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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Hambali May Have Been Behind New Hijacking Recruitment

Aired August 14, 2003 - 15:45   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena. She's also, of course, been tracking this developing story. Kelli, another government apparently took place in this capture. Do we know yet what government organization that that was?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESOPNDENT: No, we don't, Kyra. That is something that U.S. officials are holding very close to the vest. Apparently our sources are telling us that that country does not wish to be identified at this time. And sometimes when a government is dealing with a population that is sympathetic to al Qaeda's cause against Americans, they often don't want publicity when they are helping the United States in the war on terror.

Since I don't know what country it is, I won't want to elaborate further. But this arrest is significant regardless of the country that helped. We can expect Hambali to remain in U.S. custody for a good amount of time at an undisclosed location. We've heard those terms before. That's because we know that that's what the U.S. government did with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, those two men allegedly, according to investigators, the masterminds behind the September 11 attacks.

Interesting information out of the White House, though, regarding Hambali. Administration officials say that he was recently paid a sum of money out of Pakistan and that he was tasked to recruit hijackers after the September 11 attacks. Now, we do know that the FBI and homeland security officials have put out bulletins to state and local law enforcement partners warning about the potential threat of other hijackings. And we were told at the time that information came from detainees that were held at various locations. Now we have, obviously, a name. So this was a very serious plot if Hambali was, indeed, attached to it.

Let me clear up something for our viewers, too, Kyra. He is the acting head of an organization known as Jemaah Islamiya. U.S. investigators do not make any distinction between Jemaah Islamiya and al Qaeda. The best way to put it is that Jemaah Islamiya is the southeast Asian arm of al Qaeda. So this is one and the same. And there's also some theory that investigators go by that he may have been involved in the planning of September 11. I mean, we know that he facilitated the meeting back in 2000 in Malaysia, but there is some information suggesting that his role may have gone beyond that.

Beyond that, though, we don't have him tied to any attacks here in the United States.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kelli Arena, justice correspondent, thank you so much.

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