- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) — The CIA has warned American policymakers that al Qaida terrorists in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq are getting ready to attack Americans on their own during and after any U.S. incursion, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Intercepted communications and other intelligence suggests al Qaida operatives now at least tolerated by the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as others based in outlying areas Saddam only loosely controls, have been making plans for the arrival of Americans.

Terrorist fighters may blend in with Iraqi civilians to strike during an invasion, and may attack U.S. forces trying to stabilize Iraq after an attack, according to the CIA assessment, the Times said.

The al Qaida operatives are not necessarily working in concert with Iraqi military planners but a surge in communications by their terror network appears linked to the threatened U.S. attack on Iraq, the report said.

Those terrorist cells in Baghdad are small, with even smaller cells in Mosul and Erbil in northern Iraq.

They were organized by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaida poisons and terror expert mentioned by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his presentation to the United Nations last month, the Times said.

In northern Iraq there may be up to 200 al Qaida operatives working alongside several hundred members of another extremist group, Ansar al-Islam, the report said.

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