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'Bin Laden alive,' says Interpol

Interpol chief Noble:
Interpol chief Noble: "Something worrying is going on"

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• Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
• Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
• Special report: Terror on tape
• Special report: War against terror

PARIS, France -- The head of Interpol -- the world's international police force -- has warned that al Qaeda operatives are preparing simultaneous attacks in several countries.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble also said he thought al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was alive.

In an interview with the Paris daily newspaper Le Figaro, on Friday, U.S.-born Noble said: "Something worrying is going on.

"All intelligence experts are agreed that al Qaeda is preparing a major terrorist operation, simultaneous attacks that would not target the United States alone but several countries at the same time.

"The field of battle now stretches to all countries and mobilises several terrorist groups."

The message came as the British government issued a warning that terrorists were planning "ever more dramatic and devastating" attacks. (Story)

The UK Home Office said: "If al Qaeda could mount an attack upon key economic targets, or upon our transport infrastructure, they would.

"If they could inflict damage upon the health of our population, they would."

On Thursday Islamic militant group al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on a Bali nightclub in which more than 180 people died. (Full story)

The group said it had targeted "nightclubs and whorehouses in Indonesia" in a Web site message which also boasted of its aim to hit inside Arab and Islamic countries which are part of a "Jewish-Crusader" alliance.

Noble said that despite some successes in cracking down on militant groups, particularly in Europe, the risk of attacks was as real as ever.

He added: "I would say that the risk today is at least as important as before September 11 (2001).

"Sleeping cells remain in place, unknown to the police, but ready to act from one day to another."

Noble also said Saudi-born militant bin Laden escaped U.S. bombing last year of his former hideout in Afghanistan.

"Osama bin Laden is alive," he said. "Despite intensive searches, we have not managed to locate him. But until someone can prove to me the contrary, I consider Osama bin Laden a fugitive who is alive.

"Osama bin Laden is a multimillionaire. He was hugely rich before September 11 and he still is today."

Noble also said that the recent attacks in Bali, Yemen and Moscow were messages from terror groups that, "'Your war against terrorism is far from over."'

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