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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

U.S. Officials Say al Qaeda Plans More Attacks

Aired May 13, 2003 - 20:06   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A knowledgeable U.S. official say there is evidence now al Qaeda terrorists are plotting a number of additional attacks in the wake of the Riyadh bombings. National security correspondent David Ensor has been checking his sources. He joins us now. David, what's the latest?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that when you talk to knowledgeable U.S. officials, you really get a sense of continuing concern. There were some comment earlier in the day from some suggesting that this very large group of attacks in Riyadh was probably what al Qaeda -- apparently al Qaeda -- had been organizing, and that has happened in the past, they conducted a big attack and that's it for a while. But talking to U.S. officials, they say they are concerned about additional attacks. There is evidence out there that people connected with al Qaeda may be planning additional attacks. So while they refuse to be anymore specific than that, they're not ruling out Saudi Arabia, they're not ruling out other locations around the world. So just a level of continuing concern about al Qaeda and people affiliated with it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR (voice-over): From the president on down, administration officials say they're not sure yet who planned the attacks in Riyadh, but al Qaeda is suspect No. 1.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's a lot of suspicion it is al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's a group of people that they don't care about take innocent life. Obviously these killers didn't care about innocent life.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There is just no other group that carries out these kinds of coordinated attacks. Multiple targets, suicidal.

ENSOR: Furthermore, a week earlier, Saudi authorities captured 800,000 of explosives, RDX, and weapons in a house just a quarter of a mile from one of the bomb sites, and launched a manhunt for 19 suspects.

A Saudi newspaper said Tuesday it had received an e-mail from a man calling himself Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, also known as Abu Bakr, who says "the execution of this plan was not hampered by the recent announcement by the Saudi authorities of the seizure of large quantities of arms and explosives in the kingdom, and the hunt for 19 people." The e-mail says "al Qaeda's strategy now will be operations in the heart of the United States, Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan."

U.S. intelligence officials say the message appears credible.

ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI DISSIDENT: The bombing in Riyadh is an announcement of the second version of al Qaeda, al Qaeda two.

ENSOR: Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed says his information is that the Riyadh suicide bombers were part of a new offshoot from al Qaeda that is home grown Saudi, not taking orders from Osama bin Laden, but adopting his ideology and tactics, and that these killers were young.

AL-AHMED: Our guy who spoke to one of the guards there, he said most of them did not have beards. Very young, very young, most of them under 25.

BERGEN: We're seeing more local, home grown kinds of things, but obviously at a minimum inspired by al Qaeda, and in some cases directed by al Qaeda.

ENSOR: Al Qaeda, or some affiliate of it, has now apparently directly attacked the Saudi kingdom by going after the expatriates who keep its infrastructure running.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: In response, U.S. officials are hoping the Saudis will finally go all out to stop al Qaeda recruiting and fund-raising in their country. "This attack was about them as well as us," one official said to me, and they know it -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, in your report, you talk about this being sort of more home grown, Saudi groups, not necessarily affiliated with the larger al Qaeda. Does that mean that the attacks might be limited to Saudi Arabia in the future, or they still have access, they still have mobility?

ENSOR: Well, this is just a theory that some Saudis have, that this may be a group that the gentleman called al Qaeda two, of younger Saudis who have put together their own sort of terrorist organization using the tactics and the ideology of bin Laden, but not taking orders directly from his organization. Whether that is correct or not is not clear. There are some U.S. officials who say they believe most likely when the evidence is all in there, that it will be proven that this was ordered by the al Qaeda leadership. These attacks were from them -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Ensor working the story tonight. Thanks very much.

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