CAIRO, Egypt – The Al Qaeda group carried out last month's attack on a Tunisian synagogue that killed 19 people and will soon strike at the United States, a pan-Arab newspaper Saturday quoted a man identified as an Al Qaeda leader as saying.
The London-based Asharq al-Awsat said it interviewed Abdel Azeem al-Muhajir, whom it described as a "senior military leader" of Al Qaeda, in the western Pakistani mountains near the border with Afghanistan. The newspaper did not say when the interview was conducted.
Al-Muhajir told the paper that the April 11 truck-bombing of the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba "was carried out by brothers in the Al Qaeda network." Fourteen of the 19 victims were German tourists.
A source in Afghanistan told the Associated Press that al-Muhajir is also known as Abu Bilal al Muhajir and is a Palestinian of Jordanian nationality. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhajir was a member of the network headed by Usama bin Laden, but was a midlevel administrator, rather than a top commander.
Israeli, German and U.S. officials have said there are indications that the attack in Tunisia was linked to Al Qaeda.
"News in the coming days will show the continuity, firmness, and determination of this (Al Qaeda) group to develop itself," Al-Muhajir said, according to Asharq al-Awsat.
Al-Muhajir was quoted as saying that Al Qaeda has regrouped since the Taliban's ouster by U.S.-backed forces in Afghanistan. Blaming the defeat on U.S. air power, he was quoted as saying Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have come a long way in their training for a "soon-expected fight with appropriate arms."
He did not elaborate on the weapons to be used but was quoted as saying Al Qaeda would give Americans "a more painful hit" than the Tunisian attack.
The newspaper also said al-Muhajir identified the truck driver who carried out the synagogue attack as Nizar Seif Eddin al-Tunisi, a name that has arisen before in connection with the blast, and said he was a member of Al Qaeda. Seif Eddin al-Tunisi means "Sword of the Faith, the Tunisian."
A statement published last month in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds said the synagogue attack was carried out by the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites, which earlier claimed responsibility for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. U.S. investigators have long linked the Islamic Army to the Al Qaeda, which has been blamed for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Saturday's article in Asharq al-Awsat was the second time in two days the newspaper has carried interviews attributed to senior figures of the Taliban or Al Qaeda. On Friday, the newspaper ran what it said was an interview with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the fugitive leader of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
Both interviews were conducted by reporter Badie Qorhani. According to the Saturday article, Qorhani traveled in a four-wheel drive vehicle along mountain roads for 12 hours before meeting al-Muhajir in a tent.
Al-Muhajir was quoted as saying both bin Laden and Mullah Omar were in good health, "contrary to what is propagated by American and Americanized media."
The report gave no indication of how al-Muhajir knew that or when he last saw either man.