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Al-Qaida Still a Threat, Say US Lawmakers - 2002-06-23

An al-Qaida spokesman says Osama bin Laden is alive and the terrorist network is preparing for more attacks on the United States. U.S. lawmakers say with or without its leader, al-Qaida poses a continuing threat.

Florida Democrat Bob Graham, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the FOX News Sunday television program there have been indications for some time that the al-Qaida leader survived the U.S.-led assault on terrorist targets in Afghanistan. "Our best intelligence estimates continue to be that he is alive and probably someplace in those tribal areas on the western side of Pakistan," he said.

Senator Graham said he is more concerned about the fact al-Qaida appears to be regrouping and planning further terrorist acts. "I think there is a heightened level of threat, let us say, in comparison to 30 or 60 days ago," said Senator Graham.

In a tape recording aired by the Arabic language al-Jazeera satellite television network, a spokesman for al-Qaida said the organization is looking at new targets and will strike again. He said the war is just beginning and the road is long.

The top republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee says he has no reason to doubt al-Qaida is planning to strike again. During an appearance on ABC's This Week, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said whether or not Osama bin Laden is alive, al-Qaida could hit at any time. "I believe there continues to be a real, real problem," he said. "They can hit us any day. I hope it never happens. But they are out there."

Afghanistan's interim president has a somewhat more optimistic view. Hamid Karzai told CNN's Late Edition that al-Qaida elements are on the run, hiding like criminals. He said al-Qaida has been defeated, and stressed the terrorists must realize that if they try to strike again, they will pay a heavy price. "Osama bin Laden must know that whatever acts of terror he thinks he can commit will not remain unanswered, and his days are anyway numbered," said Mr. Karzai.

Mr. Karzai was then asked how long American forces should stay in Afghanistan. He said they should stay as long as it takes to defeat terror. In his words, "it is a matter of finishing the job."