Holiday Terrorism Denied

terrorism suspect tied to osama bin laden
Jordanian officials who arrested 13 suspected terrorists in Amman last week say their alleged terror plot against Americans in the Middle East was financed by a Jordanian exile living in London.

But on Friday, Sheikh Omar Abu Omar described himself to CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton as a simple Muslim teacher falsely accused by the Jordanians. "These are lies which the secret service in Jordan usually throw at me," Abu Omar said.

The Jordanians think Abu Omar is a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, the elusive Muslim leader accused by the United States of masterminding the bombings of American embassies in Africa last year. Abu Omar denies it all.

"I never met Bin Laden," he said. "I was never one of his men, and I have never had connection with him."

Warning of the possibility of attack, the State Department has warned Americans to be very careful for the next few weeks. According to Abu Omar, "This is an American government fabrication. They are trying to make people afraid of Muslims."

When asked about anxieties over the threat of terrorist attacks on Christmas and New Year's, Abu Omar responded, "You will have a happy new year."

But Barri Atwan, an Arab newspaper editor who has interviewed Bin Laden in Afghanistan, believes Americans abroad should take the State Department warning seriously. "I believe they should," he said. "We are in the month of Ramadan. Feeling is very high."

Abu Omar is one of a large group of Arab expatriates who are part of a strong Middle Eastern subculture in London. A number have been expelled in the past two years under the British prevention of terrorism act.

Despite being sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for terrorism by a Jordanian court three years ago, Abu Omar has been allowed to continue to live in London. What is even more difficult to explain is the British immigration office's denial of having any record at all of Abu Omar when they were contacted by CBS News Friday afternoon.

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