Terrorism warning prompts call for tighter security in N.Y.

Report of al-Qaida plot to target corporations, large public institutions


NEW YORK - The New York Police Department, responding to new information that terrorists may be planning to attack corporations or large public institutions in the city, advised building managers and corporate security personnel yesterday to step up their procedures to guard against vehicles rigged with explosives and against chemical agents placed in ventilation systems.

The warning followed meetings Friday and yesterday between Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Pasquale J. Damuro, the assistant director in charge of the New York field office of the FBI, according to Kelly's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne.

Browne said the meetings were held to discuss the latest reports of a terrorist threat against the city, but declined to comment on the source of the new information. "The information is considered credible," said another law enforcement official, who insisted on anonymity. The official said the police and federal terrorism authorities, who have received similar threats before, were unusually concerned " a little jacked up" about the new information.

Tom Ridge, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was scheduled to be in New York City today, and the law enforcement official said he expected Ridge to comment on the new information this afternoon.

But federal officials have been tight-lipped about the purpose of Ridge's trip, and would not say whether it was connected to any heightened terror concerns.

The new information was first reported last night by ABC News, which said it had learned from several law-enforcement agencies that an overseas source, which the network did not name, had provided information about suicide attacks being planned by al-Qaida in the city. The ABC report said intelligence sources had described a plan by al-Qaida to move non-Arab terrorists across the Mexican border into the United States.

Saturday's warnings appeared to be linked to the arrest on July 19 in Texas of Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed after she entered the United States from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande and crawling through the brush.

According to several news accounts, she had an altered passport, several thousand dollars in cash and an airline ticket to New York. CNN reported that she was charged with illegal entry, making false statements and falsifying a passport. She had admitted to no criminal intent.

Another federal law enforcement official said the woman was believed to have been on a terrorist watch list. He said she might have been sent as "a courier" to pass along either a message or documentation to someone in the United States.

A law enforcement official in New York said, "the concern was that she may be part of a team" planning attacks in the city.

The Police Department warnings, which were distributed in a news release to reporters yesterday, said, "Intelligence reporting indicates that al-Qaida continues to target for attack commercial and financial institutions, as well as international organizations, inside the United States."

Although the release did not say that new information indicated the city was more vulnerable than others across the United States, a law enforcement official, who insisted on anonymity, said last night that "it would be right to assume that there is particular concern" about large buildings and institutions in Manhattan. He said the United Nations was considered a potential target, as were large banks, financial institutions and company headquarters.

Another law enforcement official in New York said many companies and institutions had already been contacted, and that they were warned to pay particular attention to their parking garages and heating, ventilation air conditioning systems.

"We've notified security directors to secure HVAC systems, and parking garages in particular, because of concerns about a vehicle bomb," he said.

The warnings issued yesterday were far from the first concerning the use of cars, trucks or other vehicles for bombings. Recent intelligence reports have hinted that such an attack might be planned during the Republican National Convention in Manhattan, but it was unclear whether the new information suggested any timetable.

In its statement, the police department reiterated many of its previous recommendations to corporate and building security officials. It said the alert level city had not changed it remains at "orange," the second most severe level as it has through the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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