WASHINGTON — The FBI issued a global alert Friday for four suspected al-Qaida terrorists it said may be plotting attacks against U.S. interests.
Although at least one of the men has lived in the United States in the past, authorities said there was no indication that any were here now or that they were conspiring to launch terrorist strikes within U.S. borders. Still, officials said that possibility could not be ruled out because all four are believed to have used false names and fake travel documents in the past.
FBI officials had been seeking information about the four — two Saudis, a Moroccan and a Tunisian — for several months but said new intelligence from several sources led them to intensify the search and to seek help from the public and law enforcement. The agency posted the alert on its Web site and circulated photographs and other information about the men to 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.
The bulletin was issued as authorities have noticed a slight increase in intelligence "chatter" about the prospect of terrorist activity as the second anniversary nears of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. But several officials said the increased information had not approached the level reached at several other times since those attacks and had not warranted raising the national terror threat level from its current "elevated" status.
The FBI identified the men as Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, 28, a Saudi native with ties to South Florida; Karim El Mejjati, 35, a Moroccan who holds a French passport and last entered the United States between 1997 to 1999; Zubayr Al-Rimi, 29, a Saudi; and Abderraouf Jdey, 38, a Tunisian who may have a Canadian passport.
A senior FBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. counter-terrorism authorities were particularly concerned about Shukrijumah. He is believed to have undergone flight training similar to that received by some of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
FBI officials have previously issued bulletins saying they were hunting for Shukrijumah, describing him as a possible al-Qaida operational planner similar to Mohamed Atta, a key organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks and a pilot of one of the airplanes hijacked that day. Like Atta, Shukrijumah is fluent in English and familiar with parts of the United States because he lived here for several years, mostly in South Florida, according to the senior FBI official.
Authorities have linked Shukrijumah to an alleged plot by U.S. citizen Jose Padilla to launch a "dirty bomb" attack somewhere in the United States. They have also linked him to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the orchestrator of the alleged dirty bomb plot and al-Qaida's top operational commander until his capture in Pakistan last March.
Shukrijumah was identified as being between 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-6 and weighing about 132 pounds. He occasionally wears a beard and is asthmatic, according the FBI bulletin.
"El Shukrijumah speaks English and carries a Guyanese passport, but may attempt to enter the U.S. with a Saudi, Canadian, or Trinidadian passport," the bulletin said.
The senior FBI official said authorities' concerns about Shukrijumah have increased in recent weeks. He added that authorities do not believe Shukrijumah and the three other men are working together.
The official said U.S. authorities believe Jdey may be planning to become a suicide bomber. He added that authorities had little information on the other two men.
Jdey, who obtained Canadian citizenship in 1995, was one of five Islamic militants who left suicide messages on videotapes recovered in Afghanistan at the home of Mohammed Atef, Osama bin Laden's military chief, who was killed in a U.S. air strike in late 2001. Jdey also left behind a suicide note vowing to die in battle against non-Muslim infidels.
The FBI official said the bulletin was issued after bureau officials received information about the four men and their alleged terrorist activities through a number of intelligence and law enforcement channels. The official said some of the information came from U.S. allies abroad, and that other intelligence was received through U.S. intelligence gathering efforts, including the interrogation of suspected terrorist detainees.