Senior Al-Qaeda leaders operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once battered worldwide terror network and set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, counter-terrorism officials said.
The officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.
<b1>Until recently, the Bush administration had described bin Laden and Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al-Qaeda, the New York Times reported quoting US intelligence and the counter-terrorism officials.
The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.
American analysts were quoted as saying that recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al-Qaeda.
They receive guidance from their commanders and Zawahri, the analysts said. Bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.
Officials told the paper that the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule but groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.