Efforts Reveal Many Plots, But Few Charges

In the days after Sept. 11, U.S. allies rounded up hundreds of people, cracked down on assets and individuals that Washington suspected of financing terrorist activities and tightened security around American installations.

The efforts and unprecedented coordination with the United States uncovered and likely thwarted plots — including those allegedly orchestrated by Usama bin Laden's foot soldiers — to attack U.S. interests in 14 countries. More than 100 suspects are in custody around the world and authorities have frozen more than $100 million in assets. Experts say the unrelenting pressure complemented U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan to keep Al Qaeda on the run.

But six months after the terror attacks on the United States, few of those arrested have been charged and many have been let go. Experts believe that efforts on the financial front no longer hinder Al Qaeda's abilities to operate.

Of those known to be in custody on terrorism-related suspicions outside the United States, 11 men have been publicly tied to Sept. 11 — nine in Spain, one in Germany and one in Malaysia. Zacarias Moussouai, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, also has been indicted in the United States in connection with the attacks.

An Algerian pilot who British prosecutors first said had trained several of the hijackers was released on bail in London in February after U.S. officials conceded they could not back up the charges.

An additional 114 men are known to be held in 12 countries, either in connection with Al Qaeda or planned terrorist attacks. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most suspects "are believed to remain in custody of foreign governments."

Some of those were picked up as part of investigations initiated before Sept. 11 and are connected to attacks that were thwarted in the past two years. Those include a threat to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in January 2001 and a cathedral in Strasbourg, France — home of the European Parliament — in December 2000.

Saudi Arabia is holding 30 men who it says spent time in Afghanistan. Canada is holding the only suspect the United States is trying to extradite, a Somali-born man wanted on suspicion of involvement in laundering money for terrorists.

In the past six months, more than $104 million in funds allegedly tied to terrorist-related groups and individuals have been blocked worldwide, including $34 million by the United States, U.S. officials say.

But after initially slowing the movement of Al Qaeda money through normal financial channels, terrorist transactions are picking up again, said Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of counterterrorism operations for the CIA.

Alternate methods to move money include courier deliveries, stock market purchases and "hawala," a banking system widely used in the Muslim world that is based on trust rather than official transactions.

"The low fruit has already been picked from the trees," Cannistraro said.

Sudan has refused to confirm claims by U.S. officials that it has made arrests and aside from Kenya, which briefly detained 11 foreigners, there are no suspects known to be in custody anywhere on the African continent.

The investigation has been quiet in Latin American as well. Despite reports that Al Qaeda cells exist in several countries in the region, including Ecuador and Uruguay, there have been no terrorism-related arrests.

But in 14 countries, from France to Singapore, authorities have uncovered plots and alleged cells that often worked together in an effort to harm Americans.

From a suicide bombing planned for the U.S. Embassy in Paris to a plot to attack U.S. ships in the South Pacific, intelligence experts across the globe learned quickly after Sept. 11 that Al Qaeda's reach was widespread and its determination to strike at Americans and the West was boundless.

Based on information from several key suspects, U.S. authorities and officials overseas have said they uncovered plots against American targets or U.S. citizens in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Bosnia, Belgium, Czech Republic, India and Australia. Suspected Al Qaeda activists, other Islamic militants and alleged supporters also have been arrested in Britain, Spain, Yemen and Germany.

Like the United States, many of these countries continue to be on high alert while easing some security measures.

Armored vehicles have been removed from streets outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in the Spanish capital of Madrid and replaced by civilian guards.

At airports in Switzerland, passengers are allowed again to carry small, retractable blades, such as Swiss Army knives, in their hand luggage. After Sept. 11, South African Airways asked U.S.-bound passengers to check in five hours before a flight but now the airline is back to a two-hour check-in.

Security across Bosnia, where 3,100 American soldiers are deployed as peacekeepers, has been relaxed in recent weeks as well but remains higher than before Sept. 11.

"We think the situation is stable for the moment," said Ivica Misic, a deputy foreign minister who heads Bosnia's anti-terrorism team.

In Italy, where authorities found a hole in a tunnel near the U.S. Embassy as well as maps of the embassy building and water pipes in the home of eight suspects, security remains tight. More than 500 policemen were assigned to guard a sports stadium when the U.S. soccer team played in Sicily on Feb. 13.

In Southeast Asia, where authorities discovered a wave of planned attacks on the United States and other Western embassies, security has continually increased. Extra armed guards have been added outside U.S. embassies in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

In the Philippines, demonstrators gather daily near the embassy to protest the arrival of more than 600 American soldiers who are training Filipino troops to fight local Muslim extremists. The U.S. military presence there is seen by many as the first move outside the Afghan theater in the anti-terrorism campaign.