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LONDON (AP) - Far from being crippled by the U.S.-led war on terror, al-Qaida has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a report said Tuesday.
Al-Qaida is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, and it may be seeking weapons of mass destruction in its desire to inflict as many casualties as possible, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey of world affairs.
Osama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies, the study by the independent think tank said.
Although about half of al-Qaida's top 30 leaders have been killed or captured, it has an effective leadership, with bin Laden apparently still playing a key role, it said.
"Al-Qaida must be expected to keep trying to develop more promising plans for terrorist operations in North America and Europe, potentially involving weapons of mass destruction," IISS director Dr. John Chipman told a press conference releasing "Strategic Survey 2003/4."
At the same time it will likely continue attacking "soft targets encompassing Americans, Europeans and Israelis, and aiding the insurgency in Iraq," he added.
The report suggested that the two military centerpieces of the U.S.-led war on terror - the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - may have boosted al-Qaida.
Driving the terror network out of Afghanistan in late 2001 appears to have benefited the group, which dispersed to many countries, making it almost invisible and hard to combat, the story said.
And the Iraq conflict "has arguably focused the energies and resources of al-Qaida and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition that appeared so formidable" after the Afghan intervention, the survey said.
The U.S. occupation of Iraq brought al-Qaida recruits from across Islamic nations, the study said. Up to 1,000 foreign Islamic fighters have infiltrated Iraqi territory, where they are cooperating with Iraqi insurgents, the survey said.
Efforts to defeat al-Qaida will take time and might accelerate only if there are political developments that now seem elusive, such as the democratization of Iraq and the resolution of conflict in Israel, it said.
It could take up to 500,000 U.S. and allied troops to effectively police Iraq and restore political stability, IISS researcher Christopher Langton told the news conference.
Such a figure appeared impossible to meet, given political disquiet in the United States and Britain and the unwillingness of other nations to send troops, he said.
The United States is al-Qaida's prime target in a war it sees as a death struggle between civilizations, the report said. An al-Qaida leader has said 4 million Americans will have to be killed "as a prerequisite to any Islamic victory," the survey said.
"Al-Qaida's complaints have been transformed into religious absolutes and cannot be satisfied through political compromise," the study said.
The London-based institute is considered the most important security think tank outside the United States. Its findings on al-Qaida's expanding structure and growing support by allied terrorist networks around the world track with similar assessments from governments and other experts.
The IISS said its estimate of 18,000 al-Qaida fighters was based on intelligence estimates that the group trained at least 20,000 fighters in its camps in Afghanistan before the United States and its allies ousted the Taliban regime. In the ensuing war on terror, some 2,000 al-Qaida fighters have been killed or captured, the survey said.
Al-Qaida appears to have successfully reconstituted its operations by dispersing its forces into small groups and through working with local allies, such as the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front in Turkey, the report said.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence deemed highly credible indicating al-Qaida or other terrorists are in the United States and preparing to launch a major attack this summer, The Associated Press has learned.
The intelligence does not include a time, place or method of attack but is among the most disturbing received by the government since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a senior federal counterterrorism official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
Of most concern, the official said, is that terrorists may possess and use a chemical, biological or radiological weapon that could cause much more damage and casualties than a conventional bomb.
"There is clearly a steady drumbeat of information that they are going to attack and hit us hard," said the official, who described the intelligence as highly credible.
The official declined to provide any specifics about the sources of the information but said there was an unusually high level of corroboration.
Despite that, the official said there was no immediate plan to raise the nation's terrorism threat level from yellow, or elevated, to orange, or high. The threat level has been at yellow - midpoint on the five-color scale - since January.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller plan a news conference Wednesday to outline an intensive effort by law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security officials to detect and disrupt any potential plots. And the FBI plans to dispatch a bulletin to some 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies warning of the threat.
The FBI also has already created a special task force that is focused solely on dealing with this summer's threat. The task force, whose existence until recently was classified, is intended to ensure that no valuable bits of information or intelligence fall through the cracks - as happened repeatedly before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Other actions to be taken include new FBI interviews with people who may have provided valuable information in the past and a fresh examination of older investigative leads to determine if they might point to elements of the summer plot.
Beginning with Saturday's dedication of the new World War II Memorial in Washington, the summer presents a number of high-profile targets in the United States. They include the G-8 summit in Georgia next month that will attract top officials from some of America's closest allies, the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July and the Republican National Convention in August in New York.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department also are concerned about so-called soft targets such as shopping malls anywhere in the United States that offer a far less protected environment than a political convention hall.
U.S. authorities repeatedly have said al-Qaida is determined to mount an attack on U.S. soil, in part to announce to the world that it remains capable of doing so despite the money and effort that has gone into homeland security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
There also is concern terrorists might try to mount an attack to coincide with the November election. The political fallout from the March 11 train bombings in Spain taught al-Qaida that an attack timed to an election can have a major impact. Spain's former ruling party was ousted in the voting that followed the bombing, which killed 191 and injured more than 2,000.
The official did not say how many suspected al-Qaida or other terrorist operatives are believed in the country, whether they made their way into the United States recently or have been here for some time. The FBI has warned in the past that Islamic extremist groups may attempt to recruit non-Middle Easterners or women for attacks because they would be less likely to arouse suspicion.
Special security attention already is being focused to the nation's rail, subway and bus lines. The FBI last week sent out an intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies urging vigilance against suicide bombers, who have been used by terror groups worldwide to devastating effect but not so far in the United States.
Separately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Michael Garcia told reporters Tuesday that some 2,300 of its agents are being deployed to assist in security for the high-profile events scheduled this summer in the United States. These include as many as 20 agents each day working with the Secret Service to protect the campaigns of President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate.
Garcia said his agency also is working to "tighten the investigative system" to ensure that terrorists do not enter the United States by way of human smuggling operations or through the vast, largely unprotected border with Canada. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040526/D82PUKJ80.html
-------------------- So long as you are praised think only that you are not yet on your own path but on that of another.
its amazing that such a small population of people can stirr up so much trouble. You figure there are about 6.4 billion people in the world, and say 100,000 of them are active terrorists. Thats only 0.0000156% of the population causing such a panic. But their numbers are growing every day. And I'm sure that the occupation of arabic areas doesn't help our cause, as they prob hate us even more passionately now.