Tourists' terrorist warningBy S.A. MILLER in Washington, DC, and CHUCK BENNETT in NY
New York Post
October 4, 2010
The State Department yesterday issued a rare travel alert about a possible al Qaeda plot to attack European tourist haunts -- prompted by new Osama bin Laden recordings that may contain coded killing instructions, officials said.
"There's always a concern that there is a message in there," said Rep. Peter King (R-LI), a ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Intelligence analysts are now poring over the bin Laden missives released Friday and Saturday -- in which he talked about global warming and Pakistani flood victims -- for clues, King said.
"Current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks," the State Department said in its warning.
US intelligence sources told The Post that the new information suggests that terrorists may try to launch commando-style "swarm attacks" on hotels, airports and other crowded destinations in England and France, most likely London and Paris.
"These are places where someone can walk in with a machine gun or throw a grenade and kill a lot of people," one source said.
The attacks would be modeled after those in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, in which 10 jihadists left 175 people dead and more than 300 wounded.
Intelligence officials believe that eight Germans and two British brothers hiding in North Waziristan, a lawless part of Pakistan, have contacted operatives in Europe.
The men are among the dozens of Muslim militants with European passports believed to be training in Pakistan, including 20 British citizens and 70 Germans.
Throughout September, the CIA significantly stepped up its use of drones to strike at suspected terrorists hiding in Pakistan.
"European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions," according to yesterday's State Department alert, which is a step below an official "warning."
The alert noted "the potential for terrorists to attack public-transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure" and urged Americans to "take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings."
Britain's Foreign Office upgraded its travel advisory for France and Germany to reflect a high terrorism threat level, but those two countries did not change their own risk assessments.
Intelligence agencies first learned of the plot in July when agents captured a German named Ahmed Sidiqi, 36, in Afghanistan, authorities said.
The news gave Europe-bound travelers the jitters at JFK yesterday.
Robin Kaplan, 47, who was seeing her husband, Jerold, 48, off on a business trip to Frankfurt, said, "I'm very concerned. I won't feel secure until he's off the plane and he calls me. I want him to stay away from public places -- malls and hotels -- because that's where they're targeting."