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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Terrorist Are Adapting to Increasingly Hostile Environment

Aired May 13, 2003 - 20:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER: One year, eight months and two days have passed since the al Qaeda attacks on New York City and Washington. Until yesterday, many people would have said the U.S. is winning the war on terrorism. But winning does not mean the war is over.
Mike Boettcher has an update on the state of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the September 11 attacks more than 3,000 suspected al Qaeda operatives have been arrested worldwide, according to U.S. officials. A crippling but not fatal blow to the terror organization according to counterterrorism officials.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Al Qaeda is still there and still capable of striking us. We have to continuously be vigilant and work as hard as we can. I identify al Qaeda operatives and take them out.

BOETTCHER: Earlier this month the ministers of the G8 concurred. In a statement, the group said al Qaeda cells are always ready to act.

So how has al Qaeda managed to survive such a fierce counterattack?

The answer, say counterterror experts, it has adapted to the new more hostile environment. Coalition intelligence forces say camps once based in Afghanistan have moved to new locations that up to now are out of reach of U.S. forces. Chechnya is one example pointed out by renowned French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

JEAN-LOUIS BRUGUIERE, FRENCH TERRORISM JUDGE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the war have more and more connections with Chechnya and use this area as the new base to continue as an aircraft carrier, you know? To continue the fight against the west.

BOETTCHER: Diversification is another key to al Qaeda's continued survival. Once a tightly knit group bound by boast of allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It has established working relationships with groups as disparate as Chechen rebel, Asian Islamic extremists and South American guerrillas according to coalition counter terrorism officials. And because al Qaeda's top leadership is either in hiding, for example in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, or is in custody, lower level operatives who escaped the coalition dragnet now are more likely to plan and carry out missions without the approval of higher-ups.

(on camera): Top counterterrorism officials say although great success has been achieved against the old al Qaeda, the terrorist organization is now mutating into a loosely organized group more resistant to old counterterrorism measures.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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