March 2003

F.B.I. Seeks Al Qaeda Suspect in U.S.

The New York Times, Washington, March 20, 2003
By Philip Shenon and Eric Lichtblau

Original address:

[Posted 24/03/2003]

Federal law enforcement officials warned today about new domestic terrorism threats, including an "imminent threat" that might be posed by a suspected Al Qaeda member sought by the F.B.I. The officials also said they were worried about continuing intelligence reports that suggested terrorist attacks linked to the Iraq invasion.

The officials said that National Guard members were sent on Tuesday to a large nuclear power plant in Arizona after intelligence reports suggested that Al Qaeda or its sympathizers might be planning to attack it. The officials said a foreign spy agency had provided information about a threat to the plant, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Tonopah, 50 miles west of Phoenix.

The three-reactor site is classified as the largest nuclear power plant in the United States. The officials would not say which agency had supplied the information. Although he offered few details, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said there had been a "very specific piece of threat information" to suggest that the plant was in danger.

Law enforcement officials said there was not necessarily any connection between that threat and an announcement today by the F.B.I. that it was searching for the suspect from Al Qaeda, Adnan G. el-Shukrijumah, 27, who was born in Saudi Arabia. Residents of Miramar, Fla., said a man who appeared to be Mr. Shukrijumah was living there as recently as last weekend.

The F.B.I. announced the search as it said it was preparing to interview thousands of Iraqi-born residents of the United States in the next several weeks, to develop leads on possible terror attacks.

Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said Mr. Shukrijumah had been identified as a potential terrorist from Al Qaeda by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the senior terrorist leader who was captured this month in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and has been intensively questioned.

The officials said suspicions about Mr. Shukrijumah and his intentions had grown with the discovery that he had flight training in the United States about the same time as several Sept. 11 hijackers, that he had recently traveled on a passport issued by Guyana and that he had used a variety of aliases.

The bulletin said Mr. Shukrijumah might try to cross American borders with a Saudi, Canadian or Trinidadian passport. The bulletin included photographs of the suspect, including one from a Florida driver's license issued in February 2001.

Neighbors in Miramar, south of Fort Lauderdale, said a man who identified himself as Mr. Shukrijumah had lived and had been seen there as recently as last weekend. Orville Campbell, 26, a commercial artist who lives in a nearby apartment complex, said he saw Mr. Shukrijumah barbecuing at 1 a.m. on Sunday with other people.

A senior Bush administration official said the government had evidence to suggest that Mr. Shukrijumah had attended the Airman Flight School in Norman, Okla., one of two schools that Zacarias Moussaoui attended in 2001. Mr. Moussaoui, a Frenchmen, is awaiting trial in Virginia on charges that he conspired with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

But the director of operations at the school, Dale Davis, said a search of its records found no student with any of the six names that Mr. Shukrijumah is believed to have used. In a telephone interview, Mr. Davis said the F.B.I. had not been in contact with the school for months and, to his knowledge, had never asked the school about Mr. Shukrijumah.

The reports of threats to the power plant and the search for Mr. Shukrijumah circulated as law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said they were continuing to see new intelligence to suggest that Al Qaeda, Iraqi intelligence agencies and others would try to carry out terrorist attacks timed to an invasion of Iraq.

The F.B.I. said it was preparing to interview 11,000 Iraqi-born Americans and immigrants in the next few weeks for information that they may have about threats. The program is expected to involve almost 5,000 agents. F.B.I. officials said that the interviews, which they described as voluntary, began months ago but were stepped up this week.

"It's an accelerated process," an official said. "The intensity has picked up. Agents were knocking on doors and saying, `Hey, is there anything you know that could be helpful as we are waging war against your former country?' "

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said the stepped-up Iraqi interviews and the F.B.I.'s expanded powers to detain illegal immigrants were another effort to single out unfairly Arabs and Arab-Americans in the United States.

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