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Hunt for terrorists stretches beyond bin Laden

By B. Duane Cross

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- U.S. authorities say they are casting a wider net in their search for suspects in the September 11 attacks, looking beyond suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization.

The search will be exhaustive: the number of known terrorist organizations and attacks -- and nations that the U.S. say sponsor terrorism -- have risen dramatically in recent years.

A group branded as terrorists by the Indian government is headed to Afghanistan, CNN's Satinder Bindra reports (September 20)

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According to the U.S. State Department, there were 423 international terrorist attacks in 2000, an increase of 8 percent from the 392 attacks in 1999.

The number of anti-U.S. attacks rose from 169 in 1999 to 200 in 2000, a result of the increase in bombing attacks against a Colombian oil pipeline, viewed by terrorists as a U.S. target.

Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are governments that the U.S. Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism.

Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the American public is now learning more about the 17th son of a billionaire Saudi construction magnate.

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who is writing "Holy War Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden," said the militant Islam bin Laden is "diabolically intelligent."

Unlike other terrorist groups that have a specific response in mind for its actions, for bin Laden "winning is not the point," Bergen said. "The outcome itself is not the point. Osama bin Laden is looking at this as a religious struggle. If he dies, it's a one-way trip to paradise."

Bin Laden has stated that terrorism is a tool to achieve the group's goal while working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and to remove Westerners from Muslim countries.

Bin Laden linked to many groups

The biggest group associated with Bin Laden is al Qaeda, a multinational network he established in 1990. In addition, he is also tied to at least four terrorist groups, according to the U.S. State Department.

-- Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, Egypt's largest militant group;

-- Harakat ul-Mujahidin, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that operates primarily in Kashmir;

-- Al-Jihad (also known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jihad Group and Islamic Jihad, among others), an Egyptian Islamic extremist group.

In a report titled "2000 Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism," the State Department said the United States has been increasingly concerned about reports of Pakistani support to terrorist groups and support for the Taliban, the fundamental Islamic regime controlling most of Afghanistan.

Last year, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333 levied additional sanctions on the Taliban, for harboring bin Laden and failing to close down terrorist training camps in that country.

"Afghanistan is not the only threat, nor the only rallying point for international cooperation," wrote Edmund J. Hull, the U.S. government's acting coordinator for counterterrorism in a State Department report. He added, "Central Asian states have stepped up their fight against terrorist elements in their region, particularly those operating from Afghanistan."

Bin Laden, who has several hundred men in Afghanistan employed to protect him, is believed to be receiving help from groups inside Pakistan. However, Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has sided with the United States in its international coalition against terrorism.

There are 28 groups that currently are designated by the State Department as international terrorist organizations. But Bergen says that, counter to popular perception, terrorist organizations are not coming solely out of the Middle East and Asia.

People "affiliated with al Qaeda have operated in Canada for years -- Canada and Latin America," Bergen said.

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