Nation in Brief

Tape containing alleged terrorists released

A videotape containing apparent “martyrdom messages” from five men linked to the al Qaeda terrorist organization was released last week by the Justice Department.

The tape was recovered in the rubble left from the home of top Osama bin Laden aide Muhammad Atef, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced during a Thursday press conference.

Government officials identified the men as Ramzi Binalshibh, Abdul al-Rahim, Muhammad Said Ali Hasan and Khalid Ibn Muhammad al-Juhani. The fifth man has not been identified. Officials are concerned that the tape raises a possibility of another terrorist attack.

Authorities stated that they do not have much information about the men, with the exception of Binalshibh who has been linked to Zacarias Moussaoui, the French National who is the only defendant in the Sept. 11 attacks so far.

In a statement, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller justified releasing the tapes by stating, “The principle is simple: an informed and alert public works.”

Re-opening of Senate building delayed

The Hart Senate Office Building will re-open Tuesday after being closed for nearly three months.

The building was originally scheduled to be re-opened to the 1,000 employees and 50 Senators who work there last month, but the date was postponed when inspectors found anthrax cleaning equipment inside last week.

The equipment was reportedly found bagged in the ceiling near Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s office on the sixth floor, the Senate Sergeant at Arms Alfonso Lenhardt announced last week in a press release posted on the Senate Web site.

Officials said preliminary tests have come back negative for anthrax, but further tests are being conducted. As a precautionary measure, the basement offices in Dirksen building, which shares the same ventilation system were also closed.

Justice Department to prosecute polluters

The Justice Department will pursue the prosecution of eight companies who allegedly violated the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department announced last week.

The complaints, originally filed during the Clinton Administration in 1999, allege that eight U.S. companies illegally polluted the air by expanding power plants without informing the government and in some cases, did not purchase scrubbers for their smoke stacks.

In a statement last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the decision by saying, “The review does not examine whether, from the standpoint of environmental policy, it is prudent for the EPA to interpret the Clean Air Act in the manner it has chosen.”

Many environmentalists are critical of Ashcroft’s announcement, accusing the attorney general of lacking support for the EPA. John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council told USA Today, “(The Justice Department) went out of their way to distance themselves from support for their cases.”

Powell Travels to South Asia

Secretary of State Colin Powell embarked on a week long-trip to South Asia last week aimed at easing mounting tensions between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.

Powell’s journey began last Tuesday and included stops in Pakistan and India where the Secretary of State meet separately with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Powell described the peace talks by saying, “We exchanged a number of ideas on how we can move forward, and I leave here very encouraged that we can find a solution to this troubling situation.”

The conflict arose following a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament, an attack the Indian government blamed on Pakistani terrorists. Since that time, both countries have massed troops and artillery on their common border.

In a statement to Islam clerics, Musharraf stated, “I am fully satisfied that, God willing … there will be no war.”

-Patrick Higgins

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