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Iraqis targeted W ranch

Terror team tried to sneak into Texas through Mexico

WASHINGTON - An Iraqi terror team armed with millions of dollars tried to get smuggled into the U.S. through Mexico to Crawford, Tex. - the site of President Bush's ranch, a law enforcement source said yesterday.

The alarming attempt to infiltrate the country occurred this month, the source said.

It is not known what the Iraqis planned to do in Crawford, but Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate Bush's father, the former President George Bush, in 1993.

The unidentified Iraqis wanted to hire smugglers to sneak them into the U.S. because they "wanted to get to the Crawford ranch," according to the well-placed law enforcement source. They also asked a Mexican doctor and a lawyer named Claudio to change about $100 million in Iraqi dinars into U.S. currency - about $325 million.

Secret Service officials would not comment yesterday about the possible threat or the suspects' whereabouts.

The President and First Lady Laura Bush spend most of their downtime on the 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch, nestled in the central Texas scrubland. Bush used the Texas White House to woo world leaders into his "coalition of the willing" against Saddam.

The assassination attempt on Bush's father came as the former President attended ceremonies in Kuwait celebrating the success of the Gulf War, which ousted Saddam's troops from Kuwait. Because of the failed assassination, then-President Bill Clinton ordered a Tomahawk missile barrage on Iraq.

The current President has not forgotten the attempt to kill his father. A red-faced Bush recently reminded a visitor of the 1993 plot by Saddam, and said, "The SOB tried to kill my dad."

Other plots thwarted

Iraq's attempt to infiltrate the U.S. came to light as U.S. officials announced they had thwarted Iraqi-sponsored terrorism in two foreign countries, as well as plots directed at U.S. targets.

"There are two countries where operations have been compromised, and we have information on plots in other countries," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.

Department officials declined to say whether the Mexico report had any connection to those Iraqi terrorist plots.

In both foreign cases, the operatives were arrested, terrorist material was confiscated and the attacks were not carried out, said another State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher.

The U.S. has asked a number of countries to expel suspected Iraqi intelligence officers, based on "the significant threat posed by their presence," Boucher said.

With Thomas M. DeFrank

Originally published on March 29, 2003

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