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By David M. Bresnahan
June 26, 2002

There are hundreds or even thousands of al Qaeda terrorists in the U.S. plotting and planning attacks of all kinds, and so far investigators have found and stopped them.

"The process of identification is constant, and the numbers just keep growing. Without question, we have already prevented some major attacks," said a police officer in a large city working with the FBI. "I can't tell you the specifics, but let me say I hope someday these heroes can be made public, because they are incredible heroes," he added. The officer is not an official spokesman and asked not to be identified. 

The Energy Department's top-secret Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) has been working constantly since 9/11. They have investigated a number of reports that terrorists are planning to detonate a nuclear device in a major east coast city.

Press reports of those investigations claim each turned out to be a hoax, but at least one was genuine, according to the officer.
"They (NEST) did find and diffused a live bomb. I was told there were two. One in New York and one in Washington," he said. He only heard details about one incident, which was said to be a U.S. made backpack bomb.

The officer said that a number of terrorist cells have been captured without being made known to the public.
"They don't want people to panic. There's far more going on than what's being reported. I think if people knew they'd have more confidence in our ability to fight this.

Police working with the CIA and FBI have been rounding up al Qaeda terrorist cells all around the world. Plans for both small and large attacks have also been uncovered.

The Italian police say they prevented an al Qaeda attack on a Catholic church containing a fresco of Mohammed in hell dating from 1415.

The painting by Giovanni da Modena is in the Basilica of St. Petronius and depicts Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, being tortured in hell by demons.

A special Italian police unit was asked by the CIA to take into custody a Muslim known as "Amsa the Libyan,"  according to the Zenit news organization. The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera 
identified him as an emissary of Osama bin Laden.

The search for Amsa uncovered an al Qaeda cell of about a dozen Moroccans and Tunisians, and the plot to attack the church. A report to the public prosecutor in Milan mentions that the group was intercepted. There was no information on how the group planned to attack the church and painting.

The British Secret Service was also reported to be involved. They arrested another cell member located in Great Britain, according to Zenit.

Inspired by the 28th canto of Dante's "Divine Comedy," the painting is open to the public to see in the Bolognini chapel. It is considered to be among the most significant works of Italy's historic and artistic heritage.

The police officer is hopeful the success rate will continue, but he says another major attack is inevitable.

"From what I've seen I think we stand a good chance of getting most of these. But, I'm a realist. You've got to be a realist in this world. I see the very strong probability that a major attack will soon take place. There's too many of them (terrorist cells). Finding them all before they attack is just not reality. Sooner or later they will get through. Sooner or later we need to be prepared for the worst."

David M. Bresnahan - All Rights Reserved

David M. Bresnahan  is an award-winning independent investigative journalist. He maintains an archive of his work at  and offers a free e-mail alert so you will not miss any of his news stories or commentaries.