February 24, 1999

Report: 7 Bin Laden Attacks Stopped

By The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- U.S. intelligence agencies have stopped accused terrorist Osama bin Laden from carrying out at least seven bomb attacks on overseas facilities since the bombings of two U.S. embassies last August, USA Today reported.

Citing unidentified senior intelligence officials, the paper said the thwarted attacks were against the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia where more than 50 U.S. jets are kept and against embassies in Albania, Azerbaijan, Ivory Coast, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uruguay.

The officials told the paper those embassies were chosen because -- like the African embassies attacked last summer -- they are in older buildings lacking modern security.

Bin Laden has been indicted for the August bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

The USA Today report said the six embassy attacks were prevented when U.S. intelligence agencies used a reconnaissance satellite to monitor bin Laden's telephone calls and tipped off local officials, who then arrested the people suspected of preparing to carry out the attacks.

U.S. officials had said previously that attacks on two unnamed embassies had been thwarted.

CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate subcommittee last month that he did not have "the slightest doubt" bin Laden was planning more attacks against the United States.

A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press last week that the Saudi exile may have fled Afghanistan after his hosts in the Taliban-led government turned on him by cutting off his telephone and limiting his access to outsiders.

Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, a Taliban diplomat assigned to the United Nations, confirmed to State Department officials Feb. 17 that bin Laden had fled the area in Afghanistan under Taliban control a few days earlier.

Under one admittedly optimistic scenario, according to the U.S. official, bin Laden is on the run after his Taliban hosts turned on him, disrupting presumed plans to renew terrorist attacks against Americans.

But the official, asking not to be identified, acknowledged that the administration has no idea of bin Laden's whereabouts and lacks firm evidence that he even has left Afghanistan.

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