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US Hopes Bin al Shibh Can Shed Light on al-Qaida Plots


With captured al-Qaida suspect Ramzi Bin al Shibh now in U.S. custody, investigators are hoping he will shed some light on his alleged role in planning the September 11 terrorist attacks.

U.S. and German investigators have long sought Ramzi Bin al Shibh. He tried to enter the United States several times prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks and prosecutors believe he was supposed to be the 20th hijacker on that day.

Mr. Bin al Shibh recently boasted about the attacks in an interview with Al Jezeera television.

Prosecutors say Mr. Bin al Shibh played a central role in planning the attacks from al-Qaida's cell in Hamburg and funneled large amounts of money to some of the September 11 hijackers. He also was allegedly involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

The key question now is whether U.S. investigators can get him to cooperate. Terrorism expert Harvey Kushner of Long Island University in New York says it is possible, but not likely.

"They do cooperate, as we see in certain cases," he said. "But the information that they tell us has to be taken very carefully and thoroughly checked out because al-Qaida's technique is to train their people in lying, they are astute liars. They give us some good information and a lot times they steer us down wrong alleys."

U.S. investigators say there has been another breakthrough in the war against terrorism with the arrest of five alleged members of a terrorist cell near Buffalo, New York and a sixth suspect in Bahrain. Prosecutor Michael Battle says the group of Yemeni-Americans allegedly provided material support to al-Qaida operatives after receiving training in Afghanistan.

"From what we understand, they received training in small and large arms, indoctrination, they were addressed at one time by Osama bin Laden, mountain climbing and other military tactics," he said on NBC's Today program.

Local Muslim leaders say they are shocked and alarmed by the arrests and have urged the public to withhold judgment.

"To all these suspects, you are innocent until proven otherwise and that is how we believe they are," said Khalid Kazi, who also spoke on NBC's Today program.

Terrorism experts say the arrest of Ramzi Bin al Shibh and the cracking of the alleged terrorist cell near Buffalo indicate that U.S. investigators are making significant strides in tracking down suspected terrorists both inside and outside the United States.

"So I would say this weekend has been very important for law enforcement and also prosecuting the war," Mr. Kushner said. "It indicates that we a learning curve is being put in place that is beginning to bear fruit and I take this as a major victory in our war against terrorism."

In addition to details about the September 11 plot, investigators believe that Ramzi Bin al Shibh is also in a position to know about other al-Qaida plots targeting U.S. interests either at home or abroad.

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