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Al-Qaeda Expected to Strike U.S. Soon, Attorney General Says

Seven suspects identified by FBI director

By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- "Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months," says Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Speaking with FBI Director Robert Mueller at a press conference May 26, Ashcroft said, "This disturbing intelligence indicates al-Qaeda's specific intention to hit the United States hard." He added that al-Qaeda's own public pronouncements over the past several months "suggest that it's almost ready to attack the United States."

The attorney general noted that al-Qaeda announced in early January that its plans to attack the United States were 70 percent complete. Then, after the Madrid train station bombings in March, al-Qaeda announced that its U.S. operational plans were 90 percent complete. The Madrid bombings, Ashcroft said, "were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to have advanced their cause. Al-Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences."

Both Ashcroft and Mueller pointed out that several large-scale events will take place over the summer in the United States, beginning with the summit conference of the Group of Eight (G-8) next month at Sea Island, Georgia, and including the July 4th Independence Day celebrations around the nation, the Democratic national political convention in Boston, and the Republican convention in New York City.

"Unfortunately, the same events that fill most of us with hope and pride are seen by terrorists as possible opportunities for attack," Mueller said.

Ashcroft specifically asked the American people to be on the lookout for seven people associated with al-Qaeda. He also addressed professional law enforcement, saying: "We seek unprecedented levels of cooperation with state and local law enforcement in collecting intelligence to enable America's entire terror-fighting apparatus to act decisively to disrupt any al-Qaeda presence in the United States. And we will appropriately share unprecedented access to precisely what our intelligence needs and findings are."

According to Mueller, the seven wanted persons are:

-- Abderraouf Jdey, a Canadian citizen born in Tunisia. He appears in a martyrdom video that was seized in Afghanistan, Mueller said. Jdey reportedly was selected to get flight training in preparation for a second attack in the United States, Mueller added.

-- Adnan Shukrijumah, born in Saudi Arabia and carries a Guyanese passport. Mueller called him "a trained operative who poses an operational threat to the United States." Shukrijumah speaks English and spent 15 years in the United States.

-- Adam Gadahn, a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam. He is associated with Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan and attended training camps in Afghanistan, Mueller said.

-- Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative and facilitator. Mueller said she attended colleges in the Boston area until last year.

-- Amer El-Maati, a Canadian citizen of Egyptian and Syrian origin. An al-Qaeda member and a licensed pilot, El-Maati is believed to have discussed hijacking a plane in Canada and flying it into a building into the United States, Mueller said.

-- Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, participants in the 1998 East Africa bombings. They were indicted in New York and have been fugitives since. They are able to undertake attacks against both American interests overseas and within the United States, Mueller said.

"They all are sought in connection with possible terrorist threats in the United States," said Ashcroft. He added that all seven "pose a clear and present danger" to the United States and should be considered armed and dangerous.

"If anyone has any information about any one of them, please report it immediately to law enforcement," Ashcroft urged.

Mueller likewise asked for the help of the American people. He also called for "the public both in the United States and -- I'll emphasize -- overseas to be on the lookout for these seven individuals.

"We want to know whether you've seen them in your communities, heard that someone might be hiding them, have any idea where they might be; we need you to come forward, whether it be here or overseas."