Washington, May 17 (Reuters): President George W. Bush prepared Americans today for a prolonged war on terror and the possibility of new attacks from al Qaida, which he said was weakened but “not idle” after US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bush called the deadly bombings this week in Saudi Arabia “a stark reminder” of the threat still posed by the network headed by Osama bin Laden, who has eluded a global manhunt by the US and its allies.
US intelligence agencies have picked up signs al Qaida is plotting further imminent attacks. Officials said it was not known where bin Laden’s network might strike next, but there were potential threats to Western interests in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, east Africa and southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia. Last night, suicide bomb attacks in Morocco’s biggest city, Casablanca, killed at least 39 people and wounded 60.
Some Democrats have said Bush’s focus on removing President Saddam Hussein in Iraq may have strengthened al Qaida.
“The enemies of freedom are not idle and neither are we,” Bush said in his weekly radio address, in which he paid tribute to US soldiers, some of whom “still face dangerous duty in Iraq and Afghanistan,” on Armed Forces Day.
Bush said the US was taking “unprecedented measures to defend the homeland,” and was hunting al Qaida suspects from Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa.
The al Qaeda network was blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.Bush has claimed several successes in his subsequent global war on terrorism, including the ouster of the Taliban, al Qaida’s protectors, from power in Afghanistan.
He estimated that nearly one-half of al Qaida’s senior operatives had been captured or killed.
He also asserted the war in Iraq had “removed allies of al Qaida, cut off sources of terrorist funding, and made certain that no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
The US has yet to account for Saddam’s alleged cache of chemical and biological weapons.
“Yet the terrorist attacks this week in Saudi Arabia, which killed innocent civilians from more than half-a-dozen countries, including our own, provide a stark reminder that the war on terror continues,” Bush said.
Suicide bombers attacked Riyadh compounds housing mainly foreigners, killing at least 34 people, including eight Americans. “We will remain on the hunt until they are all brought to justice,” Bush said of al Qaida’s leaders.
Bush was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.