| Cars stream into the New York entrance of the Holland Tunnel on Friday. (AP)
New York, July 7 (Reuters): US authorities thwarted a plot to attack New York’s mass transit system later this year, leading to the arrest of a plotter who confessed in Lebanon, US and Lebanese officials said today.
The plot was first reported by New York’s Daily News, which said it targeted the car-carrying Holland Tunnel with a bomb. A federal law enforcement official later said it involved a rail tunnel linking New York and New Jersey.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said a “terrorist network” was disrupted. An FBI official said the foiled plot would have involved a suicide bombing on a subway tunnel.
Lebanese sources previously had confirmed the arrest of Asem Hammoud, also identified as Amir al-Andalousi, “who is a suspect in a plot to bomb a tunnel in New York”, a Lebanese government source in Beirut said.
Lebanon’s interior ministry said the plan targeted tunnels under the Hudson river, which separates Manhattan from New Jersey.
“After questioning he confessed ... that he was planning to travel to Pakistan for four months training and that the date for the attack was decided to be late in 2006,” the ministry said in a statement. The plot was “a big terrorist operation against metro tunnels in New York city under the Hudson river,” the statement said.
There are several tunnels connecting Manhattan and New Jersey under the Hudson River ' the Lincoln and Holland tunnels for cars and buses as well as tunnels for subways from New Jersey and commuter and regional trains.
The Daily News said the intent was to flood the Wall Street financial district, but experts said a blast inside would not have flooded Lower Manhattan. Wall Street is some 3 km from the tunnel, which is dug under bedrock and reinforced with concrete and steel.
The months-old plot was uncovered by monitoring Internet chat rooms, the Daily News reported, and the report was published on the first anniversary of the London suicide bombings.
It was the second recent domestic threat authorities have said they broke up in the early stages, following the arrest of seven people last month on suspicion of a plan to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The statement also suggested the network was linked to the al Qaida, and the Daily News reported it was linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaida leader in Iraq recently killed by US forces.