U.S. Forces in Gulf on High Alert

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U.S. Forces in Gulf on High Alert U.S. Navy warships have pulled out of Persian Gulf ports following the detection of a possible "imminent" and specific terrorist threat against Americans, ABCNEWS has learned

The State Department is expected to update its worldwide caution later today, noting the possible terror threat to Americans. Military sources say the threat is "credible, and actionable," meaning it is serious enough for the military to pull ships out of port, standard procedure after the Navy ship USS Cole was hit by a terrorist attack while refueling in the Yemen port of Aden nine months ago. The bom attack killed 17 sailors.

The headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which patrols the region, is at Manama, Bahrain. U.S. ships also stop at many other ports in the region.

Military sources say the intelligence community intercepted a communication between two men from the region that suggested a major attack was imminent.

U.S. military installations in the region that were not previously at "Threatcon Delta," the highest state of alert, have been raised to that status, warranting a series of protective actions military commanders take to protect forces.

In addition, all nonessential military air traffic in the region will be stopped for at least a few days, including supply flights and personnel transit. Also, a Marine Corps amphibious ready group exercise near Al' Aqabah, Jordan, has been stopped and the Marine Corps ships are being put out to sea.

Several Navy minesweeping ships were ordered out of port in Bahrain, according toThe Associated Press. Officials said aircraft carrier USS Constellation and its battle group were already were at sea, according to AP.

Military sources say the precautionary relocation of forces reflect stringent new force protection procedures put in place after the Cole bombing.

Precautions Follow Khobar Towers Indictments

The moves come a day after federal prosecutors indicted 14 people in the Khobar Towers truck bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, and three days before the five year anniversary of that event.

And less than a month ago, four followers of Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi exile suspected of sponsoring terrorism, were convicted for involvement in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Shortly after that verdict, on May 29, the U.S. government issued a worldwide caution for Americans, warning intelligence had been received in early May that American citizens abroad might be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups linked to bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization.

U.S. authorities also suspect bin Laden associates were involved in the attack on the Cole.

In Thursday's Khobar Towers indictment, 13 Saudis and one Lebanese national were indicted on 46 counts including the attempted murder of federal employees, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The suspects included leaders of the Saudi Hezbollah group who were "inspired and supervised" by Iranian officials, Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

The Associated Press reports four men now have been charged with working for bin Laden in a plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in India, according to Indian police. An Indian man was taken into custoday today, and three other men were arrested last week because of the suspected plot.

ABCNEWS' Barbara Starr and Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 22, 2001

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