Skip to comments.U.S., British Warn Expatriates of Threats
Posted on 12/24/2003 8:18:44 AM PST by TexKat
ANKARA, Turkey - New evidence emerged that terrorists may be planning attacks at Western targets in Turkey during the holidays, according to a police document, while Americans living abroad were warned to keep a low profile.
The threats Tuesday of new attacks followed Sunday's decision by the Bush administration to raise the terror alert level to orange on new fears that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror group could stage a major attack soon at home or abroad.
Based partly on information from British and Israeli intelligence, the Bush administration suspects terrorists are eyeing Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Bahrain, Yemen and the United States for attacks during the holiday season.
In another terrorist plot timed for Christmas Eve, Spanish police on Wednesday arrested two suspected Basque separatists accused of planting a 55-pound bomb on a busy train. The bomb was timed to detonate at about 4 p.m. in Madrid's packed Chamartin station.
One suspect also was carrying a second 55-pound bomb in a suitcase when he was arrested, Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said.
Britain's top police officer warned people to be vigilant during the holiday season. In Yemen, security around embassies was noticeably tighter.
The most chilling warning came in Turkey, where an internal police intelligence document obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday cautioned that militants were infiltrating the country to complete preparations for new attacks that could target Western interests or Istanbul's popular Akmerkez shopping mall.
Militants believed to be linked to al-Qaida bombed two Istanbul synagogues in mid-November and later struck the British consulate and the local branch of a London-based bank. Those attacks killed 62 people, including the suicide bombers.
"It is being detected that the preparations for a large-scale third wave of attacks to follow up the suicide bombings has been completed," said the document signed by two senior police officials, including the head of the Istanbul security department.
"Some of those who will carry out the attacks entered Turkey from Syria, and the others were preparing to enter."
Westerners were keeping a low profile Wednesday in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
"Everybody is aware that there is a terrorist threat and Christmas time would be a more active period for the terrorists to do something," said Richard May, manager of the Seder Village compound in Riyadh, which has been named by the American and British embassies as a possible target.
"Nobody is panicking, but it would be foolish to say that people don't have concerns. There are concerns and everybody is being extremely cautious and vigilant."
In the past 13 months, al-Qaida-linked groups have staged major terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Turkey. Yemen was the site of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.
In Washington, U.S. officials speaking Tuesday on condition of anonymity were reluctant to disclose detailed intelligence information, but said other countries may be targeted.
In Bahrain, the U.S. Embassy in Manama warned that it had received information about a possible terrorist attack during the holidays and cautioned Americans to avoid places where Westerners gather and to reduce unnecessary travel.
The Persian Gulf country is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. More than 5,000 Americans live there.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the embassy issued the warning based on "information that deals with possible threats specific to Bahrain."
Iran boosted security at the Swiss, British and Turkish embassies in Tehran as "precautionary measures," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Wednesday.
London's top police officer Sir John Stevens cautioned Britons to be vigilant but said he had no specific information about attacks.
Last month, Britain's security services were placed on a higher level of alert because of intelligence suggesting al-Qaida might be planning a new attack. Stevens said he had received no warnings similar to one by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that terrorists were planning attacks that could rival or eclipse in scale those of Sept. 11.
"Six weeks ago the necessary actions were taken, we have raised our level," Stevens said Tuesday. "There is an immense amount of activity going on even as I speak in terms of ensuring that people's security is there and more of that will go on over Christmas and the New Year."
In the United States, the Pentagon said Tuesday it is broadening air patrols throughout the country. U.S. officials say there also seems to be interest in targeting holiday events that draw large crowds.
I know that "foreign correspondents" need to meet weekly line quotas and to justify their existence overseas, but can't we get some variation on this theme once in a while?
It is a pain in the neck for overseas workers to repeatedly have to debunk these hysterical and inaccurate stories to their friends and families.
-- signed angkor,
former & future expat
Actually, the bomb was already on the train, which was headed from Irun (Pais Vasco) to Madrid. They stopped the train in Burgos and deactivated the bomb, as well as arresting the person carrying it. It was 55 kilos, btw, which translates to over 100 pounds.
Charmartin is like Penn Station - all sorts of railway and bus lines converge there, not to mention the Metro. It would have been horrible carnage.
I was there last week, and there were rumors that ETA was planning a sort of "holiday special." Glad they got them!
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