U.S. is skeptical about terror threat against NFL stadiums

October 19, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Seven NFL stadiums have been named as terrorist targets this weekend, but the threat, posted on a Web site, is being treated "with strong skepticism" by the federal government.

"The department strongly encourages the public to continue to go about their plans, including attending events that involve large public gatherings such as football games," said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Knocke added: "It is our very serious responsibility to share information we have, particularly when it is specific information."

The department wanted to ensure that those in the position to handle stadium security had the same information the department had and could act accordingly, Knocke said, even if Homeland Security did not view the threat as credible.

According to an Oct. 12 posting that was part of an online conversation titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid," stadiums in Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, Seattle, East Rutherford, N.J., and Oakland, Calif., could be targets of radiological dirty bombs.

"We've got a lot of confidence in NFL security and our own security here," said Amy Trask, chief executive officer of the Oakland Raiders. "We work closely with a number of governmental agencies, including the FBI, and with the NFL on an ongoing basis."

The nation's alert level remains at yellow, meaning there is an elevated risk of a terrorist attack

The threat on NFL stadiums was timed to be carried out on the final day of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

According to a copy of the posting obtained by the Associated Press, the bombs would go off nearly simultaneously, the death toll could approach 100,000 and, because most of the stadiums are open-air venues, "the radiological fallout will destroy those not killed in the initial explosion."

The bombs, according to the posting, would be delivered in trucks and Osama bin Laden would issue a video message to claim responsibility by al-Qaida and call the event "America's Hiroshima."

The posting appeared on a Web site called "The Friend Society," traced to an Internet provider in Troy, N.Y. An unidentified man who answered the phone at Voxel Dot Net said he was unaware of the threat posted on the Web site and refused to comment.

The author of the threat identified himself online as "javness."

"In the aftermath, civil wars will erupt across the world, both in the Middle East and within the United States," javness wrote. "Global economies will screech to a halt. General chaos will rule."

The description of the threat from the Open Source Center, a component of U.S. intelligence chief John D. Negroponte's office, noted that the content of the English language Web site "is sometimes crude and contains none of the hallmarks of jihadist websites."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league's stadiums "are very well protected through the comprehensive security procedures we have in place, including secure facility perimeters, pat-downs and bag searches."

Tony Wyllie, vice president of communications for the Houston Texans, said the team has spoken with league officials about security precautions for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bob Moore, a spokesman for the Kansas City Chiefs, said since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks five years ago, precautions are "in effect everywhere, every week, even though most fans don't notice them."

Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said Homeland Security has recommended that officials of all 32 NFL teams avoid publicly discussing what security procedures are in place and what would occur should the alert be heightened.

Byrne did say: "We take great precautions to make sure our fans can come safely to our games and enjoy the event. We take every alert seriously, and we will continue to do so."

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, whose team hosts the Washington Redskins Sunday at the RCA Dome, said he was not surprised at the latest threat.

"I've been waiting for this to happen for a couple of years now, and you try and handle the security and put it out of your mind," he said.

Dungy's counterpart with the Redskins, Joe Gibbs, said after practice yesterday at Redskins Park that dealing with terrorist threats "is the world we live in." Gibbs added: "I think all of us today realize that we go to work every day ... this is part of life. For me, it's not a concern. People are doing the best they can to protect all of us. It's a shame, but that's the way it is."

don.markus@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Siobhan Gorman and Edward Lee and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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