Intelligence suggests al-Qaida planning attack on NYC transit

November 27, 2008|By Greg Miller | Greg Miller,Tribune Washington Bureau

Washington - Federal authorities warned yesterday that recent intelligence indicates al-Qaida may be plotting a terrorist attack on the subway or other transit systems in New York City during the holidays.

U.S. officials stressed that the intelligence, gathered by the FBI, had not been corroborated, and said there was no indication that the suspected plot had progressed beyond preliminary discussion among operatives linked to al-Qaida.

The warning comes at a time when New York subways and other public transportation systems are jammed with holiday travelers - a scenario that counterterrorism officials have long considered an attractive target for al-Qaida.

A classified intelligence bulletin describing the potential plot was issued Tuesday by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and disseminated among state and local law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials.

The bulletin said that the FBI had "received a plausible but unsubstantiated report indicating that al-Qaida terrorists in late September may have discussed targeting transit systems in and around New York City," according to a senior U.S. counterterrorism official.

The bulletin went on to say discussions "reportedly involved the use of suicide bombers or explosives placed on subway/passenger rail systems."

U.S. officials declined to elaborate on the source of the intelligence, except to say that it was collected by the FBI, which focuses most of its intelligence gathering efforts inside the United States but also has a significant presence overseas.

Justice Department and U.S. counterterrorism officials said that no arrests had been made in connection with the plot and that there was no indication that any of its potential participants had entered the United States.

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