Al-Qaeda Chem Arms Factory Found?

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 24, 2002 

(CBS) Security forces discovered a suspected al-Qaeda chemical laboratory in a Kabul neighborhood Saturday complete with explosives and suspicious documents, Radio Kabul reported.

The report said the laboratory was found in a house in the city's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, which was formerly occupied by the Saudi non-governmental organization Wafa.

Wafa is among the organizations that the United States believes were connected to Osama bin Laden's terrorist networkBefore the collapse of the Taliban last year, Wafa ran a number of operations in Afghanistan including food distribution and construction work.

Radio Kabul, which is run by Afghanistan's interim administration, said security officials found 16 types of chemicals and explosives in the house as well as documents which were not described.

It was unclear who occupied the house at the time of the raid.

CBS News correspondent Tom Fenton reports that an Afghan police source told him several people have been brought in for questioning.

There was no confirmation from the international peacekeeping force that helps maintain securityin Kabul, Fenton says.

Separately, German investigators say they have evidence that Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, and two accomplices trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan from late 1999 to early 2000. They have also established a clear link between Al Qaeda and a recent attack on a Tunisian synagogue, The New York Times reported in its Saturday editions.

The timing of the Afghanistan training, outlined to the Times by a senior investigator, provides the strongest evidence so far that plans for the attacks on the U.S. were worked out there. Less than six months after leaving Afghanistan, Atta and the other two men enrolled in flight schools in the U.S.

There have been previous reports that Atta and other conspirators trained in Afghanistan, and FBI officials have said privately that all 19 hijackers are believed to have spent time there.  But the investigator, Klaus Ulrich Kersten, director of Germany's federal anticrime agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, provided the first official confirmation that the three pilots had been in Afghanistan and the first dates of the training, the newspaper says.

Kersten said Atta was in Afghanistan from late 1999 until early 2000.  He said four other Arabs from Hamburg attended camps there about the same time.  Two of them, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad al-Jarrah, also flew hijacked planes on Sept. 11.  The two others, Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, both disappeared shortly before the attacks and have been charged in Germany as accomplices.

Meanwhile, Iraq denied on Saturday that members of al-Qaeda were present in the north of the country, saying the United States had made the allegation to justify its illegal presence in the region.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week that members of al Qaeda were in Iraq.

“This is a lie. They have made the claim in order to justify their illegal presence in northern Iraq and under the pretext that they want to chase members of al Qaeda,” Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan told the newspaper al-Itihad.

A senior Iraqi Kurdish politician told Reuters on Wednesday that militant Islamists named as Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam) affiliated with al Qaeda had set up a laboratory in northern Iraq to develop poisons for “terrorist” activities.

The group came to public attention this week after reports that the U.S. administration had discussed an attack on what it said was a chemical weapons program run by the group.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday accused Iran of being behind the group and dismissed claims that it was connected with al Qaeda.

Northern Iraq has been outside the control of the central government in Baghdad since soon after the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and its rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have administered the region since the end of the war, when the two groups wrested control of the Kurdish enclave from the Baghdad government.

The region, which borders northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey, is protected by a no-fly zone patrolled by U.S. and British warplanes.

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