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Sources: FBI watching al Qaeda-trained men

From Kelli Arena
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two dozen men living in the United States, who are believed to have trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, have been under surveillance by the FBI for months, government officials told CNN.

The men allegedly have talked about suicide bombings, the sources tell CNN. They are in New York, New Jersey and some cities in the western United States, the sources said.

Sources also tell CNN that militant Muslims are under surveillance in as many as 30 U.S. cities and that 20 to 40 are believed to have "strong" al Qaeda ties.

CNN has previously reported that between 600-1,000 people who have possible ties to terrorism, or who could be terrorist sympathizers, are under surveillance by the FBI, and several mosques in the country are also under surveillance.

Sources have also told CNN counterterrorism officials are concerned about possible suicide bombings occurring within the United States.

"FBI investigations have revealed Islamic militants in the United States, and we strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al Qaeda," FBI Director Robert Mueller testified Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"Their support structure, however, is sufficiently well developed that one or more groups could be mobilized by al Qaeda to carry out operations in the United States homeland," he said. (Transcript)

Just a week ago, U.S. officials raised the color-coded terrorist threat level to orange (high) from yellow (elevated), saying intelligence reports of planned attacks are "the most specific we have seen" and are consistent with previous al Qaeda plots.

"This is not idle chatter on the part of the terrorists," CIA Director George Tenet also testified Tuesday, adding the number of messages being sent to and by terrorists is the highest since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Tenet also said the chatter "points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersion device as well as poisons and chemicals," he said. (Transcript)

Earlier this week, an audiotape of a man purported to be al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden issued a call to arms to Muslims, telling them to fight against any U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The speaker also told followers to carry out terror attacks.

"We also encourage the suicide attacks against the enemy. Just look at what happened to the U.S. and Israel," the alleged voice of bin Laden said. (Full story)

Last month, one of six upstate New York men accused of forming an al Qaeda cell inside the United States revealed details about a bin Laden speech seeking suicide attackers in the United States.

Faysal Galab, 26, is one of six men of Yemeni heritage accused of attending an al Qaeda training camp inside Afghanistan in summer 2001, just months before the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Galab pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, according to prosecutors. Court papers show that he said bin Laden asked "whether anyone in America is willing to die for the cause."

In his plea, Galab admitted attending the al Farooq camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan and being trained to fire a Kalashnikov rifle and to make explosives.

All of the defendants, who lived in Lackawanna, New York, near Buffalo, were indicted in October on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Galab pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of contributing "funds, goods and services to and for the benefit of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda" in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In a 1998 executive order, former President Clinton added bin Laden and al Qaeda to the list of "specially designated terrorists" and prohibited transactions with them.

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