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Update on the War on Terrorism - 2003-02-05

Now with the latest developments in the war on terrorism, here’s Jeff Swicord.

London’s radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was banned from the pulpit Tuesday by Britain’s Charity Commission. The commission claimed he was making inappropriate political statements from the pulpit of his Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque is a registered charity.

Al Masri has called on god to destroy the United States, applauding the attacks of September 11 and the recent space shuttle crash. Al Masri has vowed to preach again. He has been accused of recruiting terrorists such as shoe-bomber Richard Reid. This week, Richard Reid arrived in a Boston courtroom for sentencing. His lawyers argued he was not acting out of hatred, but as a low-level soldier in what he viewed as a war.

Reid was caught trying to set off explosives in his shoe while aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to New York.

But, U.S. District judge William Young handed down a life sentence. The judge told Reid you are not a soldier in any way, “you are a terrorist.”

Italian police burst into an apartment in Naples, Italy this week and found 28 Pakistani men with 800 grams of explosives, 70 meters of fuse and several detonators inside a false wall.

In a written statement, Italian police said they believed the men were members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The search also yielded 100 cell phones, maps of the Naples area, and addresses of contacts around the world.

According to police, the maps had various targets identified, including the U.S. consulate in Naples and a nearby NATO base. But Zafar Halili, Pakistan’s ambassador to Rome, believes the arrests are a part of a campaign to target innocent Pakistani’s living in Italy.

“We think that it is highly unlikely that 28 people, laborers who were seeking out an existence had any such notions, but this is our preliminary opinion.”

Police said some of the fuses where laced with highly flammable nitroglycerine. An Israeli military court sentenced a Palestinian man to 27 years in prison after finding he had links to the al-Qaeda network. Military Prosecutor Ronen Shor believes 29 year-old Nabil Okal was trying to set up sleeper cells inside Israel to carry out attacks.

“He is not a member of al-Qaeda, he is a member of Hamas. But, he was trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”

Prosecutors believe Okal learned bomb making at a training camp in Afghanistan in 1998. The trial was the first conducted by Israeli authorities against a Palestinian with alleged links to al-Qaeda.