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04 March 2003

Arrest of Al Qaeda Leader Seen as Blow to Global Terrorist Network

(Ashcroft, Ridge, Mueller discuss U.S. counterterrorism advances)
(460)


Washington -- Attorney General John Ashcroft says the arrest of
al-Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan dealt a
major blow to al-Qaeda's worldwide terrorist network, and it
illustrates that the United States and its allies are winning the
global war on terrorism.


Mohammed, the suspected mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist
attacks on the United States, is being held by U.S. intelligence
agents at an undisclosed location after his arrest March 1 in
Rawalpindi, Pakistan, by Pakistani authorities and the U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).


Ashcroft, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee March 4
along with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director
Robert Mueller, said Mohammed's arrest has most likely destabilized
al-Qaeda's worldwide network. He said that the CIA and FBI are
cooperating "thoroughly to share information from the capture, analyze
intelligence and coordinate follow-up operations."

The ability to defeat global terrorism comes from an "unrelenting
focus and unprecedented cooperation," Ashcroft said.

"The apprehension of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is just one more success
in a string of successes by you and others in the law enforcement and
intelligence community aimed at disrupting and eliminating al-Qaeda
from the face of this earth," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin
Hatch, a Utah Republican.

Mohammed is less known outside the anti-terrorist community than
al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Mueller said, but he "was the
operational mastermind. His terrorist plots are believed to include
the 1993 World Trade Center [bombing], the USS Cole bomb delivered by
boat, and the September 11 terrorist attacks delivered by air, having
resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people."

Ashcroft also announced at the hearing the January arrests of a Yemeni
cleric who officials said secretly raised money and recruited troops
for al-Qaeda and the terrorist group HAMAS. A federal complaint,
unsealed March 4 in a New York federal court, charges Sheik Mohammed
Ali Hasan al-Moayad with providing material support to a terrorist
network.

"The FBI undercover operation developed information that al-Moayad
personally handed Osama bin Laden $20 million from his terrorist
funding network," Ashcroft testified.

Al-Moayad, and his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, were
arrested January 10 near the Frankfurt airport in Germany. Mueller
also announced that law enforcement and intelligence officials have
blocked more than 100 terrorist attacks around the world.

"We also are looking with some anticipation to determine what
information we may obtain from whatever was seized with Khalid Shaikh
Mohammed in hopes of exploiting those materials with the expectation
that we will be able to avert additional attacks," Mueller testified.

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)