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World: U.S. Ready For Terrorist Reprisals

Washington, 4 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says terrorists will likely try to retaliate against the United States for its strikes against suspected terrorist enclaves in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons plant in the Sudan.

At a U.S. Senate hearing on counter-terrorist policy on Thursday, Freeh warned that the U.S. should be prepared for terrorists to strike back.

Explains Freeh: "We should be under no illusions that successes with respect to counter-terrorism programs call for reprisals. And if you look at the history of counter-terrorism successes, as well as subsequent acts of terrorism, we know that there is a direct connection between the successes that we experience and the reprisal and reaction that we see from terrorists."

Freeh adds, however, that this will not discourage further "aggressive action" by the U.S. to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks.

Freeh says that while the number of terrorist attacks against Americans overseas has decreased, the number of casualties has greatly increased. He adds that terrorists have changed their scope and targeting methods to focus on large-scale acts of destruction with the clear objective of not only terrorizing Americans, but also the national interests of those countries who support the U.S.

Freeh says the FBI is not able to accurately gauge how many potential terrorist strikes or attacks have been averted because of the U.S.'s capability.

Freeh states: "We know from several sources that some terrorists have been discouraged from carrying out attacks within the United States because of their fear of the prompt response which they have overwhelming law enforcement response by the United States. We know of particular incidents that have been foiled, obviously, by hard work and counter-terrorism preparation, not just by the FBI but many other law enforcement agencies, working in conjunction with our intelligence agencies.

In regards to the bombings against two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last month, Freeh says the suspects who were interviewed in Nairobi, were treated "strictly according" to U.S. procedure. He adds that they were given all of the rights and opportunities that a person would have under the law in the U.S.

Explains Freeh: "It is very important that, from a law enforcement point of view, as we carry out our obligations, we strictly adhere to the rule of law. I think that gives us a credibility and the support that we will need from other countries to ask, which are in many cases difficult political acts for these governments."

Freeh says the current investigation into the bombings is "fast-moving and very wide-ranging." He says at the height of the investigation there were a total of 471 FBI personnel between the two bombing scenes in East Africa. He adds that the support the FBI received from law enforcement agencies in Kenya and Tanzania was excellent, and that 13 other countries are currently involved in assisting the U.S. in the investigation.

Freeh says the FBI counter-terrorism unit currently has a budget of $286 million and a staff of 2,646 people.