief Robert Mueller, saying the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups "remain serious."
He said a top US concern was Al-Qaeda-trained and other terror groups coming in from Europe.
"The biggest concern we have is those coming in from Europe, who may have been trained and be inserted by core Al-Qaeda or undertake attacks in the US without the planning or financial backing of core Al-Qaeda," Mueller said.
Also of "tremendous concern" is the desire of Al-Qaeda to insert in the United States "terror" squads trained along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, he said.
John Redd, the director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, said the United States was "safer than we were on September 11, 2001, but we are not safe.
"Nor are we likely to be for a generation or more," he said. "There are many battles yet to be fought and setbacks are certain to come along the way."