Feb 24, 1999

Source: U.S. thwarted Bin Laden bombing plans

February 24, 1999
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Threatened attacks linked to accused terrorist Osama bin Laden were thwarted at U.S. embassies in Albania and Uganda in the weeks after a pair of deadly embassy bombings in Africa last summer, CNN was told on Wednesday.

The source, a U.S. counterterrorism official, also said there was evidence of preliminary planning for possible future attacks against U.S. embassies in Azerbaijan, Ivory Coast and Tajikistan.

However, the evidence for those threats is not as strong as what was detected for the Albanian and Ugandan threats, according to the source, who declined to be identified.

The official said an Egyptian connected to a Middle East group called Gama'a Islamiya (the Islamic Group) was arrested this month in Uruguay, giving rise to concerns about an attack in that country. The man was identified as El Said Hassan Mohamed Mokhlis.

Gama Islamyia, a political organization with a wing that is involved in terrorism, is one of the groups that signed on to Osama bin Laden's call in February of last year for the deaths of Americans around the globe.

Bin Laden's whereabouts

Bin Laden has been indicted for the August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

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 said 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, told State Department officials on February 17 that bin Laden had fled the area in Afghanistan under Taliban control a few days earlier.

U.S. intelligence officials said at the time that they were skeptical of the report and, according to a Pakistani journalist, bin Laden met with the Afghanistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Mullah Abdul Jalil within the past few days in the eastern Afghan town of Jalalabad.

Correspondent Peter Bergen and The Associated Press contributed to this report