Friday, February 18, 2005

FBI foils plot to kill Pak diplomat

from India Times

WASHINGTON: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed that it had foiled a "possible terrorist plot" to kill a Pakistani diplomat in New York, by arresting a suspected al-Qaeda activist and busting a terrorist network in America.

"In New York, Yassin Muhiddin Aref was arrested on money laundering charges connected to a possible terrorist plot to kill a Pakistani diplomat," Robert S Mueller, Director of the FBI, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday.

In 2004, the FBI learned that al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups had conducted detailed surveillance of financial targets in New York, Washington DC and New Jersey.

In response to this threat, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, the threat level was raised for the cities referenced in the threat and "we mobilised a large contingent of analysts and agents to review the massive amount of information connected with the attack planning, and to uncover any additional information that would give the FBI insight into the plot," Mueller said.

Previously, in the Spring of 2004, Britain had arrested a group of terrorists, who were plotting an imminent attack inside the UK. In response, the FBI immediately formed a task force of analysts and agents to determine if there was a US nexus to the plot or if any of the British subjects had links to individuals in the US.

Later in the year, the FBI received information suggesting that there was an attack being planned possibly timed to coincide with the 2004 Presidential Election, Mueller said.

To counter the threat, the FBI created the 2004 Threat Task Force in May. With thousands of FBI personnel, supported by individuals from outside agencies, it was the largest task force created since 9/11. The task force was up and running for seven months.

The FBI has identified, he said, various extremists located throughout the US and is monitoring their activities.

In Virginia, Mohammed Ali al-Timimi, the spiritual leader of the Virginia Jihad training group, disrupted last year, was indicted for his involvement in the recruitment of US citizens for extremist training and jihad preparation.

Al-Timimi, the primary lecturer at a Northern Virginia Islamic centre, preached jihad to a small group of followers, provided them paramilitary training and facilitated their travel to Pakistan in the days after September 11 to attend a Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp in preparation to fight the United States in Afghanistan.

In Minneapolis, the FBI arrested Mohamad Kamal El-Zahabi, a Lebanese citizen, who admitted to serving in Afghanistan and Chechnya as a sniper and to providing sniper training at Khalden camp in Afghanistan and in Lebanon in the 1990s.

The FBI learned of El-Zahabi during its investigation of Boston-based extremists Ra'ed Hijazi and Bassam Kanj, who was killed in a plot to overthrow the Lebanese Government in 2000.

Unfortunately, said Mueller, "Inspite of these accomplishments, al-Qaeda continues to adapt and move forward with its desire to attack the US, using any means at its disposal. Their intent to attack us at home remains and their resolve to destroy America has never faltered."
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