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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Sr. U.S. Official: al Qaeda Could be Behind Ricin Stash

Aired January 16, 2003 - 17:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We have some more breaking news we want to pass along to you, this one involving those ricin arrests in Britain and possible links to al Qaeda.
Our National Security Correspondent David Ensor is joining me now live with these details -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. intelligence has evidence of connections between the group arrested in London with ricin and associates of a senior al Qaeda leader named Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi (ph), a senior official has told CNN. Based on that, U.S. officials now say they believe the ricin gang in London can be tied to al Qaeda.

Zarqawi has also been connected, officials say, by intelligence in U.S. hands to those involved in the October assassination of an American diplomat, Lawrence Foley, in Amman.

However, the officials says despite some reports to the contrary, there's no evidence to date of any connection between the ricin gang in London and the Onsar al Islam (ph) group, which holds a tiny piece of northern Iraq and is fighting with the Kurds who control the rest of the north.

The only very indirect connection, officials say, is the evidence that Zarqawi may have traveled to Onsar's enclave in the past. U.S. officials note that evidence was found in al Qaeda safe houses in Afghanistan many months ago showing interest in ricin, and they point out however that it makes a pretty lousy weapon of mass destruction. As one official put it not all these guys are too bright -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, David Ensor breaking news on our program as he often does. David, thanks very much.

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