FBI warns of U.S. terrorist attack

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Friday, July 13, 2001

FBI warns of U.S. terrorist attack Letitia Stein

Thursday, July 12, 2001 at 18:00 JST WASHINGTON The FBI predicts terrorists will launch a major attack on American interests abroad every year for the next five years and believes an attack using a weapon of mass destruction is likely at home, an official said on Wednesday.

"We predict one major terrorist attack against U.S. interests overseas, one per year for the next five years, Assistant Director Dale Watson of the FBI Counterterrorism Division told a National Governors Association conference.

"I'm not a gloom-and-doom type person, but I will tell you this, what I see and what most smart people see.

"The United States is headed for a (weapons of mass destruction) incident inside the United States," he said.

The conference was organized as part of efforts to help states prepare and coordinate with federal agencies for the possibility of terrorist attacks.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, also speaking at the conference, said one focus for defensive planning was the upcoming 2002 winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure people from all over the world can come to the games and bring their families and enjoy the excitement of world class athletic competition while feeling safe and secure," Ashcroft said.

A bomb explosion at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta killed one woman and injured more than 120 people.

U.S. officials have stepped up their planning for possible domestic attacks since the bombings of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and World Trade Center in 1993.

Watson said the Federal Bureau of Investigation daily tracks an average of 25 threats from terrorists against U.S. targets at home and abroad.

In the last year, 257 of these involved a weapon of mass destruction, meaning a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon. That was seven times the number in 1996.

The No. 1 threat was from exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, accused by the United States of masterminding the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa and other attacks on U.S. interests.

Watson said a major attack in the United States would be a "crown jewel" for bin Laden and his followers.

Many at the conference said states still were not fully prepared for a major domestic attack.

West Virginia Governor Robert Wise Jr. told the conference on Tuesday that his state was far better prepared to respond to natural disasters, like the flash floods that devastated the state over the weekend, than man-made catastrophes like terrorism. (Reuters News)


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 12, 2001

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