Guardian | FBI: terror attacks in days
FBI: terror attacks in days
US on high alert against 'very real evidence' of strikes
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday October 12, 2001
A warning of a "very real" threat of more terrorist attacks against the US "over the next several days" was given by the FBI last night in a terse bulletin which put police across the country on high alert and called on Americans to be vigilant, exactly one month after the September 11 suicide hijackings shattered the country's sense of security.
The warning did not specify the targets under threat or whether they were in the United States or American interests abroad.
But investigators said the evidence was "very real" and that the threat came from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation, blamed by Washington for the September 11 attacks, in which about 5,400 people died.
The US has been braced for a new assault for the past month, and there have been six previous alerts of various kinds issued to law enforcement agencies, but yesterday's bulletin was the starkest warning to date and the first to be issued directly to the public.
The FBI bulletin, which called on Americans to report any suspicious or unusual activity, seemed likely to strain the nation's already frayed nerves.
Since last month's terrorist massacre, three people in Florida have been found to have been exposed to the anthrax bacteria, prompting fears of a deliberate biological attack. A criminal investigation has been launched.
Mindy Tucker, the justice department spokeswoman, said new intelligence had been received within the past few days pointing towards fresh attacks but would not provide any details about the information nor where it came from. She said it was credible enough, however, to warrant a public warning.
"We realise the importance of the public accurately understanding the kinds of alerts we are sending out to law enforcement," Ms Tucker said.
Last Tuesday, FBI and CIA officials warned a congressional intelligence committee that there was a "100% chance" of more terrorist incidents once military operations began in Afghanistan. Bombing has been under way for five days and, according to the Taliban militia, more than 200 people have been killed.
Intelligence officials believe that the anticipated assaults were planned before the September 11 attacks and timed to take place after expected US retaliation, to reinforce the impression that al-Qaida could strike back at will. US intelligence believes there are several al-Qaida cells still at large in the US.
US intelligence officials said yesterday that there was no sign what form the next attack would take. It could be against an American city or an US embassy abroad. It could come in a truck loaded with explosives, a small crop duster plane used to spread biological or chemical weapons or another hijacked airliner.
Nato aerial surveillance planes (Awacs) are expected to begin patrolling US skies today to help defend America from air attack while US forces and military equipment are focused on Afghanistan. Five Awacs planes were reported to have been deployed from their usual bases in Germany and Waddington in Britain.
The planes, which can spot aircraft coming from over the horizon, were provided by Nato under the section of the North Atlantic Charter which says an attack on one alliance member is considered an attack on all.
It was invoked for the first time in Nato history by the alliance's secretary general, Lord Robertson.
The aerial patrols, codenamed Operation Noble Eagle, will mark the first time foreign troops have been deployed to defend US soil. The moment has been made all the more symbolic by the fact that a quarter of the 200 troops operating the planes will be German.
Yesterday's FBI warning appeared on the bureau's website, www.fbi.gov. "Certain information, while not specific as to target, gives the government reason to believe that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against US interests overseas over the next several days," the alert said.
A Home Office spokeswoman said there had been no specific threat to the UK as of last night, but she added: "We are on increased security and remaining vigilant".
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We are not changing our line on things at all. There has been no specific threat to London."
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