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Captured al-Qaida Warns U.S. Of Imminent Terrorist Attacks

By Kamran Khan and John Lancaster
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Karachi, Pakistan

At the time of his arrest Saturday, a senior al-Qaida leader defiantly told his captors that “only the American infidels will celebrate this” and went on to predict a spate of terrorist attacks on U.S. forces massing in the Persian Gulf for a likely invasion of Iraq, Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is accused of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, was described as unrepentant and almost cocky during his initial interrogation Saturday by agents from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

According to a Pakistani official who was at the interrogation, Mohammed lectured his captors on their proper role as Muslims, telling them, “Playing as American surrogate won’t help you or your country.”

Mohammed also told the Pakistani agents that “there are dozens of people like me who will give their lives but won’t let the Americans live in peace anywhere in the world,” the official said.

Mohammed, seemingly relaxed, spent several hours talking with the Pakistani interrogators at a military facility in Rawalpindi, the city where he was captured, before he was handed over to U.S. officials and flown out of the country Saturday night, officials said.

Several times during the interrogation, the intelligence official said, Mohammed said his arrest would not limit the potential of his comrades to strike U.S. interests.

“Let the Iraq war begin -- the U.S. forces will be targeted inside their bases in the gulf,” the official quoted Mohammed as saying. “I don’t have any specific information, but my sixth sense is telling me that you will get the news from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.”

Mohammed, 37, is thought to be the third-ranking figure in al-Qaida, behind Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, both of whom are still at large. His arrest has raised hopes among U.S. officials of a breakthrough in the hunt for bin Laden, although Mohammed’s initial interrogation yielded no specific information on the whereabouts of the Saudi-born fugitive, according to the official who was present and another intelligence official.

The official who witnessed the interrogation said that when Mohammed was asked whether bin Laden was alive, he replied, “Of course he’s alive.” Both officials said, however, that at no point during his interrogation did Mohammed mention meeting bin Laden after Sept. 11, 2001, and they denied news reports that evidence seized in the raid Saturday -- including documents, a computer and computer disks -- indicated recent communication between the two.

“There were no documents recovered from Mohammed that may prove his meetings with Osama,” one of the officials said.