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Americans around globe cautioned about danger

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government warned Americans around the world Friday that they could still be in danger from extremist groups such as those that attacked New York and Washington Sept. 11.

"We have continuing concern based on threatening rhetoric from extremist groups and the potential for further terrorist actions against American citizens and interests," the State Department said in a worldwide caution.

"In this environment of increased tension and concern, the department urges Americans to review their circumstances carefully and to take any measures they deem necessary to ensure their personal safety," it added.

The caution did not mention any specific new threat but repeated a May 2001 warning that groups linked with Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden may target Americans.

Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the suicide plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, which left nearly 6,500 people dead or missing.

A State Department official said the United States was concerned at inadequate protection for Americans in Indonesia, where 4,000 demonstrators condemned the United States Friday. Some threatened to round up Americans and expel them.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has advised Americans to put off travel to Yemen and the two Central Asian states of Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The Central Asian states are close to Afghanistan, where bin Laden is thought to be living and which is the most likely target of any U.S. retaliation for the attacks.

The State Department has offered some U.S. Embassy staff free flights home in those three countries, as well as in Pakistan and Indonesia.

The warning said: "U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. U.S. Government facilities have and will continue to temporarily close or suspend public services."

480 DETAINED SO FAR

More than 480 people have been arrested or detained in connection with the hijackings investigation as authorities focused on terrorist groups around the world whose members may have had a hand plotting or assisting in the Sept. 11 attacks.

An Arabic document with instructions and religious references that the FBI says was left behind by the hijackers was released by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The four-page handwritten document provided a "shocking and disturbing view into the mindsets" of those responsible, Ashcroft said.

Investigators are focusing on groups associated with the al-Qaida network of bin Laden. A fourth plane believed destined for Washington crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

"There's not just bin Laden but there's an al-Qaida network. One should not focus on one individual but focus one's attention on a series of networks across the world," FBI Director Robert Mueller said.

Ashcroft added, "We have not ruled out the participation of other individuals and other organizations in this attack."

Mueller said investigators have had substantial cooperation from other countries in tracking the movements of the hijackers. He said authorities have begun to put together a picture of how the attacks were planned and carried out but that "the picture is nowhere near fully painted."

Ashcroft said the Arabic document contained instructions for the terrorists before and during the flights. It was found in the suitcase of Mohamed Atta, suspected of hijacking an American Airlines jet that crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Other copies were found in a vehicle that belonged to another suspected hijacker and at the Pennsylvania crash site.

The document's many religious references were "a stark reminder of how these hijackers grossly perverted the Islamic faith to justify their terroristic acts," said Ashcroft.

HIJACKERS' INSTRUCTOR?

In London, authorities said Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi, 27, was the first overseas suspect to be directly linked to training the hijackers.

"He was a lead instructor of four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings," prosecuting attorney Arvinda Sambir said.

Sambir said that Raissi made several trips to the United States this summer, trained with several of the hijackers and flew with one of them on June 23 from Las Vegas to Arizona. She did not provide further details about that flight.

Lofti qualified in the United States as a pilot in 1997 and attended the same Arizona flight school as four of the hijackers involved in the attacks.

Records show Raissi lived in Arizona in the late 1990s. Former employees at the Sawyer Aviation flight school in Phoenix remember Raissi using a flight simulator at least as recently as 1999 to instruct others, including at least one other person identified as a terrorist by the FBI.

Richard Egan, Raissi's defense lawyer, said his client "adamantly denies any involvement in the recent appalling tragedies." The United States is seeking to extradite Raissi on charges of giving false information in connection with his application for a pilot's license.

CLEANUP MAY TAKE A YEAR

In New York, the laborious and emotionally draining work continued at the World Trade Center site. "The amount of time they need to remove and clear the site will range anywhere from nine months to one year," Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said before attending the latest in a seemingly endless string of memorial services for victims.

As of Friday, 306 bodies had been recovered at the site, where hijacked jetliners were piloted into each of the twin towers. The mayor put the number of missing at 5,960 and said some of their bodies may never be found.

An additional 189 people are believed to have died at the Pentagon. Forty-four more people perished when a hijacked plane crashed in the area outside Pittsburgh after what authorities say was a struggle between the passengers and the hijackers.

The gaping damage at the Pentagon underscores the concern that officials have about reopening Reagan National Airport. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta appeared on several television programs during the day, and in the course of an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," he said the airport will "definitely reopen."

He predicted a decision by President Bush as early as Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said later that a decision has not been made on whether to reopen the airport. However, he said it is possible a decision will come next week.

Bush is "very aware" and "very concerned" about the implications of leaving the airport closed, he said, adding, "It's a real question of balancing some crucial needs that affect people's lives and livelihoods with security."


Contributing: New York Times News Service