Friday 15 December 2017

9/11: Clinton says al-Qaeda behind new US threat

Osama bin Laden pictured with Ayman al- Zawahiri. Photo: Reuters
An airliner explodes in a fireball as it hits the south tower of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Photo: Getty Images

Jon Swaine and reporters

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that al-Qaeda is behind a specific and credible threat to harm US citizens with New York and Washington as main targets.

"We are meeting here in New York ... with the news last night of a specific, credible but unconfirmed report that al Qaeda again is seeking to harm Americans and in particular to target New York and Washington," she she said.

The new al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who pledged to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this year, is being linked to the new terror threat to the USA on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

ABC reported today that al-Zawahire is believed to be behind a truck bomb plot the FBI has received intelligence on.

New York FBI chief Janice Fedarcyk said: "al-Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries. In this instance it is accurate that there is credible, specific but unconfirmed information."

It is believed that the three men – one of whom is a US citizen- flew into the country last month with intent to carry out a terrorist offence.

Security is to be heightened in New York City and Washington, DC, after US intelligence officials discovered the potential plot.

A "specific, credible but unconfirmed" threat has been discovered, according to a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security. "We have taken, and will continue to take all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise," it said.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the information and requested that counterterrorism officials step up their response to the suspected threat, according to White House spokesmen.

It is understood that three people who recently entered the country, one of them a US citizen, are urgently being investigated by security officials over a potential plot to detonate vehicle bombs, possibly on bridges or tunnels.

Early reports indicated that attention was being focused on two missing rental trucks in Kansas City, Missouri, but these were later said to have been discovered and ruled out as a threat.

Notes sezied in the US raid on the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda leader, in May, indicated that the terrorist network had discussed the possibility of attacks to coincide with Sunday's anniversary. A strike against American trains was suggested.

Details of the alleged new threat - which officials stressed had not been corroborated - are thought to have emerged from "chatter" in recent days between suspects under surveillance by US law enforcement and intelligence.

Reports indicated the suggestion of a threat may have come from the Pakistani border regions, where known al-Qaeda and Talbian operatives are based. Last year's failed bombing of Times Square, by Faizal Shahzad, was linked to Pakistani Taliban

In a late-night press conference, Raymond Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said vehicle checkpoints would be set up around the city, and that police would place "increased focus" on the city's bridges and tunnels. More random bag checks would take place on public transport, he said.

"There will be increased towing of illegal cars and increased bomb sweeps of parking garages," he added.

Alongside Mr Kelly, Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, said: “The best thing we can do to fight terror is to not let it intimidate us." He said he would be taking a Subway train to work. “I can tell you our ceremonies will go on over the weekend exactly as they were planned."

The suspected threat came as America prepared to mark the anniversary of 9/11 with a series of events commemorating the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

The largest event will be the reading of victims' names at Ground Zero in Manhattan. It will be attended by many victims' family members, Mr Obama, former president George W. Bush, and Mr Bloomberg.

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

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