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U.S. senators warned of al Qaeda snipers on golf courses

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. senators were warned earlier this week that those who play golf may be targets of al Qaeda snipers on golf courses and were given tips on how to protect themselves, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

Police were notified about the potential threat to senators, said Marcia Krug, a Capitol Police spokeswoman. She would not say which agency notified the Capitol Police or when exactly they were told.

But she said her department, in turn, notified the sergeant-at-arms, who then notified the senators that al Qaeda snipers might be looming near golf courses, ready to pick them off.

The sergeant-at-arms, who is in charge of lawmakers' security, did suggest precautions the senators should take, Krug said. She would not elaborate.

The threat information was passed as a sniper, who has killed nine people and wounded two others in the Washington area, remains at large. Authorities investigating that case have said there is no evidence suggesting that a sniper working for a terrorist group is behind the shootings.

Meanwhile, FBI agents have been questioning an al Qaeda suspect being held in Belgium who bragged to his interrogators that he had witnessed al Qaeda training for snipers, European intelligence sources said Friday.

The FBI, one of many agencies involved in the Washington-area sniper shooting investigation, refused to confirm or deny it had sent agents to Brussels.

Nizar Trabelsi has been in custody since two days after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, accused of plotting a suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Trabelsi, who confessed to the plot in December, is interrogated regularly.

FBI investigators have interviewed Trabelsi within the last two or three days, the European intelligence sources told CNN. The sources said Trabelsi told investigators of a plan in which snipers would attack American senators on a golf course, and described how fighters were trained to shoot targets from up to 250 meters (820 feet) and shoot from the back of pickup trucks.

Belgian investigators reacted skeptically to any suggestion of a link with the D.C.-area shootings that began October 2, noting the suspect has had access to newspaper and TV accounts of the spree. In addition, they said, disinformation is a key al Qaeda tactic.

As a member of the north African Salafist terrorist group, affiliated with al Qaeda, Trabelsi embraces the doctrine of continuing the jihad struggle by deception of the enemy. Belgian investigators say his interrogations have been consistent with this doctrine.

Investigators have recently been questioning Guantanamo Bay detainees about snipers, but Trabelsi was not subject to this. Belgian sources tell CNN he volunteered the topic of his own accord.

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