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Authorities trace network of terrorist funding

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Investigators say there is mounting evidence in Europe of a terrorist network with close links to Osama bin Laden.

A series of police raids and more than 20 arrests around the continent in recent days have shed more light on links between groups of terrorists at work, from the Netherlands to Spain.

At least four of the 19 suspected hijackers implicated in the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States trained at camps in Afghanistan run by suspected terrorist mastermind bin Laden, an intelligence source familiar with the federal investigation said Saturday. Government say they also believe the September 11 terrorist attacks were funded, developed and conceived in England, Germany and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to a law enforcement source speaking with The Associated Press, attacks were financed with a $500,000 bankroll, and the FBI has sent more agents to Germany, as the search widens for the architects of the plot.

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-- A 36-year-old man traveling from the Middle East to the United States was arrested on Friday at Gatwick Airport, outside London. The man, whose name was not disclosed, is being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to the Sussex police.

-- British authorities said Saturday that a man arrested in Britain under the country's anti-terrorism law has been returned to France. Kamel Daoudi was arrested in Leicester, England, on Tuesday under Britain's anti-terrorism law. Two other men arrested at the same time are still in police custody.

-- Three men suspected of belonging to a terrorist group that had planned attacks in Germany were arrested by German authorities, the government said Saturday. Separately, the prosecutor general has launched another investigation into a group of men of Arabic descent living in Hamburg. The men, who have not been named, are suspected of belonging to a terrorist group tied to threats made against the British Consulate General in Hamburg.

-- Secret Service agents arrested a man Friday wanted in connection with the nation's terrorist attack probe. Youssef Hmimssa is being held for the U.S. Marshal's Service in Linn County, Iowa.

FBI agents have tracked the September 11 hijackers' bank accounts, their communications and their travel tickets as they follow a trail that could lead to a small group of chief plotters in Europe and the Middle East, The Associated Press reported.

The FBI said it is pursuing more than 100,000 leads as agents narrow their overseas search. Simultaneously in the U.S., more than 100 investigations are under way into alleged hate crimes against Arab-Americans.

The law enforcement source, speaking only on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that the $500,000 is all linked in some way to the plot. The Washington Post reported Saturday that the FBI had documented numerous large cash withdrawals and a long trail of hotels, rental cars and airplane trips.

Speeding up the process

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A senior administration official told CNN that the Bush White House is displeased with the go-slow approach Congress is taking with its counter-terrorism package and will increase pressure to move the legislation in the coming week.

"It's moving slower than we would like," the senior official said. "It's very important for Congress to take action to prevent future attacks. The requests the attorney general has have made are reasonable."

The official specifically pointed to the authority the government seeks to monitor multiple cell phone conversations of suspected terrorists. The official said some terrorists change cell phones as frequently as weekly and the government needs the authority to track calls throughout a suspected terrorist's chain of communication. Attorney General John Ashcroft made the same argument at a news conference this week.

"If we have credible reason to believe a cell phone is involved in terrorism, we should have these powers," the official said.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has told the White House he intends to move the counter-terrorism legislation through his committee by mid-week. A full House vote would be expected the following week. The White House has received no such assurances from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont.

"It's slower going there," the official said.

As a result, negotiations have intensified in recent days. Senior White House and Justice Department officials have been in contact with Senate Judiciary Committee staff almost continuously. Key sessions occurred Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Sources said Attorney General John Ashcroft was to speak on Sunday with Leahy to narrow differences.

Speaking on CNN's "Saturday Edition," Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they expect Congress to heed Attorney General John Ashcroft's call for swift action on the anti-terrorism legislation and approve the measures in the coming week.

"I certainly would not want to see a situation evolve where some intervening event occurred which might have been prevented had Congress acted more promptly," Specter said.

"It could get to the president's desk next week, providing we approach it with a sense of urgency, which it requires," Reid said.



 
 
 
 


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