Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Iraqi PM claims IS plans attacks in US and Paris

Reuters, NEW YORK

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

Photo: Reuters

Iraq has “credible” intelligence that Islamic State (IS) extremists plan to attack subway systems in Paris and the US, the prime minister said on Thursday, but US and French officials said they had no evidence to back up his claims.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s comments were met with surprise by security, intelligence and transit officials in both countries. New York’s leaders scrambled to ride the subway to reassure the public that the nation’s largest city was safe.

Al-Abadi said he received the information on Thursday morning from suspected extremists captured in Iraq and concluded that it was credible after requesting further details. The attacks were plotted from inside Iraq by “networks” of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, he said.

“They plan to have attacks in the metros of Paris and the US,” al-Abadi told a small group of US reporters while in New York City for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. “I asked for more credible information. I asked for names. I asked for details, for cities, you know, dates. And from the details I have received, yes, it looks credible.”

Some Iraqi officials in Baghdad questioned al-Abadi’s comments. One high-level Iraqi government official told reporters it appeared to be based on “ancient intelligence.” Another called it “an old story.” Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

Al-Abadi did not provide further details. A senior Iraqi official traveling with him later said Iraqi intelligence had uncovered “serious threats” and had shared this information with its allies’ intelligence agencies.

“A full assessment of the veracity of the intelligence and how far the plans have gone into implementation is ongoing,” the official said.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to US President Barack Obama, said that the US had “not confirmed any specific threat.”

“What we’ve consistently said to the Iraqis is if they have information that is relevant to terrorist activity or terrorist plotting, that they can and should share that through our intelligence and law enforcement channels,” Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama from New York.

“We would certainly take seriously any information they are learning,” he said.

French security services also said they had no information confirming al-Abadi’s statement, a French government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local officials suggested they were unfazed, updating their public schedules on Thursday to add trips on the city’s subway system to reassure millions of daily commuters.

“We are convinced [that] New Yorkers are safe,” De Blasio said at a press conference at a Manhattan subway station as he stood alongside New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and FBI assistant director George Venizelos.

Joseph Sheehan, 44, from the city’s Queens borough, learned about the threats from the Web. “They were checking bags earlier at the Port Authority. Seems like they do that at times of heightened alerts,” he said.

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