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Despite some speed bumps, global help in U.S. war on terrorism has been
By Dafna Linzer and Paul Haven, Associated Press
Suspected terrorist plots thwarted in more than a dozen countries. An al-Qaida heavyweight arrested in a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation. A Moroccan man charged in Germany with helping unleash the worst terrorist attack in history.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, countries around the world have lined up in solidarity with the United States in its battle to dismantle al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, achieving an unprecedented level of cooperation and intelligence sharing that has helped keep al-Qaida on the run around the globe.
But that support has also had limits, as some of Washington's closest allies have questioned treatment of their nationals being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and balked at some U.S. requests to act against individuals without sufficient evidence. Others, like Saudi Arabia, have refused to let the United States question suspects in their custody.
Still, authorities in more than 90 countries have joined the fight against Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, scouring for clues in the Sept. 11 investigation. Thousands of people have been questioned, security has been tightened at American installations, and intelligence agencies have pledged to better share information.
"The coalition that is working on the global war on terrorism that the president and the secretary (of state) have put together is broad, it's deep, it's impressive, and it is in fact what is helping the forward progress that we're achieving, the traction that we're getting with respect to dealing with the terrible, terribly difficult problem of global terrorist networks," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said when asked about the level of cooperation Washington has received.
Bin Laden and his one-time Taliban host, Mullah Mohammed Omar, remain at large, and analysts are quick to point out that the fight against al-Qaida will be long and difficult.
According to a U.N. draft report released in late August, al-Qaida has established cells in at least 40 countries, has developed operational links with other militant Islamic groups, gained new recruits, and found new ways to channel millions of dollars and a variety of weapons to its supporters.
"Al-Qaida, despite the successful inroads made against it over recent months is, by all accounts `alive and well' and poised to strike again how, when and where it chooses," said the report, prepared by an expert group authorized by the U.N. Security Council.
Still, there have been many successes in a year of unprecedented focus on fighting international terrorism:
--U.S. authorities and officials overseas say they have thwarted plans to strike at American targets or U.S. citizens in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Bosnia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, India and Australia.
--Pakistani and U.S. agents arrested a top bin Laden lieutenant, Abu Zubaydah, during a raid in Faisalabad in March.
--Several hundred American troops shipped off to the Philippines to help local authorities fight the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group, which had taken several Americans hostage.
--On Aug. 28, Germany indicted a Moroccan man on charges he controlled a bank account used to finance the Sept. 11 hijackers' activities and helped with logistics for the attack. Among the charges against Mounir El Motassadeq are some 3,000 counts of accessory to murder for the deaths of Sept. 11 victims.
Michael Swetnam, a counterterrorism specialist at the Washington-based Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and the author of a book on al-Qaida, said the cooperation has made it much harder for bin Laden's network to operate.
"We did not have an orchestrated international campaign against terrorism prior to Sept. 11. Since then, we have seen how relatively successful a global campaign can be," he said. "It has made it quite a bit more difficult for them to operate. We've driven them underground more."
Perhaps the most significant success was the joint raid that netted Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan. Law enforcement agencies have acted on evidence found in the raid and on information he has apparently revealed during questioning.
"No one would have imagined Pakistan becoming the most pivotal state in the fight against terrorism, but it has, and it has provided extremely important cooperation," said Rohan Gunaratna of the Center for Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, and the author of a book on al-Qaida.
In August, the United States signed a sweeping anti-terrorism treaty with Southeast Asian countries that calls for more information sharing and police cooperation. The agreement with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam was important, as the region has seen a rise in Muslim extremism in recent years, with some militant groups allegedly linked to the al-Qaida network.
U.S. officials believe some of the planning for Sept. 11 may have taken place in Malaysia, where at least two of the hijackers visited a year earlier. Plots against U.S. interests in Indonesia and Singapore have also been exposed and thwarted in the past year.
But there have also been speed bumps in the global effort against al-Qaida. The overwhelming majority of those arrested overseas in the first days after the attacks have been released, and Washington has lost three well-publicized extradition requests for individuals wanted for terrorist-related activities.
In April, a British judge threw out the extradition case against Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot whom Washington had at first accused of training several Sept. 11 hijackers.
Citing lack of evidence, Canada freed Liban Hussein, a Somali-born man wanted by the United States on suspicion of money laundering for terrorists. As a result, the United States removed his name from a list of people and groups suspected of financing terrorism.
Despite the arrest of El Motassadeq, German authorities have refused to detain another man, Mamoun Darkazanli, that the FBI has described as a well-connected bin Laden agent. Germany says Washington has not provided sufficient evidence.
In London, several clerics connected in indictments to al-Qaida or Sept. 11 either remain free or have gone underground.
Malaysia is holding Yazid Sufaat, a former army captain accused of hosting two of the hijackers in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. Although he also hosted Sept. 11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui and Sufaat's wife signed an employment letter for him, Sufaat has not been charged.
In June, Saudi Arabia announced its first al-Qaida-related arrests since the terrorist attacks but there has been no word of any charges. The hard-line Islamic nation, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has not carried out any financial reforms or frozen suspicious bank accounts in the last year.
Progress has been made on cutting al-Qaida off from its assets. Roughly $112 million in funds allegedly tied to terrorist-related groups and individuals have been blocked worldwide, including $34 million frozen by the United States, U.S. officials say.
European nations changed their banking and anti-terrorism laws in the wake of the attacks. Switzerland set up a special investigative team called "Task Force Terror USA."
In Bosnia, authorities raided several Muslim charities accused of funneling cash for al-Qaida. The raids led to the arrest of a Chicago man involved in the charity.
But experts have said for months that efforts on the financial front no longer hinder al-Qaida's abilities to operate. Internet traffic is up, U.S. officials say, and alternate methods to move money include courier deliveries, stock market purchases and "hawala," an honor system of lending that is widely used in the Muslim world.
Most terror suspects were picked up as part of investigations initiated before Sept. 11 and are connected to attacks that were thwarted in the past two years. Those include a threat to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in January 2001 and a plot in Strasbourg, France -- home of the European Parliament -- in December 2000.
Authorities in 14 countries say that over the last year, they've uncovered plots and alleged cells that often worked together in an effort to harm Americans.
In Spain, authorities are trying to determine whether Sept. 11 ringleader Atta met with Imad Yarkas. Yarkas was arrested in November along with nine other suspects. Spanish police say he knew that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would be targeted by al-Qaida.
Nearly 600 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects, from 38 countries, are being held by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay. Several hundred more fighters are being held in Afghanistan.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press reporters in Europe, Asia and the Middle
East contributed to this report.