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Zubaydah: al Qaeda had 'dirty bomb' know-how


From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The most senior al Qaeda leader in U.S. custody has told interrogators the terrorist organization was interested in producing a radiological weapon, or "dirty bomb," and knew how to do it, a U.S. official told CNN Monday.

The admission is said to have come from Abu Zubaydah, who was captured and wounded in Pakistan April 1.

But the official cautioned the United States remains highly skeptical of the credibility of Zubaydah, whom government officials said also was a source for an FBI warning issued Friday that al Qaeda members discussed plans for attacking banks and other financial institutions, particularly in the northeastern United States.

And U.S. officials have repeatedly said publicly al Qaeda was believed to be seeking weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and radiological weapons, but so far no evidence has been found they have succeeded.

In March 19 testimony before Congress, CIA Director George Tenet said, "Terrorist groups worldwide have ready access to information on chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons through open sources.

"Documents recovered from al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan show bin Laden was pursuing a sophisticated biological weapons research program," Tenet said.

"We also believe that bin Laden was seeking to acquire or develop a nuclear device. Al Qaeda may be pursuing a radioactive dispersal device, what some call a 'dirty bomb.'"

U.S. officials said they were getting information from Zubaydah and checking it out.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday he did not know whether Zubaydah -- al Qaeda's head of operations and recruiting -- told the truth about the bank threats.

"I have no idea if it was true or a lie or if he gave it. I'm not going to be reporting on what Abu Zubaydah does or doesn't do from day to day," he said.

Friday's FBI warning was prompted "out of an abundance of caution," the bureau said.

Rumsfeld did confirm that Zubaydah, who received three gunshot wounds when he was captured, has not been moved from the undisclosed location where he is being held.




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