U.S. Gets Al Qaeda's 'Message' from Bombings

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Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The coordinated suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia Monday deliver a potent message that al Qaeda is alive and well and still capable of murderous strikes against the United States and its allies, terrorism experts said yesterday.

"The message is: 'Don't think you've gotten rid of us, not by a long shot,' " said Edward S. Walker, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the Clinton administration and now president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

"This is an indicator for us, for the Saudis, for the entire coalition against terrorism that the job is not finished," Mr. Walker said.

President Bush and his senior aides had argued that the military victory in Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein put a major dent in the international terror networks epitomized by al Qaeda, but National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged in a press briefing yesterday that al Qaeda was not defeated.

Al Qaeda "has been hurt," Miss Rice said. "There's no doubt that pulling out important field generals like [September 11 plotter] Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and [operations chief] Abu Zubaydah and others hurts the organization."

But, she added, "we've always known that they were still capable of striking, and we've got a lot of work to do."

Virtually as Miss Rice was speaking, the State Department issued a warning that terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda could be planning attacks on American citizens or interests in Malaysia.

Yonah Alexander, a terrorism scholar at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, said "tactical successes" against al Qaeda in the war on terrorism had fallen far short of crippling the network's capacity to launch attacks.

"This is a group with a lot of patience when planning missions, because they believe God is on their side," Mr. Alexander said.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in its authoritative annual survey of strategic threats released Tuesday, found that al Qaeda had been "reconstituted" since it lost its operational base in Afghanistan after U. …