|The Guardian August 5 2004|
Suspect links Nigerian e-mail address to Al-Qaeda
From Laolu Akande New York (with agency reports)
NIGERIA has once again been named as one of the transit points of some key members of the Al-Qaeda, the Islamic group accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the United States.
A suspected Osama bin Laden aide, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, was arrested in Pakistan recently. Two major U.S. Cable News Networks (CNN) have reported Khan as disclosing that the Al-Qaeda uses web sites and e-mail addresses in Nigeria, Turkey and Pakistan for communication purposes among the terrorists network.
There had recently been reports that traced the movements of some Al-Qaeda suspects to travels and brief stays in the northern part of Nigeria.
In the last three days, two media organisations, the CNN and Fox, have quoted U.S. officials linking Nigeria with the suspected terrorists.
Officials of the Pakistani government have, however, insisted that the suspect's identification might not be real because the man had used multiple aliases in the past.
The CNN said: "U.S. sources said Khan told interrogators that al-Qaeda uses web sites and e-mail addresses in Turkey, Nigeria and tribal areas of Pakistan to pass messages among themselves."
Quoting sources, the CNN said: "Couriers were often used to deliver computer discs, and Khan would then post the messages on Web sites, but only briefly."
It added: "After messages were sent and read, the files were deleted." Such e-mail addresses, according to the report, "were used only two or three times; if the information was really sensitive, an address might be used only once."
That indicates that the Nigerian e-mail address may have been used only once apparently to avoid easy trace.
The U.S. has beefed up security in at least three major cities against possible terrorist attacks, based on the information received from the arrested suspect.
In New York, Washington, DC and Newark in New Jersey, the terror alert was raised to "elevated", causing security checks and several other measures. These include the deployment of gun-toting uniformed men around the cities, especially around specific financial institutions like the CITIGROUP Bank in New York, the New York Stock Exchange, the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC and Prudential Building in Newark, a major financial institution in the U.S.
The CNN also quoted sources as saying that "Khan assisted in the evaluation of potential targets and served as a clearing house" of information."
The suspect was, however, said to have "told investigators that he does not know where bin Laden is hiding." The CNN sources said Khan's father facilitated a lot of his international travels, but they did not think the father knew what his son was up to.
But critics of the increased security alert said the move might have a political undertone, coming a few days after the Democratic Convention last Thursday in Boston, at which a challenger to incumbent President George W. Bush, Senator John Kerry, was nominated.
The CNN said: "Much of the surveillance of possible terror targets in New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, took place before September 11, 2001, but there was an indication of reconnaissance updates as recently as January, Bush administration officials said Tuesday."
One of President Bush's advisers said: "We know from the way al-Qaeda does business, including on the 9/11 attacks, that they do their homework well in advance, then they update it just before they launch an attack."
Pakistan's information minister, Rashid Ahmad, was also reported as saying that in addition to Khan, his country's security forces had captured "valuable people" who provided "valuable information."
"It is a great achievement of our security forces," Ahmad said, adding: "It is a great breakthrough in the al-Qaeda network."
Ahmad would not reveal any other information, saying that it was "best not to say too much."
As Pakistani officials have in the past, he said more information might be forthcoming.
"We may be in the position to get some good fish in the coming days," he said.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian arrested in Pakistan last week in connection with al-Qaedas bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, also provided "very important" information, Ahmad said on Monday.
The CNN also quoted a senior Pakistani intelligence official who said seven more suspected al-Qaeda members had been taken into custody since Ghailani's arrest -- including one who was trying to leave the country on Monday morning.`