US probes 9/11 anniversary terror threat

2011-09-09 06:59

New York – US officials have warned of the threat of a terror strike on the US reportedly involving bomb-laden vehicles as
Americans braced to mourn those killed 10 years ago in the 9/11 attacks.

“There is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information,” the department of homeland security said, as the White House confirmed President Barack Obama had ordered more counterterrorism efforts.

“We have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise,” the department added in a statement just days before Sunday’s poignant remembrance ceremonies.

US media said three people were reported to have entered the country in August and were allegedly seeking to carry out an attack using vehicles – either trucks or cars – laden with explosives.

A US counterterrorism official told the Wall Street Journal that al-Qaeda militants from Pakistan might be preparing for a string of car-bombings in Washington and New York.

Al-Qaeda has “been knocked back on their heels, but they will try to attack the US any way they can”, the official added.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a press briefing with the city’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly, yesterday.

One of the three suspects was believed to be a US citizen, ABC television said, quoting a senior administration official, and adding the three were thought to have started their journey from Afghanistan and flown into the US.

Two rental trucks, which had been sought in connection with the threat after they were reported missing in Kansas City,
Missouri, were found and were not believed to be linked to any plot, the New York Times said.

Although the country has already tightened security ahead of Sunday’s anniversary, Obama had “directed the counterterrorism community to redouble its efforts in response to this credible but unconfirmed information”, said a White House official.

New York Congressman Peter King, who heads the House Committee on Homeland Security, would not confirm any details after legislators were briefed about the situation.

But he told CNN “there were very, very specific facts that were made known in this threat”.

“I can tell you that the administration, all levels of law enforcement, federal, state and local, where it’s appropriate, are checking out every possible lead, running this to ground, and we’ve come a long way since September 11.”

The FBI refused to comment to AFP about the threat.

It comes as the US prepares to mark the anniversary of the devastating September 11 2001 attacks in which almost 3 000 people were killed.

Two hijacked planes hit New York’s World Trade Center, collapsing the iconic twin towers, a third plane crashed into the
Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a Pennsylvania field when passengers overcame the hijackers.

US navy commandos tracked down and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May this year.

During the raid, documents and computer files were seized at the compound showing his terror network had pondered strikes to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary.

“We continue to ask the American people to remain vigilant as we head into the weekend,” said the department of homeland security.

The announcement came after the Pentagon on Wednesday raised the alert level at bases across the US as “a prudent and precautionary measure”, given al-Qaeda’s interest in milestones and anniversaries.

Sunday’s biggest event will be the reading of victims’ names at Ground Zero, which will be attended by victims’ family members, as well as Obama, former president George W Bush and Mayor Bloomberg.

Although there have been no attacks on the scale of 9/11 in the US in the 10 years since, the nation has been on heightened alert amid a series of foiled and failed attacks.

Security is a top concern for organisers of the ceremonies, with large crowds expected to gather as the country reflects on a decade of war abroad and fear of further attacks at home.

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