- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday described the men identified in an FBI alert issued Monday night warning of a potential terrorist attack as "individuals who may be associated with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network."
During a speech at a meeting of police chiefs in San Antonio, Mr. Ashcroft urged law enforcement authorities nationwide and citizens across the country to "be on the highest alert" in the wake of FBI concerns of a pending attack by more than a dozen men against U.S. targets here or abroad.
"Based on information we received from our military forces in Afghanistan and from interviews of individuals in detention in Guantanamo Bay, [Cuba], the FBI issued an alert to 18,000 law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for individuals who may be associated with Osama bin Laden or the al Qaeda network and who may be planning attacks on U.S. interests," Mr. Ashcroft said.
"While this alert is not specific to any particular locality, I want to encourage all law enforcement officials, and, frankly, all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert in regard to these individuals," he said.
Federal authorities said a detainee at Guantanamo Bay told his U.S. interrogators he learned of a suspected attack from another prisoner while being detained in Afghanistan.
The authorities said U.S. officials then interviewed the prisoner in Afghanistan, who gave them the names of people he heard were plotting to attack a U.S. target on Feb. 12, including the name of the suspected ringleader, Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei.
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said information on a potential attack was discussed during President Bush's round of intelligence and homeland security briefings on Monday.
"We had credible information, we had a specific name," said Mr. Fleischer. "It's exactly this type of action that helps disrupt or prevent terrorist attacks, which is why the FBI does it and properly so."
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said that interrogations of persons being held in Afghanistan led to the FBI's ability to identify specific suspects and a specific suspected time frame for the attack. It shows that the U.S. is winning the war against terrorism, he said.
"If we can interdict those who would do us harm and bring havoc and war and destruction and death to this country before they cross our borders that's the best homeland security," Mr. Ridge said.
The FBI alert identified al-Rabeei as a 22-year-old from Yemen. Authorities said he is believed to have ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network. The alert noted that U.S. officials have not determined al-Rabeei's whereabouts and do not know whether he is in the United States.
Several foreign countries have joined in the search for al-Rabeei and his associates, although those efforts have been hampered by the number of aliases used by each man. Al-Rabeei is known to have as many as 14 aliases.
In Yemen, the Interior Ministry is attempting to gather information on al-Rabeei and his associates at the request of U.S. authorities. The state news agency Saba quoted a government official saying Yemen had been warned that al-Rabeei might try to enter the country from Afghanistan to attack U.S. interests.
At the State Department, an official said the U.S. Embassy in Yemen has been at a very high state of alert for some time.
It is standard procedure, he added, for the embassy to review the security situation when there are developments.
The FBI alert for al-Rabeei and his associates called on federal, state and local authorities to be on the lookout for the Yemeni national, who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1979. The alert is the fourth the FBI has issued since September 11, but the first to name an individual.
The alert said the threat of an attack had been deemed credible, but was not specific regarding potential sites. It advised law enforcement authorities to "stop and detain" al-Rabeei if spotted and described him and his associates as "extremely dangerous."
The FBI said al-Rabeei's known associates include Issam Ahmad Dibwan al-Makhlafi, Ahmad al-Akhader Nasser Albidani, Alyan Muhammad Ali al-Wa'eli, Bashir Ali Nasser al-Sharari, Bassam Abdullah bin Bushar al-Nahdi and Abdulaziz Muhammad Saleh bin Otash, Mustafa Abdulkader Aabed al-Ansari, Omar Ahmad Omar al-Hubishi, Ammar Abadah Nasser al-Wa'eli, Shuhour Abdullah Mukbil al-Sabri, Samir Abduh Sa'id al-Maktawi and Abdulrab Muhammad Muhammad Ali al-Sayfi.
The men were identified as being from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. The FBI alert has been posted on the bureau's Web site at www.fbi.gov.

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