U.S.: FBI May Have Thwarted Sears Tower Plot

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Headline: A Possible Attack: FBI May Have Thwarted Sears Tower Plot; Ashcroft Warns of More Attacks

Source: ABC News, 1 October 2001

URL: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/WTC_Investigation.html#worldwide

As Attorney General John Ashcroft warned of additional terrorist attacks, ABCNEWS has learned that the FBI may have disrupted an attack on the Sears Tower in Chicago. Based on material in possession of five people arrested across the Midwest last week, FBI sources said they believe they disrupted another terrorist cell that may have been planning an attack on the country's tallest building.

ABCNEWS has learned that during the course of the arrest of three people in Detroit, one in Chicago and one in Iowa last week, FBI and other federal agents seized computer disks and drawings related to the Sears Tower. FBI agents reportedly discovered that at least four of the five arrested had fraudulent licenses to drive trucks carrying hazardous materials, an indication, according to federal agents, of additional terror threats in the wake of the September 11 attacks, which left about 5,700 people missing or dead.

Reports of a likely planned attack on the Sears Tower came as authorites warned that U.S. citizens working or traveling overseas, particularly in Asia, could be targeted for kidnappings or assassinations. In particular, American citizens in Indonesia have been warned to be on alert. Officials also fear that London and Paris could be targets. German police have tightened security at the American and British Consulates and added another 100 investigators to the worldwide terrorist investigation.

The U.S. State Department on Friday issued a "worldwide caution" to U.S. citizens traveling abroad, and Ashcroft partly explained why over the weekend. "We think that there is a very serious threat of additional problems now, and frankly, as the United States responds, that threat may escalate," Ashcroft said on CBS' Face the Nation. "We have not been able to rule out plans for hijacking additional aircraft," he added.

Ashcroft said Americans also should remain on guard at home. "We believe there are others who may be in the country who would have plans," Ashcroft said. "There is a very serious threat of additional problems now."

Worldwide Probe Leading to Bin Laden

The FBI continues its worldwide search for the supporters of the 19 terrorists who hijacked four U.S. jetliners on Sept. 11, and reportedly are tracing the money trail for the attacks to indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Federal authorities tell ABCNEWS they've now tracked more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan to two banks in Florida, to accounts held by suspected hijack ringleader, Mohamed Atta. And Time magazine is reporting some of that money came in the days just before the attack and can be traced directly to people connected with Osama bin Laden.

FBI officials also believe they can show Atta and two other suspected hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are tied to bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

On Saturday, saying the investigation could lead to masterminds in Europe and the Middle East, the FBI dispatched more agents to Germany in pursuit of details about the plot. Investigators believe the 19 suspected hijackers and their accomplices in the United States were largely foot soldiers following orders.

Agents have tracked the hijackers' bank accounts, their communications and their travel tickets looking for clues, and the agency said it is pursuing more than 100,000 leads.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), October 01, 2001

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