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Top U.S. Law Enforcers Agree Mohammed's Capture Damages Terrorist Network

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2003 – The capture of alleged terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan is a huge loss to al Qaeda, the top U.S. law enforcement official said today.

"The United States of America is winning the war on terrorism with unrelenting focus and unprecedented cooperation," Attorney General John Ashcroft told Senate Judiciary Committee members here, pointing to Mohammed's weekend apprehension in Rawalpindi during a joint Pakistani- CIA operation.

The capture of the Kuwaiti-born terrorist represents "a severe blow to al Qaeda that could destabilize their terrorist network worldwide," Ashcroft declared.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller accompanied the attorney general to the Capitol Hill hearing on the progress of the war on terror.

Mohammed's capture is a particular coup, because he's Osama bin Laden's senior operations man and reportedly the brains behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Ashcroft pointed out.

"Next to bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the FBI's most wanted terrorist," the attorney general emphasized.

Mueller agreed with Ashcroft the damage done to the al Qaeda leadership by Mohammed's capture. Bin Laden may be the best-known al Qaeda member, but Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the terrorist group's operational mastermind, the FBI director pointed out.

In addition to the Sept. 11 attacks, law enforcement officials believe Mohammed planned the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, Mueller remarked.

Mohammed's capture represents "an intelligence opportunity to prevent new terrorist attacks from killing more innocent Americans," he said.

Ashcroft noted the CIA and FBI are "moving rapidly" to exploit any information Mohammed might divulge to interrogators.

"The CIA and FBI are cooperating thoroughly to share information from the capture, analyze that intelligence and coordinate follow-up operations," he explained.

Through such teamwork the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies "can better prevent terrorism and save American lives," the attorney general concluded.

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