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Reports: Al Qaeda operative sought anthrax

From Maria Ressa
CNN

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shortly after his capture in March.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shortly after his capture in March.

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MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- An al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan tried to purchase anthrax for the terrorist network in 2001 but was unsuccessful, according to reports from the interrogations of two top terrorist suspects in custody.

The reports, compiled by U.S. interrogators, detail claims by Hambali -- the senior al Qaeda strategist for Southeast Asia captured two months ago in Thailand -- and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks who was captured in Pakistan in May.

According to the reports -- released to southeast Asian officials and obtained by CNN -- Yazid Sufaat, a 1987 biochemistry graduate of California State University-Sacramento, set up Green Laboratory Medicine Company to acquire anthrax and develop biological weapons for al Qaeda.

Sufaat, however, was not able to buy the right strain of anthrax that could be dispersed as a weapon. He remained in Kandahar, Afghanistan, until the U.S.-led military campaign on Afghanistan began in October 2001.

He and Hambali talked about continuing their work in Indonesia, according to the reports. Sufaat, however, was arrested by Malaysian authorities in December 2001.

Mohammed, in his interrogation report, suggested that the attempt to acquire anthrax might be why Zacarias Moussaoui was interested in learning how to operate cropdusters.

Moussaoui is being held in the United States suspected of having a role in the September 11 attacks. He was found to have operating manuals for cropdusting equipment that could be used to spray fast-killing toxins into the air.

Hambali, whose real name is Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, is under interrogation by the CIA at an undisclosed location that is not in the United States or Thailand, U.S. officials have said.

In April, sources in Washington told CNN that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was providing useful information to U.S. interrogators.


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