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Al-Qaida... In U.S....

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WASHINGTON (June 27) - The recent arrest of a Palestinian man from Florida has convinced U.S. officials that a network of al-Qaida operatives exists in the United States, CBS reported on Thursday.

It said Adham Hassoun, arrested earlier this month, was an ''important link'' to accused al-Qaida member American Jose Padilla, as well as other groups based in the United States who may be awaiting orders for future attacks.

''A number of people are under surveillance. None is believed to have had a supporting role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Some may have been slated to assist Zacarias Moussaoui,'' it said.

Moussaoui has been charged in connection with the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks. He has been referred to as the suspected 20th hijacker.

But the CBS report said senior officials, whom it did not name, now believe Moussaoui was, in fact, not scheduled to be part of the Sept. 11 attacks but was to have carried out a separate, unknown mission.

''U.S. officials have collected intelligence that appears to confirm what they have feared most since Sept. 11, that al-Qaida is still active in the United States,'' CBS said.

It reported that Padilla was apparently expecting help from such a network when he returned to the United States last month on an alleged target-scouting mission.

U.S. officials said Padilla was apparently enroute to meet Hassoun when the latter man was arrested, the network said. Hassoun was arrested after his communication with Padilla was monitored.

Hassoun, a 13-year U.S. resident, is now being held on an immigration charge at an Immigration and Naturalization Service facility.

The al-Qaida network of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden is blamed by Washington for the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

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