WASHINGTON - US counterterror officials are warning of an increased risk of
an attack this summer, given al-Qaida's apparent interest in summertime strikes
and increased al-Qaida training in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
On Tuesday, Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune that
he had a "gut feeling" about a new period of increased risk.
A heavily armed member of the New York Police Department
patrols Times Square Friday, June 29, 2007 in New York. [AP]
He based his assessment on earlier patterns of terrorists in Europe and
intelligence he would not disclose.
"Summertime seems to be appealing to them," Chertoff said in his discussion
with the newspaper about terrorists. "We worry that they are rebuilding their
Other US counterterrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
shared Chertoff's concern and said that al-Qaida and like-minded groups have
been able to plot and train more freely in the tribal areas along the
Afghan-Pakistani border in recent months. Osama bin Laden and his top deputy,
Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the rugged region.
"The threat coming out of there is very real, even if there aren't a lot of
specifics attached to it," one of the officials said.
Chertoff's department has not made any move to increase the nation's
color-coded terror alert system. Now, airlines are under orange - or high -
alert, which is the second most serious level on a five-point scale. The rest of
the country remains a step below at yellow, or elevated.
Chertoff said he is convinced that terrorists are regrouping. "Our edge is
technology and the vigilance of the ordinary citizen," he said.
The secretary also urged Americans to be watchful for suspicious activities
in the wake of recent terror incidents in England and Scotland. On June 29, two
cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered in London's
entertainment district. The next day, two extremists smashed their flaming Jeep
Cherokee into security barriers at Glasgow Airport's main terminal.
Al-Qaida and its sympathizers have shown an interest in summertime attacks.
Some examples from recent years:
In 2005, London faced two separate sets of transit attacks. The July 7
attacks on three trains and a bus killed 52. A second attack on July 21 was
bungled when the detonators failed to light the explosives.
Last summer, international counterterror authorities said they foiled a plot
to use liquid explosives to take down roughly 10 US-bound airliners leaving