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Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda 'Under Pressure,' Yet 'Still Dangerous'

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2003 – U.S. and coalition efforts against al Qaeda since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America have put that terror network under "enormous pressure," DoD's top civilian said here Sept. 10.

A "good many" Al Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed and the terror network's "ability to function has been significantly affected," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told television host Jim Lehrer on "The News Hour" show.

Yet, there's no question that al Qaeda is still dangerous, Rumsfeld cautioned. "They can still conduct attacks," the defense secretary pointed out.

Rumsfeld noted that he hadn't seen the recent, purportedly al Qaeda-sponsored videotape depicting an apparently healthy Osama bin Laden walking down a mountain in an undisclosed location. News reports note that another tape, just audio, was concurrently broadcast Sept. 10 along with the videotape on the Aljazeera satellite TV network.

A voice on the audiotape, according to news reports, urges Muslims to continue the battle against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and suggests further terror attacks like 9-11 are imminent.

Those tapes, and others that preceded them, are likely an al Qaeda "information operations campaign," Rumsfeld said, designed "to terrorize people and frighten them."

Rumsfeld noted that "no one knows precisely" when many of the purported al Qaeda tapes were made. Consequently, he said, it's difficult to determine whether or not bin Laden -- who's reportedly hiding out in western Pakistan -- is alive or dead. However, if the al Qaeda leader is still alive, but at the controls of a greatly diminished terror organization, "what they're doing with (the) tapes is probably the smartest thing they could do," Rumsfeld noted.

Rumsfeld told Lehrer he isn't upset that bin Laden and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein haven't been rounded up yet.

"We'd like to find him," the defense secretary said of bin Laden, noting U.S. and coalition efforts "are putting a lot of pressure" on the fugitive al Qaeda chief. He said he thinks they'll both be found, and "the sooner the better."

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