Officials: Alleged al Qaeda paymaster in custody
U.S. hunts al Qaeda operatives in U.S.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials confirmed on Tuesday that another significant al Qaeda figure was captured in the weekend raid in Pakistan that nabbed suspected September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi, a man who officials say sent cash to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta through bank accounts in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, was captured along with a Pakistani man said to be of little importance during the raid that netted Mohammed , al Qaeda's operations chief.
An official told CNN that Al-Hawsawi is "not a huge fish, but he is not insignificant and he may know things." The identity of the new U.S. prisoner was first reported by The New York Times.
Al-Hawsawi, also known as Mustafa Ahmed, has been named as a co-conspirator in the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui, who is accused of engaging in the "same preparation for murder" as the 19 hijackers who commandeered four U.S. jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
Al-Hawsawi's phone number was also found on a Federal Express package sent by Atta in early September 2001 from Florida to the U.A.E. The number was also used as a point of contact for a wire transfer to Ramzi Binalshibh, who was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002, and has admitted a role in planning the attacks.
Meanwhile, FBI agents are trying to track down possible al Qaeda operatives in the U.S., including some believed to be in Washington and other U.S. cities, after names were found among a "treasure trove" of material recovered during Mohammed's capture, sources said.
Government sources would not say in how many cities the suspected operatives might be living. The FBI effort includes keeping people with possible links to al Qaeda under surveillance, the sources said.
FBI and CIA agents are also poring over information found during the raid, including computers, computer disks, documents and cell phones, a U.S. government official said.
Some counterterrorism officials expressed frustration that the Pakistani government had so quickly disclosed information about Mohammed's arrest. One source said it put U.S. authorities "behind the eight ball" in trying to locate potential terrorist cells and that it would have been helpful if U.S. agents had been given a 24-hour head start.
New look at old al Qaeda plots
U.S. officials said another al Qaeda detainee told them in recent weeks that about the time of the September 11 attacks, Mohammed and other al Qaeda leaders looked at the idea of targeting bridges, gas stations and power plants, including some in New York City.
"Newsweek" reported this week on an intelligence report that suggested Mohammed ordered such attacks, but a U.S. official said there was no evidence that "he has recently told people to do that."
U.S. officials said they have evidence that Mohammed had been in touch with Osama bin Laden since September 11, 2001, but they declined to say whether they believe he has had recent contact with the al Qaeda leader.
Mohammed also has been linked to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; Richard Reid's foiled attempt to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb in 2001; last April's bombings at the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia; and the Bali bombings in October. (Life of terror)