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Al Qaeda: 'Gift' of terror on its way

Last week's attack in Kenya, claimed by al Qaeda, destroyed the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel and killed 13.
Last week's attack in Kenya, claimed by al Qaeda, destroyed the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel and killed 13.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The end of Ramadan has stirred renewed concerns over the threat of a terrorist attack against U.S. citizens and the nation's allies.

Earlier this week, an al Qaeda statement posted to the Internet threatened a strike to coincide with the end of the Muslim holy season -- which is December 5 and 6. The statement said, "You have not learned your lesson."

"You did not understand the reasons for the raids of Washington and New York," said the al Qaeda statement, according to a translation of the message, which was posted on several Web sites that have carried al Qaeda messages in the past.

"Oh American people, you are the victim of your leaders, but you are also a partner in the war on us. The gift for the holiday is on its way," the statement continued. The translation was provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based service that translates and distributes articles from Arabic newspapers.

U.S. intelligence officials said they were "mindful" of such threats and "not dismissive" of them. But, as one source said, "A heightened state of alert has been there for some time," including threats of attacks immediately before Ramadan, during it and immediately following the holiday.

Al Qaeda's mode of operation has changed since the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan put its leaders on the run. The group now is apparently choosing "softer" targets that are easy to hit.

One example was last Thursday's twin attacks in Kenya -- a suicide bombing that killed 13 people at an Israeli-owned hotel and an unsuccessful missile firing at an Israeli airliner. Another was the October 12 bombing of a tourist hotel in usually serene Bali, Indonesia, that killed nearly 200 people.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for all three attacks. The organization claimed responsibility for the Kenya attacks in the same statement threatening new strikes at the end of Ramadan.

In another development Wednesday, the Arab news network Al-Jazeera said it received a fax purportedly from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, one of the most wanted men in the world.

Titled an "end of Ramadan statement," the letter said America and its allies were spreading destruction and would face more "hostility, chaos and destruction."

The letter has not been authenticated. One U.S. official could not vouch for its authenticity but said it is credible in the sense that is similar to what Omar has said in the past.

The United States believes Omar is alive but it is not known where he is hiding, the official said. Al-Jazeera would not tell CNN from what country it received the fax.

With the threats swirling, British officials closed their embassy in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Wednesday after officials received a "specific threat." They would not identify the nature of the threat.

In Washington, President Bush said he believes al Qaeda was behind the Kenya attacks and that bin Laden's group "hates freedom."

"I believe al Qaeda will strike anywhere they can in order to disrupt a civil society and that's why we're on the hunt," he said.

The United States and its allies, Bush said, are "slowly but surely" dismantling al Qaeda and he promised to "bring them to justice."

In the al Qaeda statement, the group warned Americans to leave Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Africa and Asia: "Otherwise, you will reap death because of your stupidity in ignoring our warnings to you."

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