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Sources: American Taliban fighter says new attack planned on U.S.

John Walker after his capture near Mazar-e Sharif last month
John Walker after his capture near Mazar-e Sharif last month  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The American recently captured with Taliban fighters said another al Qaeda attack on the United States will happen in days, sources familiar with the interrogation said Wednesday.

However, a senior Bush administration official said it is doubtful that John Walker knows much about what al Qaeda is planning.

Officials said Walker spoke of additional attacks in phases, but they expressed skepticism about what he might know of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's designs.

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"These are tales told around the campfire," said one U.S. official, adding the information is "interesting" but hardly points conclusively to any action. The official likened Walker to a foot soldier talking about what a senior general has in mind -- saying the American was unlikely to know.

The official noted that on a tape expected to be released Wednesday the al Qaeda leader admits even his top lieutenants were unaware until September 11 what would happen that day.

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that Walker said the second phase of al Qaeda's war against the United States will take place at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that concludes Sunday. The newspaper cited U.S. intelligence officials who debriefed Walker.

While the Times report said that the attack will involve a biological weapon, one government source said he was not aware of Walker saying anything of the kind.

The newspaper said the information was among intelligence reports that led the Bush administration to issue a new public warning last week about a possible terrorist strike.

The Times also said that Walker told intelligence officials the third phase of al Qaeda's war will result in the destruction of the entire country.

A senior administration official with access to the daily "threat matrix" said now is a "very serious time" because of concerns relating to the end of Ramadan. "The traffic is very high," the official said, referring to all kinds of intelligence reports.

But the official discounted the Times article.

"I don't think anyone views this guy as someone who is plugged in to al Qaeda," the official said. "Are we concerned about a potential biological attack? Sure. But, because of anything Walker says, no.

"People are talking and listening to him, but I would be careful about considering him to be a credible source about al Qaeda planning."

Walker, 20, who was captured last month at a fortress holding Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan, was questioned at a U.S. Marine Corps base near Kandahar, where he is being held.

He was discovered after he survived a prison uprising in which hundreds of non-Afghan Taliban fighters had been taken prisoner after surrendering at Konduz.

White House Correspondent John King and National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report


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