Prosecutors Tie Vermont Arrest to Algerian Bomb Suspect in Seattle : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

Bomb Thefts, Threats and Arrests Pre-Y2K

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), December 30, 1999


Prosecutors Tie Vermont Arrest To Algerian Bomb Suspect in Seattle Updated 5.37 p.m. ET (2237 GMT) December 30, 1999 Fears of an anti-American conspiracy for New Year's Eve spiked on Thursday when federal officials announced they'd discovered a link between an Algerian man arrested for trying to smuggle explosives into Washington state and a Canadian woman who tried to illegally cross into Vermont.

To make matters worse, authorities taking part in a nationwide anti- terrorism sweep arrested a man in Brooklyn and a man in Boston Thursday and are investigating whether they might have any connections to the terror ring as well.

The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that federal authorities had linked Ahmed Ressam and Lucia Garofalo as members of the same cell of the Algerian terrorist group Armed Islamic Group, known by its French initials, GIA. The connection has intelligence officials very worried.

Thursday morning, FBI agents began a series of interviews across the country with people who may be connected to Ressam. FBI sources said there may be as many as 60 to 100 interviews before the day is out.

``We're just talking to people that we've identified as being possibly in a position to be helpful in some aspect of this investigation,'' FBI spokesman Jim Davis said.

Ressam was arrested on Dec. 14 for illegally crossing the border into Washington state with timing devices and an extremely powerful military-type explosive.

Ressam allegedly has ties to terrorist Osama bin Laden, who is in hiding in Afghanistan and is blamed for the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa last year. Ressam also booked a hotel room near the Seattle Center, sparking fears an attack was planned for the celebration.

Ressam's arrest sparked concerns that eventually led to Seattle canceling its New Year's festivities.

Meanwhile, in Vermont last week Garofalo and Bouabide Chamchi were arrested for illegally crossing the border. Both allegedly have terrorist ties to the same Algerian terrorist group. Also, bomb sniffing dogs signaled the pair's car may have transported explosives at one time.

Deputy U.S. Attorney David Kirby submitted the court documents to a magistrate today before a hearing in which the federal government is seeking to continue holding Garofalo until trial. Kirby said the information came from an unidentified foreign government.

The document says that in 1997 Garofalo arranged with a man named Said Atmani to buy her an airline ticket to travel to Germany and to hire a lawyer for her husband, who was not allowed back into Canada.

It is through Atmani that authorities connected Ressam and Garofalo.

"The foreign government reports that Atmani is a documents forger for the GIA, a violent Algerian terrorist organization," Kirby wrote. "The foreign government also reports that at one time Atmani and Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area, were roommates."

Kirby said that the government reported that in 1997 it monitored a conversation between GIA members who spoke of a man living at the time in Germany whose Italian wife lived in Canada.

"The foreign government reports that these two members of the GIA are in the same cell of that organization as Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area," Kirby said in his court filing.

National FBI Sweep Leads to Two Arrests

The country-wide questionings have already led to two arrests, in New York and Boston.

In Brooklyn, an unidentified man was detained Thursday after he and three others were questioned by agents and police in the wake of the Ressam arrest.

According to the New York Times, police officers were seen removing boxes from an apartment above a small grocery store and an Afghani restaurant.

Police Commissioner Howard Safir said that no explosives had been recovered and that there is so far no evidence of a plot or threat against New York City.

In addition, there was an arrest in Boston related to the Ressam case. It is so far being treated as an immigration matter, but Immigration and Naturalization Services officials said that the arrest stemmed from an FBI investigation in which the suspect attempted to flee questioners.

Getting Ready for Anything

Across the country, federal, state and local officials have already begun battening down the hatches in case of violence.

The Justice Department, which includes the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, has said there are "no specific threats" against any New Year's Eve events. But the department has also cautioned that nothing can be ruled out as a target of attacks.

In the Dominican Republic, three Libyan men with possible terrorist connections were arrested after the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo alerted the government.

The men were arrested when they entered the Dominican Republic through the Haitian border, trying to obtain fake U.S. passports and resident alien cards. They had been planning to reach American soil by December 31, according to sources, who also said the men had been followed since they left Lybia

'The Concord Bomber'

In New Hampshire, state police said "First Night" celebrations were threatened in a letter sent to the governor's office on Wednesday. Officials said the handwriting of the threatening letter indicates the letter may have been sent by the same person who placed two bombs in Concord, N.H., last year. That person was dubbed "The Concord Bomber."

