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Mohammed Update - 2003-03-05


Pakistani officials say a top al-Qaida leader has been flown out of the country after being turned over to U.S. authorities. Authorities now hope his arrest will help them get crucial information about the al-Qaida terror network’s operations, past and present.

Pakistan’s Information Minister says Khalid Sheik Mohammed was taken "somewhere in the region," but other officials say he was flown to a U.S. detention center in Afghanistan. Authorities believe Mohammed can give them details of al-Qaida’s funding and the whereabouts of its leader Osama bin Laden. U.S. authorities hope Mohammed will talk about possible future plans for terror attacks. But Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counter- terrorism official, says that may prove to be a tough task.

VINCE CANNISTRARO, CIA COUNTER-TERRORISM OFFICIAL
“They’re going to have work on him around the clock using psychological methods, using sleep deprivation.”

Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, as well as the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

In the western U.S. state of California Monday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said he hoped the arrest would prove to be a major development in cracking the al-Qaida network.

ASHRAF JEHANGIR QAZI, PAKISTAN’S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.
“We might have broken the back of the terrorist movement. Of course, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Tuesday in Washington, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that U.S. intelligence forces are winning the war on terror. They also announced that two Yemeni citizens, who were arrested in January, were formally charged with providing material support to al-Qaida and Hamas.

But FBI Director Mueller warned that the battle against terrorism will be lengthy and complex.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR
“Despite the arrest of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, al-Qaida and other terrorist networks are adept at defending their organizations from U.S. and international law enforcement efforts. As these terrorist organizations evolve and change their tactics, we too must evolve.”

U.S. officials say they hope the interrogation of recent terror suspects will lead to additional arrests.

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