U.S. border agents and inspectors have ramped up efforts to locate a suspected al Qaeda terrorist cell leader believed to be seeking entry into the United States along alien-smuggling routes on the U.S.-Mexican border, authorities said yesterday.
Authorities said Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabian national for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, was in Canada last year looking for nuclear material for a “dirty bomb,” a conventional explosive laced with radioactive material, and could be carrying passports from Saudi Arabia, Trinidad or Canada.
They confirmed yesterday that increased enforcement efforts were under way along the U.S.-Mexican border in the wake of a rise of arrests of border jumpers from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
U.S. intelligence officials said El Shukrijumah is believed to have been spotted in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in July, having crossed the border illegally from Nicaragua after a stay in Panama. They said al Qaeda operatives have been in Tegucigalpa planning attacks against British, Spanish and U.S. embassies.
El Shukrijumah was named in a March 2003 material witness arrest warrant by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia. U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said the suspected al Qaeda terrorist is being sought in connection with potential terrorist threats against the United States.
El Shukrijumah, 29, a former South Florida resident and pilot thought to have helped plan the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was the subject of an FBI alert last month, which described him as “armed and dangerous” and a major threat to homeland security….
A report this year by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Canada said al Qaeda had more than 18,000 potential attackers worldwide, was working on plans for major strikes on the United States and Europe, and might be seeking weapons of mass destruction. The report said the United States was al Qaeda’s prime target.
The FBI has said al Qaeda terrorists and associates operate through “sleeper cells” scattered throughout the United States, are continuing to recruit new members, have assisted in the acquisition of safe houses and equipment, and have conducted pre-attack surveillance.