Justice, FBI Officials Seek Help to Stop Terror Attack
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 26, 2004 Two of the nation's top law enforcement officials today asked for help from state and local police and the public to stop a potential terror attack on the United States expected this summer or fall.
Credible intelligence, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told reporters at FBI headquarters here, "indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months." FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III accompanied Ashcroft at the news conference.
The terrorists, Ashcroft said, intend "to hit the United States hard."
Al Qaeda has publicly telegraphed its plans to strike America again soon, Ashcroft pointed out. After the March 11 commuter train bombings in Madrid, Spain, Ashcroft noted, an al Qaeda spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for another attack in the United States were complete.
The Madrid terror bombings killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 1,500. Newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero responded by vowing to pull out the 1,300 Spanish soldiers assisting U.S. and coalition efforts in Iraq. Those troops recently left Iraq.
"The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to have advanced their cause," Ashcroft explained. And, he noted, "al Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences."
In coming months, the terrorists may elect to strike at the G-8 summit conference in Georgia, Ashcroft pointed out, or the Democratic and Republican conventions held in Boston and New York City, respectively.
Ashcroft said federal law enforcement authorities "are seeking help from the American people" to be watchful for suspicious people and activities. He pointed to photographs of seven wanted individuals associated with al Qaeda who are capable of conducting terror attacks in the U.S.
"They all are sought in connection with possible terrorist threats in the United States" and "pose a clear and present danger to America," the attorney general emphasized.
The suspected terrorists speak English and should be considered armed and dangerous, Ashcroft said. Among them, he noted, Adnan Shukrijumah had once lived in the United States "for years." Aafic Siddiqui, he added, is a woman who studied in the Boston area.
Recent intelligence, Ashcroft said, shows al Qaeda is seeking recruits who look like Europeans.
Citizens who witness suspicious activity, Ashcroft said, should report it to their local police or sheriff's departments or the FBI.
To confront this danger, Ashcroft said the FBI has created a 2004 threat task force "to focus on this developing threat over this summer and fall period." The task force, he added, will coordinate gathered intelligence, analysis and field operations.
"We seek unprecedented levels of cooperation with state and local law enforcement in collecting intelligence to enable America's entire terror- fighting apparatus to act decisively to disrupt any al Qaeda presence in the United States," Ashcroft said. Federal authorities, he pointed out, would share information with state and local law enforcement.
Mueller noted that terrorists also could target Fourth of July celebrations, as well as the November presidential election.
Ashcroft and Mueller both noted that U.S. officials don't have information pointing to a specific place or time of attack on the United States. However, "in light of the March terrorist bombings in Madrid, we must be prepared for any plans to launch attacks in the next several months," Mueller emphasized.