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U.S. Has Strong Evidence of Bin Laden Link to Attack

Osama bin Laden   This undated recent file photo shows of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden in an undisclosed location inside Afghanistan. (File - AFP)

_____America Under Attack_____
No Warnings Preceded Attacks (The Washington Post, Sep 11, 2001)
Washington, N.Y. Hit by Terrorist Attacks (, Sep 11, 2001)
World Reacts With Revulsion to Aircraft Attacks on U.S. (The Washington Post, Sep 11, 2001)
Bush Addresses Nation After Day of Terrorist Attacks (, Sep 11, 2001)
D.C. Plunged into Panic, Gridlock (The Washington Post, Sep 11, 2001)
Complete Coverage: Including multimedia, Post opinions, live online discussions, transcripts and more

___ Pentagon Personnel ___

The Pentagon has asked that all Navy and Marine personnel who were in the building at the time of the attack to call in to a toll-free number so that the services can put together a roster. That number is 1-877-663-6772.

Army personnel assigned to the Pentagon should call 1-800-984-8523.

Family members may contact service representatives at the following numbers:
• Army: 1-800-984-8523 or 703-428-0002
• Navy and Marine Corps: 1-877-663-6772
• Air Force: 1-800-253-9276

_____Flight Information_____
Families of passengers on the following flights may call the airlines for information at the numbers below:
American Airlines: 1-800-245-0999
Statement from American Airlines
United Airlines: 1-800-932-8555
Statement from United Airlines

The following flights are believed to have been affected in today's attacks:
American Airlines Flight 11: A Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles.
American Airlines Flight 77: A Boeing 757 en route from Dulles Airport near Washington to Los Angeles.
United Airlines Flight 93: A Boeing 757, crashed southeast of Pittsburgh while en route from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco.
United Airlines Flight 175: A Boeing 767. The flight was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.

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By Dan Eggen and Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 11, 2001; 9:53 PM

The U.S. government has strong evidence from multiple sources that the suicidal terrorists who carried out today's catastrophic attacks in New York and Washington are connected to Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, who has previously been linked to an earlier bombing of the World Trade Center, senior officials said today.

One senior official said the probability that bin Laden is behind the deadly assaults is in "the high 90s," while another U.S. official said investigators gathered evidence "strongly suggesting" that bin Laden's organization, al Qaeda, was involved.

The evidence pointing to bin Laden was gathered following the attacks in a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI, with information from both domestic and overseas sources, a senior official said.

"It is more than just the analytical surmise that it would take an organization with incredible command and control capability, which bin Laden's has, to stage an attack like this," one U.S. official said. "There is other information that has been obtained after the attack against the World Trade Center pointing in the direction of bin Laden."

Unprecedented in scope and sophistication, the coordinated assault on the world's financial and political capitals caught the United States completely off guard despite a massive intelligence and law-enforcement network devoted to detecting and thwarting such attacks. Focused largely on guarding against bombing threats to overseas targets, U.S. authorities concede they were ill-prepared for hijacked jetliners purposely crashed on American soil.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was told in a briefing that electronic intercepts today showed "representatives affiliated with Osama bin Laden over the airwaves reporting that they had hit two targets." A senior intelligence official, who said bin Laden is a prime suspect, would not confirm Hatch's report of intercepts.

A U.S. official said efforts are being made to carefully scrutinize the passenger manifests on four airliners hijacked today in Boston, Newark, N.J., and Washington's Dulles International Airport. The official said that analysts had concluded that after an initial review, "there may be information linking some of the names on the manifests to bin Laden's organization."

Several U.S. officials said there was no warning in the days before the attacks that a major operation was in the works. "In terms of specific warning that something of this nature was to occur, no," one official said.

But journalists with access to bin Laden said he and his followers openly boasted in recent months that they were preparing for attacks against the United States in retaliation for American support of Israel. Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the the al Quds al Arabi newspaper in London, said he was convinced that Islamic fundamentalists aligned with bin Laden were "almost certainly" behind the attacks.

"Personally, we received information that he planned very, very big attacks against American interests," Atwan said, referring to conversations about three weeks ago. "We received several warnings like this. We did not take it so seriously, preferring to see what would happen before reporting it."

Bin Laden, 44, an extremist Islamic militant from a wealthy Saudi Arabian family, has been defying U.S. efforts to capture or kill him for years. Since 1996, he has been living under protection of the fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan in a remote mountain redoubt. He has previously been linked to terrorists who attempted to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993. He has also been indicted for the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and was linked to last October's attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, which killed 17 American servicemen.

A videotape has been circulating in the Middle East for several months in which bin Laden recites a victory poem about the Cole bombing, and then issues a call to arms: "To all the Mujah: Your brothers in Palestine are waiting for you; it's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts the most."

