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Mueller: More than 100 terror attacks foiled worldwide

Ashcroft announces new terrorism indictments

From left, Ashcroft, Ridge and Mueller at Tuesday's Senate hearing.
From left, Ashcroft, Ridge and Mueller at Tuesday's Senate hearing.

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CNN's Ash-har Quraishi provides a timeline of events leading up to the eventual arrest of suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (March 3)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller testified Tuesday that the war on terror has foiled more than 100 terrorist attacks across the globe and dealt a "significant blow" to al Qaeda with the capture over the weekend of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, described by U.S. authorities as its operations chief.

But even as Mueller lauded the terror war efforts, he warned that authorities must not grow complacent, saying al Qaeda and other terrorist networks are adept at "defending their organizations against U.S. and international law enforcement efforts."

"The al Qaeda network will remain for the foreseeable future the most immediate and serious threat facing this country," Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At that same hearing, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that two Yemeni nationals have been charged with conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and Hamas terrorist groups.

The defendants, Mohammed Al Hasan Al-Moayad, 54, of Sanaa, and Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, 29, were arrested January 10 in Frankfurt, Germany, "based on complaints issued in Brooklyn, New York," a Justice Department press release said.

Al-Moayad -- a leading member of Yemen's Islamic-oriented Reform Party and a Muslim cleric -- is suspected of supplying "money, recruits, weapons and communication equipment to al Qaeda, Hamas, and other Islamic extremist groups," the release said. Zayed is believed to be his assistant.

Al-Moayad had boasted that he delivered more than $20 million to bin Laden before the September 11, 2001, attacks, with much of the money coming from contributors in the United States, according to the Justice Department.

The U.S. government has asked for the extradition of the defendants from Germany as soon as possible, according to the release.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has conducted terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks on the Israeli military.

Citing progress

Ashcroft, Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge appeared for the first time together at a congressional hearing, outlining progress in the war on terror.

Asked how many terrorist attacks have been broken up, Mueller said the FBI, the CIA and worldwide agencies added that figure up in recent months and "it was well in excess of 100."

With the capture of Mohammed Saturday in Pakistan, authorities have caught or killed four of the top seven al Qaeda leaders -- with Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, still at large. The other top leader who remains on the run is Saif Al-Adel, al Qaeda's security chief.

Ashcroft said Mohammed was the single most wanted terrorist behind only bin Laden. The arrest, he said, is "a severe blow to al Qaeda that could destabilize their terrorist network worldwide."

"Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- the brain -- is the al Qaeda mastermind of the September 11th attacks and Osama bin Laden's senior terrorist attack planner," Ashcroft said.

Funding questioned

Ridge told the panel the integration of "nearly two dozen agencies or entities" into his department was completed March 1, as scheduled.

Though many of the senators complimented the progress in fighting terrorism, some charged there has been inadequate homeland security funding, particularly for "first responders" -- local emergency personnel.

"When terrorists strike, first responders are the first people we turn to," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.

"We can find billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars to give to countries ... if they will just say they will support us in a war against Iraq," he said. "That may well be important, but we have a war here at home."

Ridge said that President Bush's budget "requesting some $36.2 billion clearly communicates this administration's commitment to investing in our Homeland Security."

The proposed 2004 budget has a 7.4 percent increase over last year's funding and contains "$18 billion to secure our borders, $6 billion for emergencies and first responders, $829 million for assessing and preventing threats, and $803 million for science and technology," Ridge said.

Many Democrats say they want an additional $5 billion for first responders.

Computer contents studied

As the three testified, government sources told CNN that hundreds of names were found in a computer seized when Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan. U.S. officials also said another senior al Qaeda figure -- Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi, believed to be the operational financier of the September 11 attacks -- was arrested in the same raid.

Counterintelligence officials said they were trying to figure out how many of the names found on the computer are al Qaeda operatives. Also, information recovered in the computer suggests possible terror plots. But one official cautioned: "These are not blueprints."

These officials said they are trying to figure out how significant this information is, adding that there are some references to the United States contained in it.

Sources said Mohammed is not cooperating with his interrogators and characterized what he has told them as not useful. According to these sources, Mohammed was being held for a while at an army base in Afghanistan soon after his capture, but has since been taken to a different, undisclosed location.

CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena and National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.


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