Al Qaeda plotted 9/11 anniversary rail attack: U.S.

WASHINGTON Fri May 6, 2011 12:45pm EDT

A passenger train is seen in Holdrege, Nebraska June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

A passenger train is seen in Holdrege, Nebraska June 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Al Qaeda considered attacking the U.S. rail sector on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, U.S. government officials said on Thursday in describing intelligence from Osama bin Laden's hide-out in Pakistan.

They said some evidence was found indicating the al Qaeda leader or his associates had engaged in discussions or planning for a possible attack on a train inside the United States on September 11, 2011.

"We have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the U.S. rail sector, but wanted to make our partners aware of the alleged plotting," spokesman Matthew Chandler said of an intelligence message the Department of Homeland Security sent on Thursday.

The department and other U.S. agencies have been reviewing the treasure trove of information from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan seized by the United States during the raid this week that killed the al Qaeda leader.

An initial review of the information by U.S. intelligence analysts indicates that bin Laden, while in Abbottabad, played a direct role for years in plotting terror attacks, and was not just an inspirational figure to al Qaeda, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

"He wasn't just a figurehead," the Times quoted a U.S. official as saying. "He continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets, and to communicate those ideas to other senior Qaeda leaders."

The information on plotting against the U.S. rail sector indicated one possible tactic for attacking a train was trying to tip it somehow off its tracks, one official said.

The official said it appeared from the information that this was an idea that bin Laden or his associates considered, but there was no indication now from the intelligence that further plans were drawn up for the scheme or that steps were taken to carry it out.

Another official said al Qaeda in February last year contemplated the rail attack to occur on the 10th anniversary of the hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, but the group was not tied to that exact date.

Since the raid, the Department of Homeland Security has taken a number of steps in reviewing measures at all potential terrorist targets, including transportation systems across the country. It added more officers at airports and at the borders.

Chandler said the alleged al Qaeda plot was based on "initial reporting, which is often misleading or inaccurate and subject to change."

He added, "We remain at a heightened state of vigilance," but said there were no plans to raise the national threat level.

Officials have long been concerned that al Qaeda might try to carry out attacks on the U.S. rail system.

In 2008, U.S. authorities warned of a possible al Qaeda threat to transit systems in and around New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Last year, an Afghan immigrant pleaded guilty in New York to plotting a suicide bombing campaign on Manhattan's subway system in what U.S. authorities described as one of the most serious threats since the September 11 attacks.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Vicki Allen)

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Comments (18)
axiom321 wrote:
I don’t like Obama and personally I think he lacks leadership to decide about anything but whoever decided to get rid off Osama’s body was correct. The last thing you want is to have a Trophy for radical Islamists to target. Imagine terrorists kidnaping Americans and asking for Osama’s body as ranson.

May 05, 2011 10:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KimoLee wrote:
I’m sure they are always trying to come up with new plans, especially on major holidays and the anniversary, but so what? It isn’t like America is not plotting against them. I am SOOOOOOO completely over 9/11 Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, fear mongering, etc. It has ben TEN YEARS. Can we please move on and stop throwing good money at bad wars. It is time for Americas leaders to focus on rebuilding AMERICAN infrastructure that is decaying. We need high speed rail that is accessible. I know a lot of Americans that would love to reduce oil consumption and traffic congestion. We also need good schools to remain competitive internationally. Got to get cracking NOW as time is fast fading to prevent America from becoming a third world country only suitable for the rich.

May 05, 2011 10:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
fmills wrote:
Bin Laden was a secretive person who kept telephone numbers and 500 euros stitched into his clothes. It is only reasonable to suspect that he keep secret hiding places for his sensitive and revealing documents in the event that America might drop in. In the minutes they were there it is doubtful the Seals would have uncovered such hidden spots. The compound was built especially for him from the ground up. thinking about it it only seems reasonable that he would have designed in something hidden and private and hard to find. That, not on the computers and drives lying around in open view, is where the real intelligence information must be. Don’t you think?

May 05, 2011 10:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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