WASHINGTON — U.S. counterterrorism officials say they believe that senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are involved in the latest terror plot against European cities.
The multi-pronged scope of the emerging plan — which aimed to launch coordinated shooting sprees or attacks in Britain, France and Germany — is an al-Qaeda hallmark. One U.S. intelligence official added, however, that the details of how the plan was directed or coordinated by the group's core leaders is not yet clear.
The involvement of bin Laden and his core leaders, believed to be in hiding in Pakistan, underscores concerns about that country's role as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists. U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan to increase its efforts to root out the militants hiding in the mountainous border region.
Several officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence information.
Bin Laden's role in the European plot was first reported by NPR.
Counterterrorism officials said that they are now working under the assumption that bin Laden played a role in the plotting, but they would not detail what indications they've seen that lead them in that direction.
One senior U.S. official, meanwhile, discounted any involvement in the Europe terror plot by al-Qaeda's North African affiliate. While al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is very dangerous in its region and may want to export its terror operations to Europe, there are no indications that it is able to do that at this time, said the official.
A Pakistani intelligence official said Thursday that eight Germans and two British brothers are at the heart of the terror plot, which is still in its early stages. One of the Britons was killed in a recent CIA missile strike, he said.
Pakistan, Britain and Germany are tracking the suspects and intercepting their phone calls, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media.
The U.S. has dramatically stepped up its missile attacks in North Waziristan, and is believed to have launched at least 21 this month. The covert campaign is largely carried out by CIA drones, and has led to the deaths of a number of top militant leaders.
Pakistan has complained vocally about the program but is believed to provide intelligence assistance for at least some of the strikes.