11 September 2001>News Stories>Militia groups deny claim for terror attack . Experts wait to hear from Kabul; Osama bin Laden is elusive

Militia groups deny claim for terror attack . Experts wait to hear from Kabul; Osama bin Laden is elusive
Carol Rosenberg . Miami Herald . 11 September

There was stony silence from Osama bin Laden's Afghan-based militia group today while, one by one, radical Palestinian organizations denied a role in the terrorist attacks that struck the United States.

However, from Islamabad, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia issued a denial that bin Laden had played any role in the attack. But there was no word from the Saudi himself, or his organization.

In fact, news agencies and television groups from the Persian Gulf to Europe -- a frequent venue for claims of responsibility for terror attacks -- reported only one claim, which was swiftly disavowed.

So terror experts today watched for word from Kabul, the Afghan capital, and Islamabad, in abutting Pakistan, a favorite outlet for announcements from bin Laden.

The renegade Saudi millionaire is blamed as the mastermind of the Feb. 26, 1993, car bombing of the World Trade Center garage. Six people were killed and a thousand more wounded by a car bomb that exploded in the twin towers' garage.

Several suspects were tried -- and convicted -- in that assault. During their 1996 New York trial, defendant Ramzi Ahmed Yousef described plans to blow up a string of U.S. jetliners over the Pacific Ocean in a wave of terror not unlike the one the U.S. East Coast experienced today.

Bin Laden, who has declared a holy war of sorts against U.S. policies in the Middle East since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, is also blamed for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa.

He has long had safe haven in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where he served for a time as a resistance fighter on behalf of Islamic forces.

Bin Laden was last heard from on Monday when, through spokesmen, he denied allegations that he was linked to internal Afghan fighting -- specifically the suicide bombing attempt against opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood, part of Afghanistan's internal tug-of-war for supremacy in the Islamic nation.

In the wealthy Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, television today reported a claim of responsibility by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

But a DFLP spokesman in Damascus later dismissed the claim, saying the small fringe breakaway group of the Palestine Liberation Organization had nothing to do with it.

From the outset, the DFLP seemed an unlikely candidate for such a well-planned and comprehensive operation far from its territory: It has a small cadre of loyal gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and support in Palestinian refugee camps across the Arab world -- but no real known international infrastructure.

In Herzilya, Israel, terror expert Eli Carmon told The Jerusalem Post today that he doubted Palestinians had anything to do with the attack.

Such an attack, he said, would discredit the Palestinian national movement at a time when they most need the White House.

For his part, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the ``unbelievable'' attacks, declaring himself ``shocked.''

A flat denial came from Damascus and the headquarters of the rival Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- which in the 1960s and '70s was linked to some spectacular hijackings and airplane explosions worldwide.

Israel killed the DFLP's leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Aug. 27 and braced for an internal wave of retaliation.

In Gaza, the Islamic Jihad movement's Nafez Assem said the group that had previously claimed responsibilities for deadly suicide bombings inside Israel had nothing to do with the U.S. attacks. But he called the bloodshed ``a consequence of American policies in the hottest region in the world.''