U.S. Special Operations Forces have launched what was described as a major
attack on Al Qaida strongholds in eastern Afghanistan over the last few
days and Pakistani sources said several Al Qaida leaders have been captured.
The London-based Al Hayat daily reported on Thursday that the U.S. force
might have also captured Bin Laden. The newspaper quoted Pakistani military
sources as saying that Bin Laden could have been one of the Al Qaida leaders
seized by the United States.
The United States has already confirmed the capture of Waleed Bin
Attash, also known as Tawfiq Attash, Middle East Newsline reported. Bin Attash was said to have helped
direct the Sept. 11, 2001 Al Qaida attacks on New York and Washington as
well as the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000.
Islamic sources based in London said a leading Al Qaida operative was
also captured in Iraq on Tuesday. He was identified as Nizar Fadl Al
Khalayleh, known as Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Al Zarqawi, a Palestinian of
Jordanian nationality, was said to have been responsible for a series of Al
Qaida-linked attacks around the Middle East, including the assassination of
U.S. Agency for International Development director Lawrence Foley in Amman
in October 2002.
The sources told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily on Thursday
that Al Zarqawi was captured in the Iraqi city of Faluja during a shootout
with U.S. forces. The sources said the Al Qaida operative was seeking to
organize insurrection against the U.S. military in the area. U.S. troops in
Faluja have been battling armed Iraqi protesters over the last three days
and more than a dozen Iraqis have been killed.
Earlier, the United States reported a significant decline in what it
termed terrorist attacks in 2002 as well as the crippling of Al Qaida's
financial network. A State Department report, entitled "Patterns of Global
Terrorism 2002," said terrorist attacks around the world declined from 355
in 2001 to 199 in 2002, a drop of 44 percent. The department said this was
the lowest level in terrorism since 1970.
State Department coordinator for counterterrorism Cofer Black attributed
the decline in attacks to increased security measures by countries
throughout the world. Black said the security effort focused on airports and
"A large number of terrorist suspects were not able to launch an attack
last year because they are in prison," Black said on Wednesday. "More than
3,000 of them are Al Qaida terrorists, and they were arrested in over 100
The State Department said the flow of money to terrorists has been
severed and that more than $134 million in Al Qaida and related assets were
frozen since September 2001. Officials said the United States has obtained
unprecedented cooperation from allies and other countries in sharing
intelligence and law enforcement information on insurgency groups.
The Bush administration has asked for $4.7 billion in fiscal 2004 for
countries that have helped the U.S.-led war against terrorism. One of the
biggest beneficiaries in the U.S. program would be Jordan and Turkey,
designated to receive $460 million and $255 million, respectively.
The most lethal attack in 2002 was the bombing of a nightclub in Bali,
Indonesia, which killed about 200 people from 24 different nationalities. In
all, the report said, 725 people died in terrorist attacks in 2002. Thirty
of the casualties were U.S. nationals.