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A YEAR AFTER

Al Qaeda Tape Hints at Targets

Terrorism: Group releases video footage taking responsibility for Sept. 11 and suggesting attacks at U.S. nuclear sites.

September 10, 2002|JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Just before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Al Qaeda terrorist network on Monday released video footage claiming responsibility for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, saying the U.S. Capitol was also a target and hinting at future strikes against nuclear facilities.

The videotapes, delivered Monday to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network which then immediately broadcast them, included comments attributed to one of the Sept. 11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden himself.

The satellite network also publicized what it said was a recent series of interviews between its investigative reporter and two top Al Qaeda fugitives who confessed to having played central roles in the Sept. 11 attacks and other plots. Al Jazeera has long been used by Al Qaeda as a means of communicating its message to the outside world.

Meanwhile, in a day of fast-moving terrorism-related developments:

* The FBI confirmed Monday that it has issued warnings to local police, electrical companies and transportation agencies in recent days of potential terrorist attacks within U.S. borders on or near Sept. 11. FBI officials said they and U.S. intelligence agencies have received a steady stream of threats that mention New York and Washington. "The FBI possesses no information indicating a specific threat to any of these [Sept. 11] commemorative events," said the advisory issued by the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center. "However, a large volume of threats of undetermined reliability continues to be received and investigated by the FBI." An FBI official said the warning was issued out of "an abundance of caution."

* The Pentagon deployed jet fighters and surface-to-air missiles at several military installations around Washington for an air defense exercise that begins today. Air Force Lt. Col. Ken McClellan said the exercise, which could last up to four days, had been planned for several weeks. No live weapons will be used, McClellan said, adding that the exercise is designed to test systems to defend against attacks from the air.

* Authorities in the Philippines announced that they have uncovered evidence of an Al Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila.

* The State Department said it had closed the U.S. Embassy in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and a consulate in Surabaya "until further notice" because of threats of attack.

In Washington, FBI and Justice Department officials said they wanted to scrutinize the Al Jazeera tapes to glean whatever they could from them about the Sept. 11 attacks and any future terrorist plots that Al Qaeda has planned.

"We are trying to get" the tapes, said an FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Obviously, they are of great interest to us."

Al Jazeera officials would not say how, where or from whom they received the tapes. That has been the case in the past with several videos with statements by Bin Laden and top aides that were later authenticated by U.S. and other authorities.

The current footage, the network said, "seems to be a tape prepared by Al Qaeda on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks." It was aired beginning about 2 p.m. EDT, and picked up by CNN, which had its own Arabic experts provide translations. Other news outlets reported slightly different interpretations.

On one tape, at least four men identified as some of the 19 hijackers were shown chatting and reviewing flight manuals in Afghanistan. In one close-up, a hand is placed on a map of Washington that has the Pentagon highlighted. The men were not cleanshaven and dressed in European clothing as they were on Sept. 11, but rather were bearded and wearing Afghan garb. Al Jazeera identified them as hijackers Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alghamdi and Wail Alshehri.

In another segment, a man appears before a large, apparently superimposed photograph of a smoldering Pentagon. "We will get you. We will humiliate you. We will never stop following you," said the man who also demanded that the United States "take your fat hands off the land of Arabs," according to the CNN translation.

Al Jazeera identified that speaker as Abdulaziz Alomari, one of the hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

"God praise everybody who trained and helped me, namely, the leader Sheikh Osama bin Laden," Alomari said. "May God bless him. May God accept our deeds."

In yet another segment, a voice identified by Al Jazeera as that of Bin Laden himself is heard over images of Afghanistan and the 19 hijackers, praising the hijackers for changing "the face of history."

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