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Al Qaeda captive provides leads in terror fight

U.S. officials concede some information may be suspect

Abu Zubaydah
Abu Zubaydah  

(CNN) -- Since his capture by authorities in Pakistan in late March, senior al Qaeda official Abu Zubaydah has provided U.S. officials with information that has led to threat alerts and the arrest of terrorist suspects -- most recently, suspected "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla.

While saying they hope his statements will help prevent future terrorist attacks, authorities concede much of what Zubaydah tells them might be false or deliberately vague.

Zubaydah, a Palestinian believed to be the chief of al Qaeda's military operations, also has been indicted in the "millennium plot" to bomb a hotel in Amman, Jordan.

U.S. authorities are interrogating him at an undisclosed location. Shortly after his capture, U.S. officials said he would not be transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for fear that he could communicate with other Afghan war detainees.

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In the days after Zubaydah was taken into custody, U.S. government sources said he was providing limited information. Authorities also followed leads found in computers, documents and other materials seized in the raid that resulted in Zubaydah's capture.

On April 19, the FBI announced that the government had received an unsubstantiated threat against U.S. financial institutions. One U.S. official said Zubaydah was a key source of the information but admitted that "guys like that are quite capable of lying for effect."

The threat alert was sent to authorities in 12 states and the District of Columbia. So far, nothing has come of it.

In May, the FBI sought to dispel a Time magazine report that a new alert had been issued about possible al Qaeda attacks on large apartment buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurants.

The magazine said the alert was a response to statements made by Zubaydah to his interrogators.

Also in May, U.S. officials said Zubaydah told them that United Airlines Flight 93 -- which was hijacked and crashed September 11 in a Pennsylvania field -- was intended to hit the White House.

In June, Zubaydah said that a Kuwaiti man -- wanted for his involvement in a 1995 plot to bomb commercial airliners flying to the United States from Southeast Asia -- was a top al Qaeda official and the money man behind the September 11 attacks, U.S. officials said.

The information was seen as further evidence that al Qaeda officials, operating out of the Philippines, may have prepared the blueprint for September 11 in the early to mid-1990s.

As for Padilla, U.S. officials said the first tip came from Zubaydah about two weeks before Padilla's May 8 arrest. Zubaydah gave a physical description of Padilla, officials said, but did not name him.

After following up on the information and obtaining photos of Padilla and another man, U.S. authorities showed the pictures to Zubaydah, who confirmed they were the two men allegedly involved in the "dirty bomb" plot.




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