Mon, May 20, 2002 - Page 1 News List

US sees threat of new terror attack

REUTERS , WASHINGTON

US intelligence officials have detected "enhanced activity" that points to a potential new attack against the US or American interests abroad, a White House official said on Saturday.

The FBI also warned of a possible plot by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network to detonate bombs in apartment buildings in the US.

The comments came as The New York Times reported that US intelligence agencies had intercepted a series of messages among al-Qaeda operatives indicating the group is attempting to launch an attack as big as or bigger than the one on Sept. 11.

Quoting unidentified intelligence and law enforcement officials, the Times characterized the communications as vague but disturbing. The intercepted messages are so general that they have left US President George W. Bush and US counterterrorism officials uncertain about the timing, location or method of this potential attack, the Times reported.

The White House official, who asked not to be named, said, "There has been information of concern, enhanced activity of concern" detected in recent weeks and months.

"We are always concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack. The president and senior administration officials ... have told the country that there always exists the possibility of a terrorist attack against the country, and the country's interests. We as American citizens want to be vigilant, but also live our lives," the official added.

Vice President Dick Cheney said on Thursday that "without a doubt a very real threat of another, perhaps more devastating, attack still exists."

Separately, the FBI received information that al-Qaeda operatives were "considering renting apartments in unspecified areas of the United States and then planting explosives," said spokeswoman Debbie Weierman.

The information was "nonspecific" and "uncorroborated," she said.

Officials cited by the Times said the intercepted messages represent some of the most credible intelligence gathered on al-Qaeda's plans since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington involving hijacked commercial airliners.

One official said the volume of intelligence relating to a potential future attack -- in Europe, the Arabian Peninsula or the US -- increased in the past month.

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