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‘Spectacular’ alert in US

Washington, Nov. 15 (Reuters): Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network may be plotting “spectacular” attacks inside the US, with national landmarks or the aviation, oil and nuclear industries as possible targets, the FBI warned even as the nation’s threat level remained unchanged.

With the threat level at yellow or “elevated,” meaning a significant risk of terror attacks, the FBI said in an information bulletin dated November 14 that the Muslim extremist network may seek to inflict massive casualties, psychological trauma and severe damage to the US economy. The bulletin cited the November 12 release of an audiotaped message supposedly by bin Laden. The voice on the tape praised recent attacks against Western interests around the world and threatens further attacks against the US and its allies if the United States takes military steps against Iraq.

The FBI said the audio tape foreshadows potential al Qaida attacks. Bin Laden and al Qaida have been blamed by Washington for the hijacked aircraft attacks on September 11, 2001, which killed about 3,000 people. “In selecting its next targets, sources suggest al Qaida may favour spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: high symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the US economy and maximum psychological trauma,” the FBI said.

“The highest priority targets remain within the aviation, petroleum, and nuclear sectors as well as significant national landmarks,” it said.

“Sources also suggest that small-scale terrorist operations against softer targets would be easier for sleeper cells already in the US to carry out and would minimise the need to communicate with central leadership, lowering the risks of detection,” the FBI said.

“Thus, al Qaida’s next attack may rely on conventional explosives and low-technology platforms such as truck bombs, commercial or private aircraft, small watercraft or explosives easily concealed and planted by terrorist operatives,” it said.

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