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Progress made in freezing assets, Bush says



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Declaring that the United States is "slowly but surely" closing in on suspected terrorists, President Bush said Monday that the country has frozen $6 million in bank accounts linked to terrorist activity.

"We've frozen 30 al Qaeda accounts in the United States and 20 overseas, and we're just beginning," Bush said, referencing the network led by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, branded the "prime suspect" in the September 11 attacks.

The president, thanking workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their help after the attacks, also cited progress on the military front, suggesting again that some retaliation is at hand. Afghanistan, host to bin Laden, has emerged as a likely target.

"We've deployed 29,000 military personnel in two carrier battle groups as well as an amphibious ready group and several hundred military aircraft," Bush said. "We've called about 17,000 members of the Reserve to active duty as well as several thousand National Guard operating under state authority."

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Tracking Osama bin Laden's financial ties may prove to be a rough road for U.S.investigators. CNN's Lisa Barron reports (October 1)

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Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner talks about the failure of U.S. intelligence to intercept the attack (October 1)

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In other developments:

-- As much as $100,000 was wired in the past year from Pakistan to Mohamed Atta, a suspected leader of the terrorist hijackings, law enforcement sources said. The sources said the wire transfers from Pakistan were sent to Atta through two banks in Florida. Then, Atta would obtain money orders -- a few thousand dollars at a time -- to distribute to others involved in the plot in the months before the hijackings.

-- Atta may have made inquiries about obtaining crop dusters in countries south of the U.S. border, an investigative source said.

-- A Virginia man and a woman were scheduled to appear in federal court Monday on charges that they helped some of the suspected hijackers fraudulently obtain identity papers.

-- The FBI has interviewed the families in India of two men detained in connection with the investigation, CNN has confirmed. The men -- Ayub Ali Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath -- were found with box cutters similar to those carried by the hijackers and large amounts of cash when they were detained in Texas. The two had been on a flight from Newark, New Jersey to San Antonio, Texas that got diverted to St. Louis, Missouri. They were stopped on an Amtrak train on its way to San Antonio.

President sees 'long-term' fight

Bush also said Monday that the FBI had arrested or detained more than 400 people, and he said that another 150 "terrorists and their supporters" have been arrested or detained in 25 different countries.

"We're beginning to share intelligence amongst our nations," Bush said. "We're finding out members of the al Qaeda organization, who they are, where they think they can hide, and we're slowly but surely bringing them to justice. We're slowly but surely calling their hand and reining them in. We've just begun."

Bush said the nation had a "long-term" view in its fight against terrorism.

"The evil-doers like to hit, and then they try to hide," he said. "And slowly but surely we're going to make sure they have no place to hide. Slowly but surely, we're going to move them out of their holes and what they think is safe havens and get them on the move. We're a patient nation."

Britain announced Monday that it has frozen almost $90 million of assets belonging to Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Finance Minister Gordon Brown made the announcement at the annual conference of the ruling Labour Party.

Meanwhile, Djamel Begal, an Islamic militant suspected of trying to organize terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in France, has been extradited from the United Arab Emirates to France, CNN confirmed Monday.

Information supplied by Begal led to a series of arrests in France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the days following the terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, police said.

Begal, who was being held in the United Arab Emirates since his arrest in July, allegedly confessed to planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in France and gave names and addresses of extremists living in Paris, police sources said.

-- CNN National Correspondents Eileen O'Connor and Susan Candiotti, CNN Correspondent Diana Muriel and CNN Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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