WASHINGTON – Bush administration officials revealed that some of the personnel involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks also took part in the attack on the USS Cole last year in Yemen and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa.
The officials said the terror link information was a key point in a presentation made to NATO allies Tuesday in Brussels as the U.S. sought to make its case that Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Several hijackers involved in the attacks three weeks ago had links to Al Qaeda, the officials said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said information was sent out Monday to a large number of nations that "powerfully made the case" against the Al Qaeda organization for the recent terrorist attacks.
"We traced the history of this organization, its recent activities and events around the 11th — before and after. I think it's a persuasive case," Powell said, speaking with reporters after a meeting with the Greek foreign minister.
The NATO allies said they would give the United States material support if they were provided with convincing information that the attacks were directed from abroad.
"Now NATO is poised to receive requests from the United States," Powell said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. ambassadors to friendly nations have been asked to brief their host governments on the administration's information.
Two senior officials said bin Laden's involvement became apparent after officials concluded that some terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks also took part in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000.
The bin Laden associates were not identified. Bin Laden has been indicted in the embassy bombings and is thought by U.S. officials to have planned the Cole attack.
Different countries are receiving different presentations, based on their relationship with the United States, said one government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The British, for example, are receiving the most detail, with other allies receiving less, and other members of the anti-terrorism coalition still less.
Other than bin Laden, no one from Al Qaeda has been publicly linked to all three attacks. Mohamed Atif, a top bin Laden lieutenant, is believed to have taken part in the embassy bombings. He is one of the few individuals whose assets were frozen by the U.S. government after the Sept. 11 attacks.
A representative of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be sheltered, called on the United States on Tuesday to provide evidence of the exiled Saudi millionaire's involvement.
In response, Boucher said the handing over of bin Laden and his associates to a third country already is required by two U.N. Security Council resolutions based on investigations into the East Africa bombings.
"There should be no further delay," Boucher said. "There is no cause to ask for anything else. They're already under this international obligation, and they have to meet it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.