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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Four Men Sought in Connection with Terrorist Threats

Aired September 5, 2003 - 19:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A much different kind of threat prompting a new FBI manhunt.
A worldwide search was launched today for four men wanted for questioning in connection with terrorist threats against the U.S. Now this comes on the heels of an advisory that was issued yesterday, you may remember by the Department of Homeland Security, warning al Qaeda is working to hijack airplanes passing near or over the United States.

We get details now from CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police around the world are looking for these four men, who the FBI says may pose a serious threat to U.S. citizens here and abroad.

Officials say one, Karim el Mejjati, has been connected to the May attacks in Casablanca, Morocco. Another, Abderraouf Jdey, has said he is willing to carry out suicide attacks. And a third, Adan el Shukrijumah, officials say, has a lot in common with the ringleader of the September 11 attacks.

JOHN PISTOLE, FBI ASSISTANT: He is of significant concern to us because of his similarities to Mohammed Atta in terms of his ability to, we believe, pilot an aircraft, his fluency in English, his familiarity with the United States, and his ability to use false documents, perhaps to get into the United States undetected.

ARENA: Shukrijumah's ability to pilot airplanes is especially worrisome to officials, considering al Qaeda's continued interest in hijacking commercial jets.

PISTOLE: He may be the best suited al Qaeda operative in the world to commit such acts that we believe al Qaeda is still interested in planning.

ARENA: The men's whereabouts are unknown, but officials do not believe they are in the United States. Nor do they believe they are traveling together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Now, officials stress there is no information suggesting that an attack is imminent -- Anderson.

COOPER: Have they given any details about these possible hijackings of international flights? I mean, have they said where, when, how they might go about doing it?

ARENA: No, the intelligence does not provide any time specific information. There's nothing that suggests anything is imminent, as I just said.

But we do know that Secretary Ridge has met with counterparts in Mexico and Canada this week, urging them to step up security. He said the message got through loud and clear. And we do know that there is increased monitoring of aircraft flying in or near U.S. air space.

COOPER: All right. Kelli Arena, thanks very much.

And to put this story in perspective, despite these latest threats and reports of increased chatter on the Internet, U.S. officials are not raising the terror level. It's now at yellow or elevated.

Now, to put thing things in perspective, the terror alert was last raised to orange three months ago. By contrast, during the first five months of this year, it was raised three times to orange or high. The first time it was raised was around the first anniversary of September 11.

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