Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

Al-Qaida leader vows strike on U.S.

Guerrilla, in London interview, says terrorists regrouping with even more firepower

May 19, 2002

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— The al-Qaida group carried out last month's attack on a Tunisian synagogue that killed 19 people and soon will strike at the United States, a pan-Arab newspaper Saturday quoted a man identified as an al-Qaida leader as saying.

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat said it interviewed Abdel Azeem al-Muhajir, whom it described as a "senior military leader" of al-Qaida, in the western Pakistani mountains near the border with Afghanistan. The newspaper did not say when the interview was conducted.

Al-Muhajir told the paper that the April 11 truck-bombing of the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba "was carried out by brothers in the al-Qaida network." Fourteen of the 19 victims were German tourists.

A source in Afghanistan told the Associated Press that al-Muhajir is also known as Abu Bilal al Muhajir and is a Palestinian of Jordanian nationality. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhajir was a member of the network headed by Osama bin Laden, but was a midlevel administrator, rather than a top commander.

Israeli, German and U.S. officials have said there are indications that the attack in Tunisia was linked to al-Qaida.

On Saturday, the FBI had no comment on the report in Asharq al-Awsat. Separately, a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity noted only that authorities in Germany have long made the connection between al-Qaida and the synagogue attack. He also said that "al-Qaida has made no secret of its desire to continue to attack" the United States.

At the White House, spokeswoman Anne Womack said: "The Tunisian authorities are continuing to investigate the synagogue bombing and they believe it's a terrorist act. While al-Qaida operations have been obstructed by military action in Afghanistan, we're well aware that they're continuing to try to plan and carry out attacks against the United States and members of the coalition."

"News in the coming days will show the continuity, firmness, and determination of this (al-Qaida) group to develop itself," Al-Muhajir said, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

Al-Muhajir was quoted as saying that al-Qaida has regrouped since the Taliban's ouster by U.S.-backed forces in Afghanistan. Blaming the defeat on U.S. air power, he was quoted as saying al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have come a long way in their training for a "soon-expected fight with appropriate arms."

He did not elaborate.

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