Al Qaeda asserts that plans for an attack on the U.S. are 90 percent complete, says Attorney General John Ashcroft. Knight Ridder Newspapers said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said recent threats contained warnings about a spectacular attack that would result in “mass casualties.”
Six of seven suspects named yesterday by Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller have long been sought by the FBI. An addition to the list is Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a U.S. citizen from Southern California who converted to Islam, attended an Al Qaeda training camp and is known to have performed translations for the group. In a Web posting called “Becoming Muslim,” Gadahn, 25, said he grew up on a goat ranch in rural Riverside County. He wrote that he was obsessed for a time with “demonic heavy metal music” before moving to Orange County and discovering the Islamic faith.
Ashcroft said that while al-Qaida suspects remain primarily men in their late 20s and early 30s, the “face of Al Qaeda may be changing.” He said the terror group’s operatives may be traveling in the U.S. with a family or portraying themselves as Europeans in order to avoid detection.
A new report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London said the ranks of Al Qaeda are still strong despite the U.S.-led war on terrorism. It said the group has 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the globe.
Muslim leaders worried that they were again being targeted for unwanted attention. “It’s part of the `round up the usual suspects’ mentality,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council for American Islamic Relations. “When you don’t have any other leads, you gather up the Muslims.”