A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official says the al-Qaida terror network remains a significant threat even though it is under what he calls catastrophic stress.
The U.S. Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism Cofer Black says al-Qaida continues to attract new recruits, even though two thirds of its leadership has been killed or captured since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Mr. Black told British radio the terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden is going through a generational change.
"The al-Qaida of the 9-11 period is under catastrophic stress," he said. "They are being hunted down. Their days are numbered. The clock is ticking. The next group of concern would be, I would say, a generation younger. They are influenced by what they see on TV. They are influenced by a misrepresentation, I think, of the facts. They tend to be sort of long on radicalism and comparatively short on training."
Mr. Black has had long experience in fighting al-Qaida. He was the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency in Khartoum in 1995 when Osama bin Laden was based there. During that time, Mr. Black was the target of a pre-empted al-Qaida assassination attempt.
Mr. Black told BBC he was intimately involved in the decisions that delayed and canceled several Washington-bound flights from London earlier this month because of the threat of terrorist hijacking.
He said he understands the inconvenience that was caused, but there was no alternative and it would have been irresponsible to ignore, what he called, clear intelligence signals.