Police have contacted all of the New Hampshire communities that are holding celebrations Friday night and will let each community decide if the festivities should continue. Concord has said its celebration will continue as planned.

Rattled in Seattle

Earlier on Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell canceled the last remaining event at the Seattle Center  near the futuristic Space Needle  reducing an enormous public gala expected to draw 50,000 people to a fireworks display that will be viewed from a distance. He said a number of issues, including terrorist threats and the "uncertainty" surrounding Jan. 1, 2000, were factors in his decision.

Preparing in New York

In New York City's Times Square, ground zero for New Year's celebrations, crowd protection plans were revealed Wednesday. Some of the precautions, known as "Archangel" and in the planning stages since 1996, include: welding shut manhole covers and locking mailboxes near Times Square; placing bomb-sniffing dogs in parking garages near Times Square; and installing cameras and loudspeakers throughout the party site. Also, revelers will be joined by 8,000 uniformed police, 700 undercover police and bomb-sniffing dogs to establish order, control and safety. The police department's six helicopters will hover over the city, sharpshooters will be positioned on rooftops. The city's other plans to ensure the safety of the expected 1 million-strong crowd include closing 75 square blocks of midtown to all traffic, and towing away all cars left on the streets.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani balked at copying Schell's move by canceling the Seattle festivities.

"This is New York. If you probably tried to cancel [the celebration], instead of 2 million showing up, 4 million people would," Giuliani said.

Capital Jitters

The nation's capital hasn't been left out of the millennium jitters.

In Washington, D.C., police briefly closed the city's second-largest federal government office complex and a road just four blocks from the White House because of a security scare.

Police converged on the huge Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center after a government bomb sniffing dog on routine patrol reacted to what could have been explosive material, a police spokesman said. The police bomb squad went to the building but no explosives were found.

To highlight the anti-terrorism efforts between the U.S. and its northern neighbor, FBI Director Louis Freeh Thursday met in Washington with Ward Elcock, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Paul Kennedy, senior assistant deputy solicitor general of Canada, and Deputy Commissioner Giuliani Zaccardelli of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The officials swore to keep their anti-terrorism efforts up until well past Jan. 1.

Explosives Stolen in California and Arizona

Adding to the paranoia are reports of stolen explosives.

About 200 pounds of explosives were stolen from a police bomb squad bunker in Fresno, Calif., authorities announced Wednesday.

The explosives, which include about 125 pounds of dynamite and the military explosive C4 as well as 75 pounds of gunpowder, were taken sometime between Sunday and Monday from a small concrete bunker in a rural area outside Fresno, about 150 miles east of San Francisco.

Officials said the stolen explosives could be enough to blow up a car or small building but noted that both blasting caps and more powerful explosives had been left behind  a sign that the theft may have been committed by amateurs.

"We have a great concern, and we're not going to hide that concern," Fresno Police Chief Ed Winchester told the Fresno Bee newspaper, saying that police were rethinking New Year's security, but that the celebration is expected to continue.

Also, in Flagstaff, Ariz., 750 pounds of ammonium nitrate, 225 pounds of dynamite, 6,000 feet of detonation cord and several blasting caps were reported stolen from a rock quarry Dec. 20.

The explosives are normally used for mining, but could be used to make a substantial bomb, like the one which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, authorities said.

The FBI and ATF are investigating both thefts.

Possible Bombers Arrested In Washington, Texas, California

Authorities are looking into possible domestic threats as well as foreign ones.

One man was arrested and another was wanted in an alleged plot to blow up the police department of Battle Ground, Wash., on New Year's Eve.

Acting on a tip, sheriff's deputies and federal agents Tuesday raided the trailer home of Brandt Lyle Jensen and found two pipe bombs and other bomb-making materials.

A small amount of ammonium nitrate was also found in the home of an American Airlines mechanic in Grapevine, Texas, Monday. Jere Wayne Haney  suspected of white supremacist and anti-government affiliations  was arrested on charges of possessing bomb components, but officials there say they do not suspect he was involved in a terrorist plot.

Earlier this month in Sacramento, Calif., authorities arrested two suspected members of a California militia group who allegedly were part of a plot to blow up a huge propane storage facility.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to federal weapons charges and said through their lawyers they knew nothing about the alleged plot, which officials say was intended to spark a rebellion against the U.S. government.

-- Hokie (, December 30, 1999.

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