LONDON (Reuters) - The head of the European Union's law enforcement arm warned on Saturday against rushing to blame the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden for masterminding Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington.
Juergen Storbeck, the director of pan-European police force Europol, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that a wide ranging investigation was required to avoid bringing the wrong people to account.
"It's possible that he (bin Laden) was informed about the operation, it's even possible that he influenced it, but he's probably not the man who steered every action or controlled the detailed plan," Storbeck said.
"As for the idea that, sitting in Afghanistan, he could have controlled the last phase of the operation is something we should not accept without a lot of doubt," he said.
"Bin Laden is not the automatic leader of every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam."
U.S. president George W. Bush on Saturday singled out bin Laden, based in Afghanistan under the protection of its radical Islamic government, as a prime suspect behind the attacks which may have killed over 5,000 people.
The Daily Telegraph said Europol was giving serious consideration to claims that some sort of state-sponsored terrorism was involved but had no hard evidence.
"There are a lot of people with the same philosophy who may have been to bin Laden's training camps, but are not necessarily under his orders," Storbeck said.
Europol, established by the EU's 15 member states to tackle such issues as terrorism, money laundering and illegal immigration, set up an anti-terrorism task force crisis center immediately after the attacks.
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