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August 15, 2002
 
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Bullet-ridden mannequins were among the macabre images found an Camp Ground Zero, an alleged training camp for Islamic militants in Alabama that may have ties to al Qaeda. (ABCNEWS.com)
Preparing for Jihad in Alabama
Islamic Militant Training Camp Allegedly Operating in Alabama

By Brian Ross
ABCNEWS.com

July 25 A training camp linked to Islamic militants has been operating in Alabama, and European law enforcement officials believe Muslim extremists were using it to prepare for a holy war.



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British authorities also thought that militants from overseas were training in the United States to take advantage of America's gun laws, sources told ABCNEWS. The looming question for law enforcement is whether there is a connection between the camp and the al Qaeda terror network.

An investigation by Britain's Scotland Yard led to the discovery of the camp in Marion, Ala. The facility is called "Ground Zero USA."

Bullet-riddled police cars and a school bus with mannequin targets are scattered around the property. Inside a huge shed is an equally macabre scene shot-up mannequins, male and female, in domestic settings, some with red, blood-like stains on them.

Ground Zero's operators promised state-of-the-art, world-class training in automatic weapons, urban warfare, SWAT tactics and martial arts, supposedly to fight terror attacks.

Marion Police Chief Tony Buford said he became suspicious of the use of police cars and buses as targets.

"It was rumored that the camp here was used as training site for possible people that were sent here to do bodily harm to Americans," Buford told ABCNEWS.

Web Site Provides Terror Link

The suspected terror ties of the Alabama camp were unknown until after Sept. 11, when officials in London arrested an accused al Qaeda supporter, Zain-ul-Albidin

He is charged with operation of a Web site, under the name of Sakina Security, allegedly recruiting Muslims for an Islamic jihad or holy war. He is now on trial in London.

The site, since taken down by British authorities, described what seemed to be the Alabama camp, including live-fire exercises at a state-of-the-art shooting range in the United States something that would not be legal in Britain.

"In the United States, it is not illegal for anyone to receive military training, high-grade military training," said Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside Al Qaeda.

The actual owners of camp, who are also British, say it was used primarily to train law enforcement personnel. Officials consider them unwitting accomplices. The camp owners declined to talk to ABCNEWS.

Scale of Secret Camps Unknown

It is not known how many holy war recruits came through the camp or when. But the FBI is now investigating a number of suspected training camps around the country.

"We know of a number of cases where Islamic terrorists came and training in this country in the early 1990s. It is likely that this scale of training is still continuing," Gunaratna said.

The most radical and belligerent of London's Islamic clerics, Abu Hamza, told ABCNEWS in a phone call that America's laws make such paramilitary training easy, "like a picnic."

British intelligence officials told ABCNEWS they are closely examining alleged ties between Hamza, who is said to have recruited alleged "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui, and Zain-ul-Albidin.

 
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