Secret FBI report doubts al-Qaeda

A secret FBI report says it is highly unlikely that al-Qaeda can stage another “spectacular” attack in this country, three-and-a-half years after 9/11 and a year after the bombings in Madrid, the terrorist group’s only other attack in the West.

The report said al-Qaeda’s desire to attack the U.S. is not in question but “their capability to do so is unclear,” particularly where “spectacular operations” are concerned. ABC News got a copy of the report last week. It flatly contradicts statements by FBI chief Robert Mueller and government prosecutors that “sleeper” agents of al-Qaeda are in the U.S. The report said the bureau knows of no such agents in this country.

The report, which was leaked, said Britain is not the only nation having difficulty in assessing the potential threat from international terrorism. President Bush recently said Osama bin Laden had been in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his chief associate in Iraq, to get his help in planning attacks on the U.S.

Some analysts saw this as a sign of weakness on the part of bin Laden, but Bush said: “Bin Laden’s message is a telling reminder that al-Qaeda still hopes to attack us on our own soil. Stopping him is thegreatest challenge of our day.”

The al-Qaeda leader has drifted through the hands of the Americans like smoke. He has eluded capture so well that Bush rarely mentions the man he declared after 9/11 was wanted “dead or alive.” General Pervez Musharraf, leader of Pakistan, said bin Laden’s trail has “gone cold.” That despite a belief widely held by Western leaders that the Saudi terrorist is hiding in the wild tribal territories along Pakistan’s 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan.

Some 18,000 U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, trying to hunt down any remnants of al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies. American commanders there have complained that intelligence capabilities and special forces, which they need, have been diverted to Iraq.

It’s believed that no British forces have been involved in the hunt for al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan since before the invasion of Iraq. Last summer, however, a special action squad of the British military was stationed in Yemen. They have been working with local security forces to try to locate al-Qaeda operatives. The Saudi-led group draws support and many recruits from Yemen.

Rohan Gunaratna, a top expert on al-Qaeda, said: “It is highly unlikely that bin Laden himself is in Yemen, but any contacts he makes with his extended family or networks there could lead to him.”

Gunaratna added: “Al-Qaeda has suffered many setbacks, but its ideas for attacks on the West with maximum casualties could be carried out by Zarqawi. He is becoming very active outside Iraq, building networks in Europe and the Middle East” (

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