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Al Qaeda Plots 9/11 Style Attack in Britain By: Fox News
Fox News | Monday, August 25, 2003


Numerous reports indicate that America's staunchest ally is a possible target for a major, 9/11-style attack by Al Qaeda.

Sunday's London Telegraph reported that the FBI had uncovered intelligence suggesting Al Qaeda is plotting to hijack an airplane in Britain and fly it into an important building in the next two months.

Airlines operating in Britain — including British Airways and other leading carriers — have been put on alert about the potential terrorist scheme, according to the Telegraph. Planes leaving from London's two main airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, are the most likely targets, the newspaper reported.

Former CIA Intelligence Officer Peter Brookes, now with the Heritage Foundation, said Al Qaeda wants to generate terror on a more global scale.

"They like big attacks, no doubt about it," Brookes told Fox News. "We saw 9/11. They've gone after tankers. It has a psychological effect, terrorizing people. We shouldn't be surprised."

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI passed on the warning about the threat to British and American airlines July 30, according to the Telegraph.

The warning said five-person teams of terrorists would probably attempt to hijack aircraft with weapons concealed in typical travelers' belongings like cameras, the paper reported.

"Recent reporting on Al Qaeda from intelligence sources indicated that terrorists might try to modify electronic items for use as weapons in order to circumvent improved security screening," read the warning, which the Telegraph reportedly saw.

In the hopes of preventing a passenger uprising like the one aboard Flight 93 on Sept. 11, the terrorist hijackers plan to tell passengers that it isn't a suicide mission but a traditional, ransom-seeking hijack job, according to the newspaper.

It wasn't immediately known specifically what targets Al Qaeda had in mind, although it has had its eye on the Houses of Parliament in a past plot that was thwarted, the Telegraph reported.

American officials said the new intelligence was gathered during an overseas raid on an Al Qaeda house in recent months, according to the paper.

Brookes said the most important weapon in reducing the threat of Al Qaeda is good allied intelligence — especially since the terrorist network created by Usama bin Laden is coming up with new attack strategies.

"Maybe they will attack trains. Maybe they will try new weapons: Instead of box cutters, maybe they will smuggle weapons in a child's toy, or even in cameras," he told Fox News. "They are morphing. This is a different version of Al Qaeda. This is Al Qaeda 2.0."

Brookes said Al Qaeda is also expanding its recruiting efforts in the United States. The network has begun going after disgruntled Americans to join its ranks — focusing on enlisting Latino Muslims on the Internet, African American Muslims in U.S. prisons, legal travelers and aliens who are living in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

A leading Al Qaeda operative in Saudi Arabia is thought to be behind the latest warnings, according to the Telegraph.

Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi (also known as Abu Bakr al-Azdi) — a suspect in the deadly May bombings in Saudi Arabia who surrendered to Saudi authorities June 26 — is said to have been orchestrating the plot.

The CIA has interrogated him and intelligence in the form of intercepted chatter among terrorists has backed up his claims.

During a raid of al-Ghamdi's house, intelligence agents found documents about experiments that would turn camera flash attachments into explosive devices or stun guns, according to the Telegraph. Another experiment involved concealing explosives and detonators in cameras.

An official from the British security service told the newspaper that it "is a real threat and shows we have to be vigilant."

And an FBI spokesman said other information suggested Australia, Italy and the U.S. as potential targets in attacks, one of which "could be executed by the end of the summer," the Telegraph reported.

Fox News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans and Kelly Wright contributed to this report.




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