Friday, March 14, 2003

'We are winning,' Ashcroft insists

Attorney general meets with task force

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Local law enforcement's alertness and communication is helping America win the war against terrorism, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday.

Ashcroft talked to reporters after a meeting of the Eastern District of Kentucky's anti-terrorism task force. He said arrests since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are evidence the nation is gaining ground on terror.

"No place is immune. We know that," Ashcroft said.

"Obviously there are some targets which appear to be more attractive than others for terror. But all Americans have the opportunity and capacity... to be alert and to help us avoid additional terrorist attacks."

Ashcroft's visit was the final stop on a two-day, three-state tour to meet with local task forces. He was in West Virginia and Ohio on Wednesday.

After the terrorist attacks, Ashcroft set up 93 such task forces nationwide, each headed by federal prosecutors.

Thursday's stop was the 38th panel he's visited so far, said Monica Goodling, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

"The effort being made is making it difficult for terrorists to operate," Ashcroft said. "That's why we have the anti-terrorism task force. That's why these individuals participate and coordinate their activities and communicate with federal officials - to make it difficult for terrorists to operate."

Since the attack, Ashcroft said, U.S. authorities have tracked "hundreds and hundreds" of suspected terrorists, and uncovered four alleged terrorist cells in Buffalo, Detroit, Seattle and Portland.

Federal officials have also deported more than 400 people linked to terror, Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft pointed to the recent arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist attacks, as further evidence of success.

"We've had success in the war on terror," Ashcroft said. "We are winning."

Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt, who is also a panel member, said Thursday's meeting focused on prevention and on different agencies sharing information with one another.

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