A U.S.-Based Al Qaeda 'Sleeper Cell' Was Poised to Launch a Post-Sept. 11 Attack on a Major Washington Target; Would-Be Terrorists Went Underground or Fled U.S.

Evidence Indicates Al Qaeda Had Russian Help Developing Anthrax;

Al-Zawahiri Believed Involved in Bin Laden's Biological Weapons Program



Dec 09, 2001, 00:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A U.S.-based cell of the Al Qaeda terror
 network nearly launched an attack on a major target in Washington, D.C. after
 September 11, Newsweek has learned.  Intelligence sources say a Qaeda "sleeper
 cell" in the U.S. was poised to launch the attack -- perhaps against the
 Capitol Building.  The sources believe that the FBI, in its sweep against visa
 violators and other illegals of Mideast backgrounds, picked up members of a
 "support cell" tasked with providing logistics help to the people actually
 carrying out the mission.  Intelligence sources say the would-be terrorists
 then went underground or fled the country.  Investigators have not yet been
 able to identify the plotters from among the hundreds of people caught in the
 FBI dragnet; they're not even sure they are still in custody, according to a
 Newsweek Special Report in the December 17 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands
 Monday, December 10), written by Senior Writer Jeffrey Bartholet and reported
 by Newsweek Correspondents in Afghanistan, Washington and the Middle East.
     (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20011209/HSSA004 )
     The war in Afghanistan has produced a hodgepodge of disturbing
 intelligence that investigators are still trying to sift and analyze.  Perhaps
 the most alarming evidence gathered so far concerns Al Qaeda efforts to
 develop biological weapons.  According to intelligence sources, U.S.
 operatives in Afghanistan have collected information that one or more Russian
 scientists were working inside Afghanistan with Al Qaeda operatives.  One
 well-placed source tells Newsweek that evidence from the scene indicates that
 the renegade Russians were helping Al Qaeda to develop anthrax, and that
 spores of the deadly disease may actually have been stockpiled by the
 terrorist group.  While intelligence sources say they believe any such
 stockpiles were destroyed in U.S. bombing raids, it is not known how much, if
 any, of the anthrax ever made it out of Afghanistan.
     And the infamous Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's closest lieutenant and
 considered the brains behind Al Qaeda, may have been directly involved in the
 biological program.  Al-Zawahiri, may have been hit by U.S. bombs last week,
 according to unconfirmed British intelligence reports.  Northern Alliance
 soldiers raided his house in Kabul on November 13 and a senior American
 intelligence official tells Newsweek that it resembled the lair of a mad
 scientist.  Soldiers found grenades, blasting caps, electronic components and
 "various solid and liquid substances," including white crystals and extremely
 fine, silvery powders in jars and plastic bags, and mysterious liquids in
 shampoo bottles labeled "special medicine."  American intelligence later
 collected samples from Northern Alliance colleagues and conducted chemical and
 biological tests.  One of the samples turned up a "positive indicator" for
 Bacillus Anthracis, or anthrax.  All of the samples are being retested, the
 source tells Newsweek.
     The Kabul house of a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin
 Mahmood, contained sheaves of disturbing documents. These include the results
 of a massive Internet search on anthrax vaccines, and a report entitled:
 "Bacteria: What You Need to Know."  According to intelligence sources,
 investigators also found a New York Times article on Plum Island, the U.S.
 Department of Agriculture's animal disease center. The Plum Island center does
 research to help guard the United States "against catastrophic economic losses
 caused by foreign animal disease agents accidentally or deliberately
 introduced into the U.S.," its Web site explains.
     Newsweek also reports that Bin Laden plied his Taliban hosts with money,
 gifts and other favors.  "He was always handing out $50,000 to this commander,
 or $10,000 to that commander," says Mullah Alhaj Khaksar, a senior Taliban
 defector.  "And cars -- Afghans love cars.  He would get 20 or 30 cars and
 bring them in from Kandahar as a present just before an offensive.  Western
 intelligence agencies estimate that bin Laden funneled as much as $100 million
 a year to the Taliban -- twice Afghanistan's official annual budget.
     Some key terrorist fugitives appear to have had a hand in both the bombing
 of the USS Cole in Yemen and the September 11 attacks.  Investigators are
 particularly interested in a meeting that took place in Malaysia on January 5,
 2000.  The list of attendees included Tawfiq bin Atash (a.k.a. Khallad) and
 Fahad al-Quso, both of whom helped plan the Cole attack.  Also present were
 Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, two of the September 11 hijackers, and
 Ramzi Binalshibh (a.k.a. Ramzi Omar), who may have been the phantom "20th
 hijacker" who couldn't get the U.S. prior to Sept. 11 because of visa
 problems.  Newsweek has learned that when Almihdhar and Alhazmi left Malaysia,
 they flew directly to Los Angeles, where they quickly enrolled in a San Diego
 flight school.  That leads investigators to believe that at least some of the
 planning for September 11 took place at the Malaysia meeting.
 
