Washington, DC (APE) – Al Jazeera today released a videotape, reportedly from Al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he disavows any association with the group of amateur terrorists arrested earlier this week in Miami, FL. He further went on to chastise the US Government and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in particular for failing to listen to repeated warnings from Al-Qaeda in regards to the existence of the group. Zawahiri stated, “We sent them phone numbers that they had tried to use to contact us, bank accounts for which they had requested money be sent to. We even suggested that they interview Richard Reid, because we had knowledge that these men had tried to contact him in prison… but they refused to act. We must assume that this has been a deliberate propaganda attempt at smearing the reputation of Al-Qaeda.”
The North Miami area is still abuzz with the news, and the small warehouse that the group used remains cordoned off by police.
“You could tell that they were a little weird,” said a neighborhood resident who wished to remain anonymous, “They always acted real secretive… and they had these slogans like… “Never talk about terror club” and, “What happens in terror club, stays in terror club”. Pretty much everybody thought they were just stupid and kind of harmless. But I know for a fact that they were reported to the police a bunch of times.”
Lawyers for the accused today petitioned the court to allow independent psychiatric evaluations to assess each for competency to stand trial, but this was vigorously opposed by the Federal Government’s lawyers.
Among the accusations facing the men are the government’s contention that they attempted to buy quantities of ammonium nitrate and guns. Defense counsel today insisted that the chemicals were merely being used in the manufacture of homemade soap, which the group sold as a way to raise funds.
Critics have claimed that the timing of the arrests were quite suspicious in that they appeared to be an effort at bolstering support for the flagging public opinion of both President Bush and the war in Iraq. The group had been followed since early December and rapidly deemed to be a minimal threat when they attempted to buy a used nuclear weapon from an FBI undercover agent.
The Department of Justice denied any political motivation in the timing of the arrests and furthermore denied any attempts at contact by al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda. They instead praised a combination of controversial covert wiretapping and financial tracking programs with credit for the apprehensions.