Al Qaeda, though weakened, is replenishing and smuggling terror operatives from new training camps in the Republic of Georgia, and these terrorists possibly are being protected by Iran, sources told ABCNEWS.
While President Bush and the FBI have repeatedly stressed that al Qaeda is being dismantled, terrorist attacks last week in Saudi Arabia indicate that the terror group is still active — and authorities in London, Paris, Madrid and Washington are predicting more attacks.
Al Qaeda's operation has been crippled by the U.S.-led war on terrorism, but it has shifted its tactics and taken on new commanders and adopted new routes of travel, sources said.
From new training camps in Georgia, sources told ABCNEWS, al Qaeda operatives are being smuggled into Europe and across the Black Sea before settling into safe houses in Turkey. Employees of these safe houses do not hesitate to protect these al Qaeda operatives.
"I'm not going to call police against Hezbollah, al Qaeda," one desk clerk at the Interyouth Hostel in Turkey told ABCNEWS' Brian Ross. "I don't do this."
New Military Chief and New Tactics
Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remain a mystery to U.S. authorities, but officials told ABCNEWS his former bodyguard Saif el-Adel is his new military chief. Sources said el-Adel is operating out of Iran, where he and other al Qaeda operatives are being protected by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
"It [al Qaeda] has a management council that has sanctuary inside of Iran," said ABCNEWS consultant and former U.S. counterterrorism official Richard Clarke. "It has tens of thousands of trained operatives that were trained in camps in Afghanistan who are still at large. So, although we've done a lot of damage to al Qaeda, it's still a potent force."
The FBI has offered a $25 million reward for el-Adel's capture for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Last week's deadly attacks in the Saudi capital of Riyadh showed new terror tactics, which included simultaneous attacks on multiple targets. In the attacks, armed operatives cleared security personnel as multiple vehicles packed with explosives honed in on various "soft" targets that promised many casualties.
FBI officials believe these tactics could be a harbinger of things to come on U.S. soil. The Department of Homeland Security sent out an information bulletin today that said the attacks involved extensive surveillance and planning — a trademark of al Qaeda-led operations.
"While the ability to conduct multiple, near simultaneous attacks against several targets is not new for terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, the manner in which these attacks was conducted indicates a more refined capability," the bulletin said. "In each attack a number of armed terrorists was used to eliminate the security elements guarding the compounds so [a] suicide cadre could drive a vehicle borne improvised explosive device to the desired location and detonate it."
The bulletin warned officials and the public to be aware of the following factors, among others:
Theft of explosives, blasting caps, or fuses, or certain chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives.
Rental of self-storage space for the purpose of storing chemicals or chemical-mixing apparatus.
Delivery of chemicals directly to a self-storage facility or unusual deliveries of chemicals
Chemical fires, toxic odors, brightly colored stains, or rusted metal fixtures in apartments, hotel/motel rooms, or self-storage units.
Rental, theft, or purchase of truck or van with minimum 1-ton carrying capacity.
Modification of truck or van with heavy duty springs to handle heavier loads.
Any of these factors alone do not necessarily suggest terrorist activity, homeland security officials warned. But authorities should consider and notice these factors if they suspect various targets may be vulnerable to attacks.
"The statistical odds are that we are going to get hit domestically, and that's just a fact that we can't sugarcoat," said Rep. Porter Gross, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Much Work to Do
However, U.S. officials said last week's Saudi attacks also illustrated al Qaeda's weakness. One captured suspect reportedly said that despite advanced planning, the terror operatives were rushed into action and unable to hit more symbolic targets such as the U.S. Embassy.
Still, authorities worldwide are on alert and wary that al Qaeda may strike again and soon. FBI teams are dispatched around the world, working with authorities and searching for clues for where the terror group may strike next. And this has made President Bush call for vigilance once again in the war on terror.
"There's an al Qaeda group still actively plotting to kill," Bush said at a news conference today with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. "I always said this was going to be a long war. We're slowly but surely dismantling the al Qaeda operational network. But we've got a lot of work to do."
ABCNEWS' Brian Ross in London contributed to this report.