The assaults reignited a long-running debate over how far the United States should go in its pursuit of terrorists, who are often protected by sympathetic governments in countries such as Afghanistan.

President Bush, addressing the nation last night, said the United States will make "no distinction" between terrorists and countries who harbor them in its hunt for those responsible in the attacks.

In Kabul, the Taliban's foreign minister swiftly condemned today's attacks and rejected suggestions that bin Laden could be behind them.

"We have tried our best in the past and we are willing in the future to assure the United States in any kind of way we can that Osama is not involved in these kinds of activities," Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told reporters.

Some U.S. officials and terrorism experts noted that other suspects were possible, most notably Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed guerrilla force based in southern Lebanon that is suspected of involvement in the 1983 bombings against the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. Bremer noted that Hezbollah hijacked a TWA airliner in 1986 with the intention of crashing it into buildings in Tel Aviv.

The leaders of several other potential suspects denied involvement with the assaults. The spiritual leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, denied any connection with the attacks saying "our battle is on the Palestinian land." Two other radical Palestinian groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said they had nothing to do with the tragedies.

Instead, U.S. officials said, most signs quickly pointed to bin Laden. In addition to being a suspect in the Cole bombing, bin Laden was indicted in New York in December 2000 in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, in which 224 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured.

Today's attacks came one day before a bin Laden associate was scheduled to be sentenced in New York for his role in the Tanzanian bombing. The federal courthouse is in lower Manhattan, near the World Trade Center.

The embassy bombings, like today's attacks in New York and Washington, were well-coordinated, occurring minutes apart. Bin Laden is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, and the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture and conviction.

Most terrorism experts said that only bin Laden and al Qaeda have the resources and organization to pull off coordinated attacks like those mounted against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"He's declared war on the United States," said L. Paul Bremer III, chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism and former ambassador at large for counterterrorism in Reagan administration. "He is suspected of being involved in a number of attacks on the U.S., going all the way back to Mogadishu [in 1993]. . . . At a certain point, somebody's public statements deserve to be taken at face value. Bin Laden means what he says he's declared war with the United States."

Ruth Wedgwood, a Yale University law professor and terrorism expert, said today's attacks are "not just an act of war, these are war crimes. No one has declared martial law, but it is a state of emergency. . . . We cannot stop until we stop this man. He knows no limits."

In June, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region were put on the highest anti-terrorist alert, "Threatcon Delta," after Western intelligence agencies received what they called "credible" information of a possible attack by bin Laden operatives.

That threat coincided with an interview top bin Laden aides gave to a London-based, satellite television station, the Middle East Broadcasting Center.

Bakri Attrani, the reporter for the story, said in an interview with The Washington Post in July that he had met with bin Laden outside Kandahar, a rugged frontier town in southern Afghanistan that is the headquarters of the spiritual leaders of the Taliban, Afghanistan's ruling Islamic militia. Attrani recounted that bin Laden's aides "said there would be attacks against American and Israeli facilities within the next several weeks."

No attack occurred in that time frame, but the threat of one forced a Marine Corps contingent in Jordan to cut short its training session and return to its ships, while the U.S. 5th Fleet steamed out of port in Bahrain.

In February 1998, bin Laden issued a fatwa, or religious order, calling for attacks on Americans. A translated text of the document, issued by a newly formed coalition called the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, identified bin Laden as a sheikh.

U.S. officials believe this order culminated in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. They are also now trying to determine whether bin Laden has a definitive relationship to those responsible for bombing the Cole.

In the recent video, bin Laden comes close to admitting a role in the Cole bombing, without ever actually mentioning it. He recites a poem that includes the line "And in Aden, they charged and destroyed a destroyer that fearsome people fear, one that evokes horror when it docks and when it sails," according to numerous news reports of the tape.

The poem recital is followed by images of the bombed ship. Rebels filmed at a training camp at one point in the video chant, "We thank Allah for granting us victory the day we destroyed the Cole in the sea."

According to the U.S. State Department's April 2001 report on global terrorism, bin Laden uses a $300 million family inheritance to finance his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, which has "several hundred to several thousand members" and "a worldwide reach." Some analysts claim his group has access to about $3 billion in funding, although others have said such estimates are overstated.

According to the report, bin Laden founded the group in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who had fought against the Soviet Afghanistan and now works to "overthrow regimes it deems non-Islamic" and expel Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries." In February 1998, the group issued a statement "saying it was the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens civilian or military and their allies everywhere," the State Department report said.

Correspondents John Ward Anderson in Istanbul and T.R. Reid in London and staff writers Nora Boustany, Walter Pincus, George Lardner, Jr. and Bob Woodward in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

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