ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - The U.S. government knew by the 1990s how al Qaeda trained suicide operatives but missed capturing the man who masterminded the September 11 attacks about four years before they occurred, an FBI agent said on Tuesday.
FBI agent Michael Anticev said in testimony at a sentencing trial for September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui that the U.S. government knew by the mid 1990s that there were several al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and other countries.
Operatives at the training camps were taught how to carry out terrorist operations, including suicide missions, and were trained in how to avoid detection, he said.
At that time, the U.S. government was tracking several top al Qaeda members, Anticev said, and between 1996 and 1998 made an attempt to arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- the man who has been described as the brains behind the September 11 hijackings.
Anticev said the attempt, made "somewhere in the Middle East," failed after Mohammed was apparently tipped off.