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Al Qaeda's Supporting Acts

Was September 11 supposed to be only one of a series of carefully timed Qaeda attacks on American targets? That theory is gaining currency among investigators in the wake of law-enforcement crackdowns around the world. The latest: Italian authorities last week arrested five alleged Moroccan terrorists, who possessed a map of the Rome water system, another map pinpointing the location of the American Embassy and a quantity of an industrial chemical related to cyanide. (Qaeda recruits were trained to use cyanide to gas buildings; the chemical seized in Rome, however, was harmless.) Some U.S. officials now think that the abortive Rome attack could be the latest in a series of plots that Osama bin Laden set in motion early last year as supporting acts for 9-11.

Several foreign governments have foiled Qaeda attempts since last September. And many of these raids have turned up evidence of bin Laden's plans. Within days of the 9-11 attacks, France, Holland, Belgium, Britain, Italy and Spain announced the arrests of alleged co-conspirators in a Qaeda terror campaign. The believed centerpiece? A spectacular suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Paris. In November authorities in Singapore uncovered a plot to attack the U.S. Embassy and American commercial and military targets there. A few weeks later plots were uncovered in Malaysia and Indonesia. In January local authorities in Yemen broke up yet another plot directed at the U.S. Embassy in Sana. One possibility is that bin Laden's original plan was to hit U.S. targets at intervals of about a month over a period of six months or more. Some U.S. law-enforcement officials suspect that shoe-bomber Richard Reid's pre-Christmas mission was planned months earlier as part of bin Laden's grand scenario.

U.S. officials point with satisfaction to the fact that all of these known plots were foiled with the cooperation of law-enforcement agencies in coalition countries, not all of them traditional U.S. allies. The White House is particularly grateful to Yemen, historically a haven for some of the worst Qaeda plotters. Yemen lately has become one of Washington's most eager partners in rounding up terror suspects.

Administration officials are more vague when asked for details of plots foiled inside the United States. Intelligence sources speak of two or more passenger-jet hijackings that were prevented, and a possible suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol. Officials insist that some of the dozens of suspects picked up by U.S. authorities since 9-11 were involved in Qaeda plots, though little official information has come to light to support these assertions. U.S. officials are hardly complacent: the consensus among the Feds is that more Qaeda attacks on U.S. targets at home and abroad are inevitable.

ARGENTINA

Knockout Politics

Feb. 18:Feb. 13:Jan. 23:Jan. 12:

PEACE CORPS

Straight Into Harm's Way?

FIGUREHEADS

The Power of Powell

be

Did Powell confer with the president over that big speech? When asked to explain his "axis of evil" in Tokyo last week, Dubya passed the hot potato to Powell. "You might want to ask him what he meant by 'the vapors'," said the president. It was meant to say, "Let's not swoon," as the Victorians meant it, explained Powell. Then, at a banquet with China's President Jiang Zemin, Bush deferred once again. Asked whether he would like to sing, Dubya declared: "Secretary Powell would like to sing a song." The secretary declined. A shame, really. MTV would have loved it.

MILITARY OPS: NAME GAMES

Still, a tough-sounding name doesn't guarantee intimi-dation. In Kenya, the Marines of Edged Mallet are reportedly being taunted constantly by local children, who follow them around, whispering, "Osama, Osama," and "Saddam, Saddam."

Meanwhile...

Spanish sunbathers were in for a shock last weekend when about 20 of Britain's Royal Marines stormed a beach in Spain. The Marines were aiming for British-owned Gibraltar a few hundred yards away--and just missed. In the true spirit of diplomacy, the Spanish government quickly forgave them. In the true spirit of stereotypes, the British Ministry of Defense blamed the weather.

OLYMPICS 2002

Russian Judges Give It a '0'

(Graph) Straight Downhill? (Graphic omitted)

POP LEGENDS

Boy George, It's a Musical!

Drugs, debauchery, AIDS... How did you escape the '80s unscathed?
I wouldn't say I escaped unscathed. But one of my saving graces is [that] I can laugh at myself. I get great pleasure out of taking the piss out of myself. That's what we do in the show. We send up everybody, and everything.

How has Britain changed since the '80s?
As kids back then we had more to fight for, we were rebelling against the whole Thatcher-Reagan thing. Young people frighten me now. They're so conservative.

You once said you'd rather have a cup of tea than have sex.
That flippant comment has haunted me for 20 years! I had a choice of saying I was gay, and upsetting my mum, or just lying--so said I'd rather have a cup of tea. Anyone with a brain knows I was joking. As if I'd prefer a cup of tea to sex...

Would the new show upset your mum?
Every freak has a mother. I remember about three years ago meeting Marilyn Manson and his parents, and they were so like my parents, really ordinary. I took a fantastic picture of them, with this kind of bizarre-looking creature with the colored eyes and all the makeup.

Are you still a Karma Chameleon? Or a Hare Krishna?
I'm a pantheist. I believe that God is in everything and everyone.

Do you ever get tired of the image you created for yourself?
There isn't a separation between Boy George and George O'Dowd. It's been a fantastic adventure, I can't believe I got away with half of it. Its almost voyeuristic, as if I'm outside of myself, looking in and thinking--is this for real?

FIRST PERSON GLOBAL

Ever since I moved to Israel a year ago, the Jerusalem Peace Forest has been my escape from the fear and loathing of the intifada. Perched on a ridge between East and West Jerusalem, this mile-long oasis of landscaped woods and gardens was constructed in the 1970s as a symbol of the city's unification after the Six Day War. Since the recent uprising effectively redivided Jerusalem in two hostile halves, it has been one of the last places in the city where Palestinians and Jews rub shoulders--albeit warily.

The hatreds of the present seem to give way to a timeless serenity in the Peace Forest. Jogging along the Haas Promenade in the late afternoon, I can gaze upon the Dome of the Rock glimmering above the Old City walls and hear the wailing of muezzin from mosques scattered across East Jerusalem. On clear days the setting sun casts a rosy glow on the dun-colored warrens of the packed Palestinian neighborhoods. In the forest itself, Orthodox Jews and new Russian immigrants share the paths with picnicking Palestinian families and ball-playing Arab youths. The tension is undeniable, but the beauty of the setting seems to dispel all possibilities of violence.

In early February, however, everything changed. A 24-year-old female law student from Haifa was surrounded by a masked gang of Palestinian youths while strolling through the Peace Forest one Friday afternoon. They stabbed her a dozen times, and she died in a hospital hours later. Police and soldiers captured the boys as they fled to the Abu Tor neighborhood (where NEWSWEEK'S bureau is located) and shot a 14-year-old suspect to death, possibly after his arrest. Suddenly the intifada had intruded into my oasis.

When I returned to the Peace Forest for my afternoon run three days after the killings, the atmosphere was drastically different. Israeli soldiers stood guard at the entrance, and a jeep patrolled the road below. And for the first time since I'd begun jogging there a year ago, the promenade was--spookily--deserted. As I reached the end of the path and prepared to turn back, a man with a TV camera called to me from an observation point above the promenade. "Can I film you?" he asked. "Why?" I replied. "Because you're the last one here." Of course, I'll keep coming back. But I have a sense my runs are going to be a lot lonelier.

DEATHS

Two Victims

On Saturday the discovery of veteran rebel leader Jonas Savimbi's bullet-riddled body marked the end of an era in Angola. Since 1975, Savimbi had led the UNITA rebels against Angola's government in a civil war that has cost an estimated 500,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees. Some observers see his death as a beacon of hope for peace. This is probably the "beginning of the end of Angola's war," said one U.N. representative.

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