        (Read Newsweek's news releases at http://www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com.
                              Click "Pressroom.")
 
             Special Subscription Offer From Newsweek -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/20082X74643185
 
 

SOURCE Newsweek
    NEW YORK, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A U.S.-based cell of the Al Qaeda terror
 network nearly launched an attack on a major target in Washington, D.C. after
 September 11, Newsweek has learned.  Intelligence sources say a Qaeda "sleeper
 cell" in the U.S. was poised to launch the attack -- perhaps against the
 Capitol Building.  The sources believe that the FBI, in its sweep against visa
 violators and other illegals of Mideast backgrounds, picked up members of a
 "support cell" tasked with providing logistics help to the people actually
 carrying out the mission.  Intelligence sources say the would-be terrorists
 then went underground or fled the country.  Investigators have not yet been
 able to identify the plotters from among the hundreds of people caught in the
 FBI dragnet; they're not even sure they are still in custody, according to a
 Newsweek Special Report in the December 17 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands
 Monday, December 10), written by Senior Writer Jeffrey Bartholet and reported
 by Newsweek Correspondents in Afghanistan, Washington and the Middle East.
     (Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20011209/HSSA004 )
     The war in Afghanistan has produced a hodgepodge of disturbing
 intelligence that investigators are still trying to sift and analyze.  Perhaps
 the most alarming evidence gathered so far concerns Al Qaeda efforts to
 develop biological weapons.  According to intelligence sources, U.S.
 operatives in Afghanistan have collected information that one or more Russian
 scientists were working inside Afghanistan with Al Qaeda operatives.  One
 well-placed source tells Newsweek that evidence from the scene indicates that
 the renegade Russians were helping Al Qaeda to develop anthrax, and that
 spores of the deadly disease may actually have been stockpiled by the
 terrorist group.  While intelligence sources say they believe any such
 stockpiles were destroyed in U.S. bombing raids, it is not known how much, if
 any, of the anthrax ever made it out of Afghanistan.
     And the infamous Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's closest lieutenant and
 considered the brains behind Al Qaeda, may have been directly involved in the
 biological program.  Al-Zawahiri, may have been hit by U.S. bombs last week,
 according to unconfirmed British intelligence reports.  Northern Alliance
 soldiers raided his house in Kabul on November 13 and a senior American
 intelligence official tells Newsweek that it resembled the lair of a mad
 scientist.  Soldiers found grenades, blasting caps, electronic components and
 "various solid and liquid substances," including white crystals and extremely
 fine, silvery powders in jars and plastic bags, and mysterious liquids in
 shampoo bottles labeled "special medicine."  American intelligence later
 collected samples from Northern Alliance colleagues and conducted chemical and
 biological tests.  One of the samples turned up a "positive indicator" for
 Bacillus Anthracis, or anthrax.  All of the samples are being retested, the
 source tells Newsweek.
     The Kabul house of a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin
 Mahmood, contained sheaves of disturbing documents. These include the results
 of a massive Internet search on anthrax vaccines, and a report entitled:
 "Bacteria: What You Need to Know."  According to intelligence sources,
 investigators also found a New York Times article on Plum Island, the U.S.
 Department of Agriculture's animal disease center. The Plum Island center does
 research to help guard the United States "against catastrophic economic losses
 caused by foreign animal disease agents accidentally or deliberately
 introduced into the U.S.," its Web site explains.
     Newsweek also reports that Bin Laden plied his Taliban hosts with money,
 gifts and other favors.  "He was always handing out $50,000 to this commander,
 or $10,000 to that commander," says Mullah Alhaj Khaksar, a senior Taliban
 defector.  "And cars -- Afghans love cars.  He would get 20 or 30 cars and
 bring them in from Kandahar as a present just before an offensive.  Western
 intelligence agencies estimate that bin Laden funneled as much as $100 million
 a year to the Taliban -- twice Afghanistan's official annual budget.
     Some key terrorist fugitives appear to have had a hand in both the bombing
 of the USS Cole in Yemen and the September 11 attacks.  Investigators are
 particularly interested in a meeting that took place in Malaysia on January 5,
 2000.  The list of attendees included Tawfiq bin Atash (a.k.a. Khallad) and
 Fahad al-Quso, both of whom helped plan the Cole attack.  Also present were
 Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, two of the September 11 hijackers, and
 Ramzi Binalshibh (a.k.a. Ramzi Omar), who may have been the phantom "20th
 hijacker" who couldn't get the U.S. prior to Sept. 11 because of visa
 problems.  Newsweek has learned that when Almihdhar and Alhazmi left Malaysia,
 they flew directly to Los Angeles, where they quickly enrolled in a San Diego
 flight school.  That leads investigators to believe that at least some of the
 planning for September 11 took place at the Malaysia meeting.
 
        (Read Newsweek's news releases at http://www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com.
                              Click "Pressroom.")
 
             Special Subscription Offer From Newsweek -  Click Here
                http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/20082X74643185
 
 SOURCE  Newsweek