- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday released videotapes he described as "martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists" in issuing a global alert for five suspected al Qaeda members who could strike anywhere in the world.
Mr. Ashcroft, at a press conference attended by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, called on the public worldwide "to assist in the effort to identify, locate and incapacitate terrorists or those who are suspected of planning additional attacks against innocent civilians."
Mr. Mueller described the videos sobering pictures of terrorists cradling their weapons, smiling and even one appearing to kiss his rifle as a "trove of valuable information" now being recovered by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The videos show the five men speaking, although no sound was played at yesterday's news conference, in part to guard against coded messages.
He said the videos represent "a seamless effort" against terrorism extending from the "troops on the ground to FBI and CIA analysts in Washington, who are charged with putting these pieces together."
The Justice Department and the FBI have not yet determined when the tapes were made, and bureau experts are continuing to translate the words. Mr. Mueller also said the FBI had no information on whether any of the five men had entered the United States.
The Justice Department and the FBI, Mr. Ashcroft said, have tentatively identified four of the five men as Ramzi Binalshibh, Abd Al-Rahim, Muhammad Sa'id Ali Hasan and Khalid Ibn Muhammad Al-Juhani. He said no identification has been made of the fifth man.
"Because the statements on the tapes suggest future terrorist acts, specifically suicide attacks, we are asking for the public's assistance in further identifying and locating the individuals on the tapes so that additional investigation can be made," he said.
The attorney general said five videotapes were discovered by U.S. military personnel in the rubble of a house in Afghanistan belonging to Mohammed Atef, al Qaeda's second in command to fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden. Mr. Ashcroft said the tapes show the five men in what he described as training for possible future strikes against targets in this country and abroad.
Atef is suspected by U.S. authorities of having directed terrorist operations for al Qaeda. Believed killed in the U.S. aerial attacks, he was indicted in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"These videotapes from his house we believe could be of great value," Mr. Ashcroft said. "They depict young men delivering what appear to be martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists. Analysis of the audio portion of these tapes suggests, based on statements made on the tapes, that the men may be trained and prepared to commit future suicide terrorist acts."
Mr. Ashcroft noted that federal authorities were uncertain whether any of the men had been killed in the aerial bombing of Afghanistan or in the ground war.
"It could well be. We don't know of the whereabouts of these individuals, and we're not able to say that they're in one location or another or whether they're dead or alive," he said.
Of the four men who have been identified, Binalshibh, a Yemeni, was an associate of the September 11 suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta. In an indictment handed down in December against Zacarias Moussaoui, who is awaiting trial for conspiracy in the September 11 attacks, Binalshibh was named along with Atta and the 18 other hijackers as an unindicted co-conspirator.
The Moussaoui indictment describes Binalshibh as a member of an al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany. It said he made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a visa to enter the United States before the September 11 attacks. After Binalshibh was refused entry, he is suspected of having acted as a financier and facilitator of terrorism, transferring funds to Moussaoui and others from Germany.
Mr. Ashcroft said little is known about the other individuals on the tapes, although investigators are "extremely interested in identifying and locating these individuals as soon as possible." The Justice Department has released photos and other information to law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide.
"Investigators note that these men could be anywhere in the world," he said. "From what we can ascertain about the tapes at this time, they do not reveal any information about specific planned acts or targets or time frames for any potential planned or other terrorist acts."
Mr. Ashcroft described the release of the tapes as "another example of the potentially critical role that the public can play" in the ongoing hunt for global terrorists.
"We certainly know that the public has played a very important role to date, but this is another opportunity for the public around the world to join the campaign against terrorism. Throughout the war on terrorism, our military and intelligence officials have made a concerted effort to share appropriate information with the public in order to enlist their assistance," he said.
Mr. Ashcroft dismissed a suggestion that the release of the tapes unnecessarily could scare the public or lead to undue targeting of Middle Easterners or Arab-Americans.
"I think the American people are accustomed to being a part of this investigation and this effort, and they realize that they can be a constructive part," he said. "We've provided this basis for specific identification.
"We're just asking that if people think they know of the whereabouts of these individuals, that they would call the local FBI agent, the local FBI office, contact the FBI at the Web site, or, overseas, go to the American consulate or to the embassy," he said.
The FBI Web site address is www.ifccfbi.gov.

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