Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the World Trade Center site on Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and stated that the possibility of another al-Qaeda strike is “very real.”
Panetta detailed that despite three of al-Qaeda’s top four leaders having been killed, branches of the group remains and their militant ideologies continue. He noted that al-Qaeda factions are known to be in areas such as Somalia and Yemen.
“They continue to plan attacks and I don’t think we can take anything for granted,” Panetta said. “The potential for that kind of attack remains very real.”
Panetta became defense secretary on July 1 and has since been “strategically defeating” all of the nearest terror groups, he said.
Within the last two days, senior al-Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauritani was apprehended in Quetta, Pakistan, by the country’s authorities, which Panetta calls a “a tribute to the Pakistanis.”
“This is one that frankly was particularly encouraging because he was someone that we thought was a real threat,” he said.
Panetta notes that more focus needs to go into finding groups in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and more importantly info areas where al-Qaeda-linked militants may be plotting attacks.
Panetta continues to visit various September 11 sites as the anniversary approaches. He is thought to be the first cabinet member to see the finished memorial in New York memorial, called “Reflecting Absence.”