Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2002
Attack warning on U.S. shopping centres
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI quietly warned its agents across the United States of unconfirmed information from a captured senior al-Qaida official that terrorists may be planning attacks against supermarkets or shopping centres, law-enforcement officials said Wednesday.
The warning, sent Tuesday to all FBI field offices and relayed to some state and local police, cautioned that the information was unsubstantiated and did not include specific information about possible targets, timing, numbers of people involved or any particular method of attack.
The warning said that al-Qaida operatives inside the United States may be planning attacks against civilian targets, possibly including banks, shopping centres, supermarkets and shops, law-enforcement official said.
The information that prompted the new warning was considered less reliable than last week's about possible attacks on banks in the northeastern United States.
"We're trying to downplay this," said one law-enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The latest alert, like last week's, did not change the nation's threat status, which remained at "yellow," using the new system of colour codes. Yellow represents the midrange. To qualify for the next-highest orange alert, a threat must include a specific time and date and be corroborated and credible.
Unlike last week, the latest warning was issued only to FBI field offices, which quietly relayed the information to local joint-terrorism task forces typically made up of state and local police agencies.
"There is no official alert," a law-enforcement official said.
Last week, authorities cautioned that they similarly had no information about a specific plot or threats to any specific financial institution. But the FBI warned publicly about possible "physical attacks," based in part on information from Abu Zubaydah, the highest-ranking al-Qaida terrorist leader in U.S. custody, two officials said. It was unclear if he was telling the truth, and officials said he could be lying in an effort to create a panic.
Abu Zubaydah is alleged to have been one of Osama bin Laden's top planners of terrorist operations, with knowledge of al-Qaida plots and operational cells. He was captured in Pakistan on March 28 and is recovering from three gunshot wounds he received in the raid.
There have been no reports of any bank closings in response to last week's alert, which remains in effect.
I have always believed Arab terrorists would not use suicide bombers in North America like they do in Israel because then we North Americans would quickly develop enough empathy with Israel that would probably result in increased Israeli support. If Americans lived in fear of dying everytime they visit a coffee shop, shopping mall, bank, or get on a bus, they would demand their government do something about it like the reaction in Afganistan. Arafat probably realizes this, or has he gotten so desperate that he doesn't care anymore?