TOPICS > World

Background: Al-Qaida Still a Threat

June 11, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: The apprehension of a man accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack on the United States has raised fresh questions about al-Qaida, the terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden. How, and what, is it doing now, nine months after its deadly attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington?

Kwame Holman begins our look.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today at the Pentagon Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz led a ceremony marking the buildings restoration.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: This deep commitment and abiding love so evident and painstaking in patient rebuilding honors those who died here, those who died in New York, those who died in Pennsylvania. And it defies those who seek not to build but to kill and to destroy.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile the effort to destroy the apparent perpetrators of the attack, the al-Qaida network, continues. Wolfowitz said Jose Padilla whose capture was revealed yesterday worked with al-Qaida. Officials say the man also known as Abdullah al Muhajir was planning a dirty bomb attack.

Wolfowitz spoke on the Early Show on CBS.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: This man, it’s worth pointing out, was a petty criminal in the United States. Somehow he was recruited in jail into being something far worse than a petty criminal. And he came into this country with the intention by various means not just the dirty bomb idea of killing hundreds and maybe thousands of Americans. And now he’s where he belongs.

KWAME HOLMAN: Late last year FBI officials say Padilla planned his attack from Pakistani cities like Lahore under the direction of top al-Qaida leader Abul Zubaida. Abul Zubaida was captured in March and now is under U.S. interrogation. Elsewhere in Pakistan, U.S. Intelligence officials say al-Qaida has regrouped along the country’s western border with Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida also is believed to be active to the east in Kashmir, the region being fought over by nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. Indian leaders say al-Qaida fighters have joined with militant Muslims in attacks on Indian troops. Al-Qaida also is suspected of activity in Morocco, where the two Saudi women arrested today are said to be al-Qaida couriers.

Yesterday the women’s husbands and a third Saudi man also were captured in Morocco. They’re suspected of plotting attacks on U.S. and British warships in the strait of Gibraltar.

Separately on Sunday an al-Qaida spokesman used the Web site of an affiliated group to threaten more attacks on Americans using chemical and biological weapons. The statement said, “What is coming to the Americans will not be less than what has come, so beware, America. Get ready. U.S. officials say it is not known where Osama bin Laden is at the center of the ongoing al-Qaida activities. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today it’s puzzling that bin Laden has not appeared on videotape since December.