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U.S. identifies seven wanted in connection with al Qaeda

From the "Wolf Blitzer Reports" staff in Atlanta

Attorney General John Ashcroft: Intelligence indicates al Qaeda intends "to hit the United States hard."
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller presented photographs of seven people they say are associated with al Qaeda.

One is a Pakistani who's lived in Maryland and Massachusetts.

"Aafia Siddiqui is an al al Qaeda operative and facilitator. She attended colleges in the Boston area," said Muller at a Wednesday news conference.

A lawyer for the woman's family accuses the FBI of putting on a show to make it look like progress is being made in the war on terrorism.

"If the best they can do to make this country safe is to go after a 32-year-old mother of three, then we're all in a lot of trouble," says attorney Annette Lamereaux.

Another suspect is Adnan el Shukrijumah. He's said to be fluent in English, and some experts have compared him to Mohammed Atta, considered a top planner of the September 11 attacks.

"He's a trained operative. He poses an operational threat to the United States," said Mueller.

El Shukrijumah used to live in South Florida. His mother still does. "My son is innocent," Zurah Ahmed says. "I am sure, and I am as a mother. I have a strong feeling my son is innocent."

Another suspect, Abderraouf Jdey obtained Canadian citizenship in 1995. Authorities say he left a suicide message on a videotape recovered in Afghanistan.

Two of the suspects, Ahmed Ghailani of Tanzania, and Fazul Mohammad, are under indictment in the United States for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. They are thought to be hiding in Kenya or Somalia.

A sixth suspect, Amer el-Maati, is identified as a Kuwaiti.

For many, the real surprise on Ashcroft's list was Adam Gadahn, a 25-year-old U.S. citizen who grew up in southern California.

A statement attributed to Gadahn appears on several Islamic Web sites.

It says: "I gradually realized I could not be a Christian ... Having been around Muslims in my formative years, I knew well that they were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint them to be ... It was really a natural progression."

"He's known to perform translations for al Qaeda as part of the services he has provided to al Qaeda," said Director Mueller.

Family members hope it's not true.

"I hope he's not involved in anything weird like that," says Gadahn's 17-year-old brother Omar.

And his aunt Nancy Pearlman says, "As far as I know he was never militant. Our family are strong believers in non-violence. We are strong believers in peace."

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